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December 20, 2014

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WHERE I STAND (GUEST COLUMN BY HARRY REID):

Renewable energy will shape future of state, world

In August, Brian Greenspun turns over the Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

It can bring down $4-a-gallon gas, save pristine Nevada landscapes and ensure our safety for generations to come, but it’s even bigger than all of that.

The future of Nevada and of our planet depends on realizing the full potential of clean, renewable energy. Nevada’s position as a world leader in the coming global clean energy revolution awaits only our action and commitment. We cannot afford to pass by this door of opportunity without bursting through it.

Nevada is an independent state born of opportunity and of the great resources we held both during the Civil War and today. The treasure we have offered to the country in silver, gold and minerals, we can now offer in heat and power from our vast solar, wind and geothermal potential.

These native resources can deliver a future free of dependence on dirty, imported oil and coal. With the right investments in renewable technology, our rural and urban economies will boom permanently with good jobs and economic growth. Our moment, as Nevadans and as caretakers of our families and our planet for generations to come, is now.

With pride and hope, I am partnering with the Center for American Progress Action Fund and UNLV to host the National Clean Energy Summit on Aug. 19. This gathering is the jumping-off point for a new renewable Nevada that will propel forward a new America of prosperity and stewardship.

America’s energy challenges are grave and will require all of us to work together to find solutions. So partisan labels will be left at the door of the summit and we will hear from many distinguished speakers, including former President Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado, and Texas entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens. We’ll also welcome senators, chief executives, scientists, labor unions and experts from across the spectrum to talk about creating a clean energy revolution. This event will bring together the best and the brightest for dialogue that will result in guidance for our next president, as well as the next Congress.

You don’t need to look any further than the corner gas station or your own power bill to understand the energy crisis we are dealing with in America, and the issues go well beyond the price of oil. We’re trying to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel use that harms our environment, our economy and our national security.

My strong belief in a renewable future is shared by even those who once swore by oil. Mr. Pickens built a fortune in oil, but today he sees renewable energy as a driving force for our economy, and a profitable one, too. He has committed to building the world’s largest wind farm in Texas, and he recently testified before Congress on his plans.

In fact, we sat side by side and testified on the need to build more transmission from our nation’s renewable energy-rich areas. In his testimony, Mr. Pickens said we cannot drill our way out of this crisis and predicted $300-a-barrel oil if we don’t find a way to wean ourselves from the addiction holding our economy and our national security hostage.

Right here in Nevada, the solar projects awaiting Bureau of Land Management approval could power millions of American homes in the not too distant future. The total solar thermal energy potential in the desert Southwest is seven times the nation’s entire electricity demand — enough to consistently charge millions of plug-in hybrid cars and trucks. We also sit atop one of the largest supplies of geothermal energy in the world.

This is an ambitious vision, but I believe by working together, we can accomplish these goals. Companies and venture capitalists are lining up to invest in renewable energy, but local, state and federal governments must do much more to ease the transition. Congress has been trying to pass long-term tax credits for renewable energy, but political opposition could delay billions of dollars in investment and shut out many economic opportunities and new green jobs important to Nevada.

All these hopes and challenges will shape our discussion at the summit on Aug. 19. I encourage you to join us at UNLV that day because many will look back at this summit as the dawn of Nevada’s and the nation’s clean energy revolution, and each of us can have a hand in shaping it.

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