07/19/2007 11:31 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Enrolling in the "University of Energy"

In the Metro Briefing of today's New York Times Metro section, an
article reports that Representative Maurice Hinchey has proposed the
creation of a solar power development center in Kingston, N.Y. The
article states that the House is expected to approve an allocation of
$1.5 million for the project. This idea sounded vaguely familiar to me,
as a renewable energy group I have worked with on Long Island since
1996 had proposed that the New York State legislature invest in a
"University of Energy" program, within which solar, wind and geothermal
research would be conducted. The goal was to avoid the construction of
some of the scores of smaller oil and gas burning plants that utilities
in the state are insisting will be needed to meet demands in the coming

One of our proposals involved the federal government and the need for
Congress to use federal dollars as a pressure point in order to achieve
quicker results. Our idea was to take a series of regions in the US and
order them to use renewable energy technology in the construction of
any and all government buildings over a specified period of time. For
example, the city of Tucson would be given a federal grant that enabled
them to apply solar technology to the construction of any public
building. Any school, library, hospital, airport, train station, park
facility, post office, DMV, you name it. For ten years. They go solar
in public construction or they lose federal highway dollars, as well as
other federal funding, if they fail to comply.

A panel would be formed to identify which cities would be most poised
for this type of effort. That panel would include urban planners,
architects and renewable energy experts. Environmentalists and
government officials. But rather than invest $1.5 million, the initial
investment would be $1 billion. That's right. $1 billion.

Wind power atop skyscrapers. Photovoltaic elements existing as the very
skin of buildings. Wind and solar power becoming as common in our
everyday lives as gas stations are today.

This is one such project we should be funding, as a nation embroiled in
a war for oil, as soon as possible. It is, in my opinion, an idea that
our next president should embrace. What are the five things you would
propose, immediately upon taking office, if you were elected president
in 2008?

As they say in the papers, this is the first of a series.