National security for the U.S. hinges on investment and incentives for new transmission lines, a smart grid, and converting big trucks to use natural gas as fuel (one of energy magnate T. Boone Pickens’s personal favorite fuels). That was the gist of a press call today with Pickens, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff for the Clinton administration.
The three came together to plug the second annual National Clean Energy Summit due to take place in Washington D.C. on Feb. 23. The gathering is meant to serve as a forum for politicians, scientists, executives, academics, and advocates to hash out energy policy just as the government is gearing up to dole out billions in stimulus for, among other things, renewables R&D, energy efficiency and conservation projects, and infrastructure upgrades.
The first summit, put together by Reid and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, produced several policy recommendations likely to be revisited at this year’s event. More ambitious goals that have come to the fore in recent months may raise the bar for proposals at the summit.
Take the renewable portfolio standard, for example. Last year’s summit-goers agreed on a mandate for U.S. utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and geothermal energy by 2020. President Obama has called for 25 percent renewables by 2025. And whereas the Las Vegas group called for building energy use to be halved by 2030, proposed stimulus for weatherization and making federal buildings and public housing more energy-efficient — not to mention developing technology for improving efficiency — could potentially speed up the timeline for cutting energy use.
In addition to the official roundup of agreeable policy recommendations, last year’s summit also produced 10 head-turning suggestions from former President Bill Clinton. He said one idea — making a single state, such as Nevada, or an area like Puerto Rico energy independent — could “rock the world” (Reid also mentioned Clinton’s suggestion on today’s call). In the context of today’s policy questions — especially the one about whether or not to invest $900 billion in stimulus — summit goers who really want to move the needle (let alone rock it) this year will have think even bigger.