Clinton Global Initiative Highlights: Old World Is Oil, New World Is Renewables

danish wind farm photo

photo: Alex de Carvalho

The Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting is in full swing in New York City. In Thursday morning’s plenary session, Integrated Solutions: Water, Food & Energy, Tom Brokaw moderated a discussion about the entwined issues of water, food and energy. He directed questions towards San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, Shimon Peres former president of Israel, oil mogul turned wind power evangelist T. Boone Pickens, leader of the Danish Social Democratic Party Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s had some interesting comments on achieving energy independence, looking beyond the short-term, and just how far the market can go...
Renewable Energy a Political Commitment...
Speaking about Denmark’s transition from importing 99% of its energy needs not too long ago to generating 30% of its power from renewable sources, Ms Thorning-Schmidt said that ultimately this sort of transition is not about the size of a nation, it is primarily about political commitment. She said that any country can take bold action and move forward.

...And a Long-Term Investment
In describing obstacles that Denmark faced in making a transition away from imported energy sources, she said that the big thing to be aware of is that renewable energy is a long term solution; the full benefits may not be realized for ten or twenty years. In concluding her remarks on energy she said that, in her view, the old world is oil and the new world is renewable energy.

Two Lessons for the World
She went on to offer two lessons for the world regarding implementing renewable energy: 1) Markets cannot do it alone. If a proper incentive structure is in place, the market can be a good vehicle, but it cannot do it alone. 2) You cannot solve global problems individually. She used the current US financial crisis as example, saying that if you simply cannot address that issue, you must also address related problems as well.

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