Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that he wants bipartisan participation in his third clean energy summit in Las Vegas. However, the conference opens Sept. 7 during a contentious election campaign.
Reid's election battle with Republican senatorial nominee Sharron Angle will be approaching peak intensity when the conference convenes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The most vulnerable issue for Reid probably is not the energy industry, but rather Nevada's 14.2 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the nation.
However, the National Clean Energy Summit 3.0 has taken "investing in American jobs" as its theme.
Speakers also will discuss the need for developers of solar, wind and other clean energy resources to obtain financing for projects and thus create jobs.
In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday, Reid and other conference sponsors acknowledged the difficulties in getting energy legislation enacted this year.
John Podesta, chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said that "a solid wall of Republican opposition" has stalled bills designed to reduce greenhouse gases, which are said to lead to climate change.
"It just means that we have to rekindle our efforts to bring about a clean energy future," Podesta said.
Late Tuesday, Reid unveiled the proposed Clean Energy Jobs and Accountability Act, which would lift the $75 million cap on oil company liability for offshore wells. It would make BP and others in the oil industry responsible for the total cost of the damages they caused in the gulf oil spill, according to Reid.
The bill also includes a section creating the Home Star Retrofit Act, which would enable homeowners to get rebates on energy and water conservation programs. Reid said it would create 150,000 jobs.
Some analysts are skeptical that Clean Energy bill will pass.
"Expert Congress-watchers are wondering aloud if there is enough time to do anything now, especially something that will be controversial, such as forcing unlimited liability for offshore oil and gas offshore development," the law firm Bracewell & Guiliani said in an e-mail. The firm includes former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani as a partner.
Reid said he wanted the bill to establish a national renewable portfolio standard. The senate majority leader, however, said he decided to exclude the renewable provision so that he can get necessary votes to pass the bill.
A renewable energy portfolio standard would require utilities to increase their use of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, much like Nevada and other states do now.
"Right now, we can't count to 60 (votes for a national renewable standard). So you can't put that in this bill," Reid said.
The senate leader said he also hopes Congress will pass a bill that extends incentives that give renewable energy developers a 30 percent grant in lieu of an investment tax credit. Without new legislation, the grants would end this year.
"By the end of the year, we need to do that," Reid said.
Speakers at the Clean Energy conference will include Christina Romer, chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors; U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue; and energy executive T. Boone Pickens.
Contact reporter John G. Edwards at email@example.com or 702-383-0420.