Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | 3:23 p.m.
Nevada elected officials and local business leaders met today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss the Silver State’s future as a green state and to brainstorm ways to create more jobs through energy efficiency during a meeting of Reid’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Energy at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.
In his opening remarks, Reid talked about the landmark climate bill that last week passed the U.S. House by a slim margin. If passed by the Senate, the bill would curb greenhouse gases and reduce dependence on foreign oil. It would also cut carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and more than 80 percent by 2050.
Members of the Blue Ribbon Panel consist of Nevada business, government, academic, labor and scientific leaders.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, (D-Nev.), said the bill would help Nevada become a leader in renewable energy and create more jobs.
"And these are jobs that can't be shipped overseas because this is where the sun is, the wind, the geothermal, the biomass," Titus said. "This is where those jobs will be."
Titus cited the National Wildlife Federation in saying that Nevada has the potential to generate more than 52 percent of its electricity from wind and 46 percent from geothermal.
"We can definitely be a leader in the production market," she said.
State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) spoke about state legislation -- like Senate Bill 358 -- and the opportunities the state's solar, wind and geothermal resources could bring to build a new energy economy.
"We can no longer base our economy on tourism and good times to pay for our education and other essential state services," he said. "It is time to begin charting a new direction for the state that is tied to, in large part, this new green economy."
"All of this means jobs," he added later.
Ron Wenker, state director of the Bureau of Land Management, gave an overview of Nevada's use of alternative energy. He said the state has 61 applications for solar development, primarily in the southern part of the state, and 32 of those applications are considered active. He said if all 32 go through to production, it would mean almost 12,000 megawatts of electricity produced.
In Northern Nevada, Wenker said there are 370 geothermal leases authorized on about 450,000 acres. He said there are currently 10 geothermal plants that are able to produce 300 megawatts of electricity.
Among the other speakers at the panel were Democratic state Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley; Michael Yackira, president and CEO of NV Energy; Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services at MGM Mirage; and Eric Dominguez, director of energy and environmental services at Harrah's Entertainment.
Both Ortega and Dominguez spoke about their companies’ commitment to saving energy. Ortega said MGM Mirage uses energy-efficient lighting and has invested in projects to reduce waste.
Dominguez said Harrah's has improved energy efficiency in its 36 nationwide resorts.