PORTSMOUTH — Sen. Hillary Clinton challenged Americans to take the same attitude as those who fought and lived through World War II when it comes to achieving energy self-sufficiency and ending global warming.
Clinton, speaking in a public forum at Seacoast Media Group, noted that those who have become known as the "Greatest Generation" sacrificed not only on the battlefield in World War II and later in Korea, but in their daily lives to achieve success. While she said she preferred to call the changes Americans should make to achieve energy independence and end global warming "taking responsibility" rather than making sacrifices, she said the attitude can be the same.
"There is no reason there has to be only one 'Greatest Generation,'" she said. "Now is our time."
During the visit to Portsmouth, Clinton also announced a new feature of her plan to address global warming: the Green Building Fund.
Through the fund, the federal government would allocate $1 billion annually to states to make grants or low-interest loans to improve energy efficiency in public buildings, such as schools, police stations, firehouses and offices, Clinton said.
The Green Building Fund will create thousands of new "green collar" jobs, Clinton said.
"This is a moment of profound change and challenge for our nation," Clinton said. "Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, fastest technology we have to cut energy use and reduce emissions.
"If we do this right, it can be a win-win for our economy and our environment," the senator said.
Clinton congratulated Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who was in the audience, on the strides the city has made in energy conservation, citing the "green" certification received by the new library and the push to construct an energy-efficient fire station. She also spoke of the efforts by Public Service of New Hampshire in creating a wood-burning power plant at Schiller Station and those of the town of Eliot, Maine, for working toward using wind to power town buildings.
However, the senator also noted that despite all these local and state initiatives, pollution from other parts of the country makes its way into the state, affecting its air and natural resources.
"At the same time New Hampshire is taking steps (to minimize energy usage and the production of greenhouse gases) at the local and state levels, it is suffering from what's happening nationally," she said.
The leading Democratic presidential candidate said it was her opinion that any energy policy needs to deal with three issues: minimizing reliance on non-renewable energy resources supplied by nations that are not friendly to the United States, attacking global warming, and ending environmentally created health problems.
"These are inter-related issues," she told the crowd of more than 200 people who filled the press room of the Portsmouth Herald's parent company. "We have to remember this."
The centerpiece of Clinton's energy proposals is a $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund she wants to establish to fund alternative energy initiatives. The initial investment in the fund would come primarily from the oil companies that she said have been thwarting efforts to change American energy policies.
Ten billion dollars would come from charging oil companies a fee for drilling on public property; $20 billion would come from removing current oil company subsidies; and the remaining $20 billion would come from "a deal" Clinton said she would offer the major oil companies.
"We've been reading about refineries shutting down," she said. "It's intriguing to me that it seems the refineries always shut down in the summer time.
"So, here's the deal. (The oil companies) can invest the $20 billion themselves in the development of alternative fuels or rebuilding refineries, or we will tax their windfall profits."
Clinton said she can already see the "crocodile tears" on the faces of oil executives and them saying that she is going after the oil companies.
"I am going after the oil companies, and I think for good reason," Clinton said. "They have been a big part of the problem and refused to be part of the solution."
The federal government must put new technologies developed using fund money on a fast track and develop a global warming initiative, Clinton said, which will open a "new era of innovations" that she likened to the technological boom created by the development of the Internet. She called these new technological initiatives "Energy 2.0."
"I want kids to be as excited about this as Bill Gates was about computers," Clinton said. "I'm not sure we know today what forms of energy we'll be using in 50 years, and I'm excited about that."
On the global warming front, Clinton said she signed on "to the most aggressive cap-and-trade bill" currently being considered in Congress. That bill would require pollutant levels to be 80 percent of what they were in 1990 by the year 2050.
Cap-and-trade allows plants that produce fewer greenhouse gases than required by federal caps to sell credits to plants that exceed federal standards so they can be in compliance with those standards. However, Clinton's proposal calls for the proceeds from the auction of those credits to go into a fund to pay for new, cleaner energy innovations.
Clinton has also proposed legislation that would make the half million buildings owned by the federal government more energy efficient. She said that heating, cooling and powering those buildings cost taxpayers $5.6 billion a year.
"If the federal government took the lead on (requiring energy efficient systems for these buildings), things would move much more quickly," Clinton said. "Imagine if companies knew this kind of market existed for their products."
Recognizing that global warming is an international problem, Clinton said the U.S. must re-establish its connections with emerging countries, such as India and China.
"We must reignite our global connections," she said. "We can't sit here in the United States and work on global warming by ourselves."
The rise in asthma cases and other chronic ailments are also tied to energy policy and global warming, the senator said.
"There are three things that influence our health: genetics, behavior and environment," she said. "After (what is happening to those who worked at Ground Zero following) 9/11, how anyone can argue that what we breathe does not affect us is something I just can't understand."
Clinton said she realized that she has set an aggressive agenda with her energy and environmental plans, but argued that they are necessary and achievable. She said that some of the responsibility for ending our energy has to fall on every American.
"I'm convinced we have to move on all these levels at one time," she told the audience Tuesday.