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UNLV summit and Reid’s leadership brighten Nevada’s clean energy future

Las Vegas Sun, 9/9/10 - Before Henry Ford invented the moving assembly line for large-scale manufacturing, few could have imagined that the horse and buggy would be so easily replaced by the automobile. Before microprocessors were developed, few could have envisioned the technology-based information age that drives society today.

Mass produced automobiles and personal computers are but two examples of industries that initially had their share of skeptics but went on to create millions of jobs globally to satisfy the public’s demand for a better quality of life. Today, many people remain skeptical about the ability of clean energy initiatives, such as through the development of solar, wind and geothermal sources, to produce a substantial number of jobs. Over time, though, we believe those skeptics will be proven wrong, just as they were before the days of Ford, Microsoft and Apple.

The reason for our optimism is that clean energy production is still in its formative years of development, akin to the automobile industry during the Ford Model T era of the early 20th century and the world of computers as it existed in the 1970s. The potential for innovation in the clean energy field is endless, with a growing number of Americans realizing the national defense and environmental advantages of moving away from reliance on foreign crude oil and dirty fossil fuels. This innovation can lead to job creation in ways that are difficult to imagine now but should become readily apparent in the future, when the extent to which clean energy can be used is fully realized.

That is why the importance of the third annual National Clean Energy Summit at UNLV on Tuesday cannot be overstated. Participants included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., energy executive T. Boone Pickens, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue and Peter Darbee, president and CEO of utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric. As reported by the Sun’s Amanda Finnegan, state leaders who attended concluded that clean energy jobs are the key to diversifying Nevada’s economy. The next step, they said, is for the state to prepare a plan to make that happen.

We have seen evidence of an expanding green energy footprint in Nevada. MGM Resorts International’s CityCenter on the Strip is the nation’s largest project to receive LEED certification for energy conservation. NV Energy President and CEO Michael Yackira reminded summit participants that Nevada leads the nation per capita in both installed geothermal and solar energy. And the California solar power company Amonix has announced plans to build a manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas, bringing 278 jobs.

“If Nevada is going to lead this new century, we have to build, generate and export clean renewable power and technologies,” Reid said.

It will also take continued political leadership from the likes of Reid — whose influence has made these energy summits possible — to propel Nevada’s clean energy industry forward. It is impossible to picture Reid’s opponent in this year’s Senate race, Republican Sharron Angle, taking a similar leadership role in the promotion of clean energy. She had a notoriously poor voting record on environmental issues as a member of the Nevada Assembly. As a result of the 2003 legislative session, according to the Associated Press, Angle had an environmental voting record of only 17 percent, lowest among the 63 legislators scored by the Nevada Conservation League.

Nevada, with its plentiful clean energy resources, can ill afford to place the future of that industry in the hands of individuals who show disdain for the environment or for the potential jobs that can be created through solar, wind and geothermal development. Nevada is fortunate to have leaders such as Reid who have the foresight to recognize an emerging industry and the influence to help make it succeed.

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