I get a lot of invitations to events and activities, and the truth is, I have to decline a good number of them. But last year when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me to attend the National Clean Energy Summit at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I didn't have to think twice. I said "yes" in a heartbeat.
Harry Reid has never shunned hard work. He may be Majority Leader of the United States Senate, but when he's in Washington he's among the first to arrive at the Capitol each morning and one of the last to leave at night. He doesn't like to waste time -- his or yours -- which is why I agreed to attend his summit. So did President Bill Clinton and Governors Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Jon Huntsman of Utah, and Bill Ritter of Colorado.
Former White House counselor Paul Begala, who covered the event for CNN, wrote, "Only Reid could bring former President Bill Clinton and right-wing Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens together to find common ground."
Sorry, Paul, but using clean energy to reduce America's dependency on imported oil isn't common ground. It's common sense. That's why President Clinton and I joined Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Energy Secretary Chu, and former Vice President Al Gore in Washington at a second summit about the clean energy economy in February. It too was hosted by John Podesta's Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Today, Senator Reid will be hosting a third summit: the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 at UNLV. The focus will be the countless ways clean energy can generate the jobs our country needs not just to bring unemployment down from 9.4 percent but, as Tom Friedman put it, to create "a greener America," one whose economy is powered by green collar jobs.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore will be on hand and continue to show leadership. I'm really looking forward to hearing from Gov. Schwarzenegger, who will be discussing the progress being made in California. That state is always an innovator. I can't think of a better venue for Roy Willis of the Propane Education & Research Council to talk about the many economic and environmental advantages of this key domestic fuel.
Another fuel that will be the focus of much attention will be natural gas. Our country's natural gas reserves contain more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia. It's an opportunity we can't pass up, and companies like AT&T have already recognized the advantages of converting their fleets to run on natural gas, propane -- anything but imported oil. Each one of those conversions means manufacturing jobs, technical jobs, and service sector jobs. If I could single out one step to jump start our green economy, it would be for the House and the Senate to pass the NAT GAS Act when they return in September.
President Obama has been an adamant supporter of the green economy. Just last week, he awarded more than $2 billion in grants to help U.S. companies bolster large-scale manufacturing lines for ultra-modern batteries.
Today at the Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, we'll be discussing a lot of options. Why? Because everyone knows we must do something now. The chief economist at the International Energy Agency just told Britain's Independent newspaper that "the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years -- at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated."
We're running out of time, folks. Leaders such as Harry Reid have the answers and are willing to do the heavy lifting. Let's support them 100 percent.
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