Funding clean energy technologies such as solar and wind power through tax credit incentives while building a new transmission system will help pull the U.S. economy out of its downward spiral, former President Clinton said Wednesday.
"We have to rewire America," he said in a call with reporters that included Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and University of Nevada, Las Vegas President David Ashley.
They announced that Clinton will participate in the Aug. 19 National Clean Energy Summit at UNLV, along with Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"First of all, I think that the downward path of the economy is an even stronger argument for financing" clean, renewable energy, Clinton said.
"You should do it through a combination of tax credits for the production and erection and use of wind energy, or solar technology," he said.
"And then you'd have to work out with the electrical utilities if they're going to build and own the transmission systems, either sharing the cost through tax credits or through direct cash outlays."
Clinton said it would be much cheaper to do that than what the United States currently spends for energy.
"It's not just the price of oil is going up, but look at what's happening with the price of coal. Look at how much it costs to build a new nuclear power plant and figure out what to do about the waste and recover the land, as compared with building a new transmission system and putting up these windmills, which can become profitable quite quickly.
"This is the best thing for the environment, the best thing for the national security and the best thing for the economy," Clinton said.
Reid added that the United States "would no longer be shipping billions of dollars every day around the world, (with) some of the money going to the most tyrannical governments in the world. We would be developing jobs right here at home."
The problem with relying on foreign oil and fossil fuels that result in greenhouse gas emissions is obvious, Reid said.
"One needs only look at the corner gas station to see the crisis we're dealing with."
Reid said he needed three additional Senate Republicans to join in a vote to pass legislation that will extend tax credits for solar and other types of renewable energy along with a provision that offsets the revenue loss with additional taxes. That represents an improvement over a week ago, when Reid was short five Republican votes.
The Senate majority leader said many Republicans balk at a provision to offset the tax credit with new taxes on offshore accounts held by hedge funds.
Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said leadership refused to vote on a compromise that would make a broad but shallow $8 billion reduction in overall federal spending.
At the upcoming summit, John Podesta, president and chief executive officer for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, will give an overview of the bipartisan effort to develop a list of ideas and priorities for clean energy development that will be presented to the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
Review-Journal writer John Edwards contributed to this report.