By Jeffrey Todd
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
ORLANDO, USA -- In a keynote speech to thousands of green entrepreneurs, former US President Bill Clinton highlighted the high cost of energy in the Caribbean and its impact on the region's quality of life.
Clinton’s 30-minute address on Wednesday at Solar Energy International in Orlando touched on the Caribbean for several minutes, and underscored the vast potential of these nations when it comes to adopting renewable energy. While the sun shines brightly each day, the president pointed out that these small island nations are not taking full advantage of the technology to achieve national security, spur economic growth, prevent climate change and lift the poor out of poverty.
Clinton announced that Haiti, the poorest of Caribbean nations, also has the highest electricity costs.
That said, the president told the crowd that the Caribbean is similar to the US, in the sense that there is still a lack of awareness from key segments of the population on renewable energy, and in particular, solar power.
"It's cool, but not nearly cool enough," he said.
Clinton repeated the phrase, "most Americans don't know", several times during his keynote address to underscore the need for awareness.
"I'm preaching to the saved. I know that. So the real question is, what about everyone not in this room? The reality is, you're going to win this battle. It's just a matter of when and where, and how," Clinton said.
"Most Americans do not know 100,000 people work in this sector of the economy."
The president emphasized the need for partnerships between public and private institutions, insisting that this "creative cooperation" is fundamental to any change. Citing a specific example in his home state of Arkansas, he declared that the private sector can indeed profit considerably by taking on these initiatives, if the discussion is right and stakeholders remain persistent.
Clinton touched on a number of other issues, such as examples of Republicans that have adopted progressive green policies, including the Bush family.
That said, when asked what presidential candidate Mitt Romney would do to the sector, Clinton insisted he would simply fulfill his campaign promises. That means he would cut programs that support the industry to free up cash for promised tax cuts.
Clinton also drifted to the issue of American aboriginals. He announced to the crowd that these "first Americans" are also the poorest, with many reservations even lacking basic access to power.
He called for renewable energy solutions to better the lives of these communities.
The keynote address, whether it touched on aboriginals or big business, rallied a collective need to push, innovate and take risks even as major challenges block the way.
"You gotta take chances if you want to go to tomorrow's dance," the former president said.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian