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July 31, 2014

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Former President Bill Clinton says green energy can grow the nation’s economy

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Former President Bill Clinton speaks Wednesday while joined by, from left, Tony Thompson, chairman and CEO of Thompson National Properties, Shangri-La Construction President Andy Meyers, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, and President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council Rick Fedrizzi. Clinton was in Las Vegas for an event to announce the first LEED Gold certified retrofit of a building in Nevada.

LEED Gold Retrofit

Former President Bill Clinton speaks with Mayor Oscar Goodman on Wednesday during an event to announce the first LEED Gold certified retrofit of a building in Nevada. Launch slideshow »

Clinton jokes about mayor's showgirl entourage

Former President Bill Clinton joked about Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who spoke before him, for bringing two women from the audience to serve as his showgirl entourage on either side of him.

“If some of us did that, we would be run out of office,” Clinton said, drawing laughter from both Goodman and the small audience in attendance. “Some guys got it and some guys don’t, and the mayor’s got it.”

Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday pushed for retrofitting aging buildings to make them more energy efficient and promoted alternative sources of energy as a way to create jobs and grow the economy.

Clinton came to Las Vegas to dedicate the retrofitting of a building at 302 E. Carson, a 46-year-old, 11-story office tower in downtown Las Vegas.

It received the state’s first retrofitted building gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognized the improvements for decreasing energy usage by 30 percent and water consumption by 40 percent.

Clinton said studies show a large amount of greenhouse gases that need to be cut can be eliminated simply by being more efficient. In large cities, buildings can account for up to 70 percent of carbon emissions, and older buildings waste massive amounts of energy, he said.

“I believe climate change is a huge problem and we have only scratched the surface of what we have to do,” said Clinton, whose foundation launched the Clinton Climate Initiative to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I also believe that changing the way we conserve and produce energy is the No. 1 thing we can do in America to get the jobs going again,” he said.

Clinton, who jokingly said he “will come to Las Vegas on the flimsiest of excuses,” said he hoped his presence at the ceremony will encourage other developers to follow suit.

He said retrofitting the office tower owned by Thompson National Properties is an example of the economic benefit of going green.

The project created 250 construction jobs in Las Vegas at a time the national construction unemployment rate is 25 percent — 2.5 times the national unemployment rate as a whole.

“The only way to get the construction unemployment down is to put that industry in the business of making buildings more green,” Clinton said.

Before the collapse on Wall Street, Clinton said, he had five banks agree to commit $1 billion each to finance nationwide retrofits of buildings to make them more efficient. The loans would have been paid back by energy savings.

Clinton said Congress should set up a program similar to what the Small Business Administration does for small business already. A program could give a federal guarantee of a percentage of loans for retrofitting buildings.

Clinton also said the U.S. government should adhere to the most stringent green standards when it constructs new buildings.

Clinton touted subsidies for solar usage in Germany for creating 300,000 jobs and said as many as 2.5 million could be created in the U.S. under a similar program. For every $1 billion invested in such industries as solar and wind, thousands of jobs are created, Clinton said.

“America needs the jobs,” Clinton said. “It needs a way to grow and diversify its economy.”

Nevada would benefit from a continued push of energy alternatives, Clinton said. The state could be close to energy independent within five years, with significant enough growth in solar and wind energy production, Clinton said.

The $11.5 million retrofit was completed in 13 months by Shangri-La Construction as the general contractor. The retrofit included installing new dual-glaze windows to reduce heat transfer into the building and lowering energy bills because more light is allowed into the building.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning system upgrades are expected to save in excess of $50,000 a year in electricity costs. The plumbing was upgraded to install low-flow and no-flush fixtures to reduce water usage.

The roof was replaced to reduce the amount of heat that enters the building. Seventy five percent of the renovation waste was recycled and reused.

The investment is expected to be recouped within 10 years.

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