U.S. Sen. Harry Reid is turning his attention away from political strategy for the Democratic Party, and told a clean energy group he wants to spend his remaining time in Congress making green energy options a top priority. Reid made his comments during a speech at a luncheon organized by Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance in Reid’s home state of Nevada. He gave the speech while on a congressional break.
Reid, who announced his retirement earlier this year, touted Las Vegas as the center for development of renewable energy. Companies doing business with the state because of its advancements in alternative energy include Tesla, Apple, Google, and solar companies like SolarReserve and SolarCity. Reid said the business brought to Nevada amounts to jobs and prominence for the state as a business and energy leader.
Efforts to expand renewable resources in the state have made an impact. Nevada is the top state for solar industry growth, employing around 6,000 workers. Tesla opened a battery factory with the $5 billion factory bringing rapid growth to the area. Reid had commendations for the power company NV Energy, who is using wind power to provide more energy to residents in Nevada and Iowa.
Reid used his short 11-minute speech, to also chastise those who doubted that green energy plans would provide enough to the economy to make a difference. He said Nevada has $6 billion in green energy money invested and that amounts to 20,000 workers in renewable energy fields compared to 14,000 mining employees. The economic benefit from green energy options is all the evidence Reid said he needed to make it a top priority while he finishes his term.
The senator said more work is ahead of Congress to keep the momentum going, and that work must include those elected from both sides of the aisle. He wants Republicans’ support for renewing tax breaks in support of clean energy projects. The incentives are set to expire soon. He said the Nevada state government also needs to continue its work to promote green energy, and Reid was particularly impressed with solar installations on roofs and supports the state’s proposed expansion of the program.
The senior Democrat has not always received acclaim for his green energy efforts. Reid was a prominent supporter of Ormat Technologies, which is an Israeli company that runs geothermal facilities in Nevada. Two former Ormat employees claim in a lawsuit filed two years ago that the company obtained federal grants totaling more than $130 million by lying to the U.S. Treasury Department. One of the claims is that the company threatened to discontinue health insurance for a whistle-blower diagnosed with cancer. The senator’s office continues to defend the company and Ormat said the allegations are false.
The senator has received scathing criticism from media outlets in recent weeks, as he admitted he deliberately lied about GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s tax payments. Reid said several times, including statements from the senate floor, that Romney had not paid his taxes in 10 years in an attempt to force him to release tax returns prior to 2010. Romney did not release the returns, but the continuous statements from the Democrat did significant damage to the Romney campaign. Reid, when asked about any regrets in the lie, told a reporter he was not sorry for the intentional falsehood. He reminded the reporter that Romney did not win the election.
The senator also talked briefly about his accident on New Year’s Day when he fell off exercise equipment in his home. He cannot see out of his right eye, but said he is adjusting to it. The injury is not keeping him from work, and Reid said his top priority until he retires from office will continue to be supporting more green energy options.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by Center for American Progress – Flickr license