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Imagine Las Vegas, Nev., a city of nearly two million people, baking in the August heat of the Mojave Desert. In its landscape of blasting air conditioners and buzzing neon lights, it might sound like an unlikely place for one of the world’s preeminent conferences on sustainability. For six years, the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas has provided a platform for policy makers and environmental leaders to discuss and advance trends and technology impacting governments, businesses and citizens around the globe. This year’s theme was “Energizing Tomorrow.”

United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid helped to create the Clean Energy Summit. Now serving his fifth term for Nevada, he has worked hard for the development of the state’s solar, wind and geothermal resources. His commitment to renewable energy assets has resulted in Nevada being recognized as the nation’s leader in renewable energy.

Several organizations joined Senator Reid as sponsors of the event: the Clean Energy Project Inc. (CEP), a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating a clean energy economy and furthering policies that support the clean energy industry in the west; the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank whose mission is “to transform progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy and partnerships with other progressive leaders through the country and the world”; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), an institution recognized as a leading research university; and MGM Resorts International, a distinguished leader in Corporate Social Responsibility at its properties around the globe.

The summit took place on Aug. 13 at MGM’s Mandalay Bay Resort, an appropriately sustainable event location. Every aspect of the hotel’s operations takes into consideration its impact on the environment. For instance, leftover food is composted and used to feed the many luxuriant plants found in and around the hotel complex. Efforts are made to limit water and energy consumption by all departments on property as well as by guests. The hotel maintains a comprehensive recycling program and purchases a wide variety of sustainable products. Anyone planning an event at Mandalay’s convention center is assured of having the tools they need to substantially limit their event’s carbon footprint.

A number of notable individuals joined Senator Reid in presenting at the conference, including Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy; Secretary Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior; Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); and Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California.

Before the Summit began, Reid and Moapa Band of Paiutes Leader Eric Lee announced plans to build a sizeable solar array on tribal lands 40 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Discussion during the conference revealed that a total of 47 solar projects have been authorized on public lands by the Obama administration and 25 are currently permitted. Remarkably, there were no public solar projects in the U.S. in 2009. The solar project authorizations have been accompanied by transmission projects so that the resulting energy can be moved where it is needed.

A bit of breaking news reached the Summit regarding the controversial bid to make Yucca Mountain, a site only 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, a nuclear repository. That day, the federal court ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been violating federal law by delaying its decision about whether or not to issue a license for the Yucca Mountain project. Reid pointed out that the ruling was ineffectual since funding for Yucca Mountain has been cut, and there are no funds currently available for allocation. Reid has long been an opponent of Yucca Mountain and is partially responsible for Congress’ decision to cut funding for the project.

The Summit provided a forum for lively debate on current issues. It showcased the forward progress of clean energy projects around the country and demonstrated how America’s reliance upon fossil fuels will diminish in the near future.

Green Tip:
350.org is a global, grass roots organization dedicated to reducing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere from 400 parts per million to below 350 parts per million. People in 188 countries are working together to help preserve our planet. Find out how you and your organization can participate in a 350.org project.

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