It's the green economy, stupid.
It was hard not to think of this twist on his long-ago campaign slogan as former President Clinton toured the Los Angeles area on Monday, making the case that the quickest way out of the country's latest economic morass lies in the wonky topic of energy efficiency.
Subjects as mundane as lightbulbs and insulation would be deadly-dull stuff in the hands of a less gifted public speaker, but since leaving office in 2001, Clinton has become something of a crusader for unsexy fixes such as building retrofits to generate U.S. jobs, cutting dependence on foreign oil and slashing carbon dioxide emissions.
Appearing at City Hall with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Clinton announced a partnership between his Clinton Climate Initiative and the city to refit 140,000 Los Angeles street lights with energy-saving light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The program is projected to save taxpayers an estimated $48 million over seven years in lower energy costs while removing the carbon dioxide equivalent of 6,700 cars a year from the road.
"If every city followed the example of Los Angeles and reduced the electricity used by their street lights by 50%, it would be equivalent to eliminating over 2 1/2 . . . coal plants per year," Clinton said.
Clinton later led an environmental roundtable discussion at a solar-powered airport hangar at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Designed by Shangri-La Construction of Century City, the 60,000-square-foot facility generates enough clean power to run the building's lights, recharge ground equipment and operate an aircraft's electrical system while it's being worked on inside the hangar. Built for $17 million, it cost about the same as conventional construction to erect, its owners say, but with a fraction of the carbon footprint and future operating costs.
Clinton said making such projects profitable was the only way to advance a green agenda domestically and persuade the rest of the world to join the United States in fighting climate change.
"The Chinese and the Indians and the Thais and the Indonesians are not going to get serious about this unless we can prove that it's good business," Clinton said. "If the world decides tomorrow to change the way it uses energy, it would create more jobs in more places than anywhere in human history. . . . But we have to change the mind-set . . . that we can't do it without hurting the economy."