On a sunny, windy Monday in the desert outside Boulder City, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talked about solar power as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“We’re bathed in photons,” the governor said.
Inslee and a group of employees were overlooking the Copper Mountain III solar power array, part of a series of facilities that, combined, provide power to about 330,000 homes served by Pacific Gas &Electric, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison.
The dark panels, which collect the sun’s rays and turn the ubiquitous light into usable electricity, stretched toward distant Boulder City as Inslee, a Democratic candidate for president, talked about his No. 1 issue: a clean energy future that he hopes will forestall climate change.
“I know people have said we can’t do it,” Inslee said. “Come to Copper Mountain and see we can do it.”
Inslee was making his second visit to Nevada as a presidential candidate, but he’s no stranger to the Silver State. He campaigned as head of the Democratic Governors Association for Steve Sisolak. And on this Earth Day, Inslee praised Sisolak for signing a bill that will raise the amount of energy Nevada gets from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030.
In fact, Inslee boasted that he expected to sign legislation soon that would increase Washington’s renewable-energy standard to 100 percent.
Although he lists other issues that are part of his agenda, there’s no mistaking that clean energy is Inslee’s top priority, and he thinks it ought to be the top priority for the next president, too. It’s so important, he wants a Democratic primary debate focused on fighting climate change alone, he said.
“If it is not Job 1, it will not get done,” he said.
Speaking of jobs, Inslee asked representatives of unions including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers about the labor that helped build the Copper Mountain facility. Not only did the jobs pay livable wages, supply benefits and contribute to pensions, they provided apprenticeship opportunities.
“We’re building careers here,” the governor said.
On the touchy Nevada issue of Yucca Mountain, Inslee said he preferred a consent-based approach that would send nuclear waste to states and cities that welcomed a repository, not to places such as Nevada, where most officials are against the idea.
But Inslee said he doesn’t count nuclear power out of the equation when it comes to renewable power. For it to be viable, however, the industry would have to become more efficient at generating power, improve safety systems, figure out the waste issue and gain greater public acceptance.
“I think we should be open to all sources, and that would include nuclear,” he said.
As for oil and gas leases on public land, however, Inslee said that’s a nonstarter, since those emissions contribute to global climate change rather than reduce it.