By Lorie Hailey
LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 23, 2012) — Applauding a group of local high school students for their efforts to promote and participate in conservation and sustainability projects, President Bill Clinton on Monday said energy management is “good economics.”
Clinton spoke to about 5,000 students, teachers, parents, and local and state leaders at Rupp Arena, as part of the Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council’s Earth Day Celebration. The council, comprised of student leaders from eight Fayette County public and private high schools, works with local sustainability and non-profit organizations to identify and pursue cooperative projects that promote sustainability and energy management.
The council is the only county-wide non-governmental student group of its type in America, Clinton said.
“What these young people are doing is important,” he said.
The world is warming at an unsustainable rate, Clinton said. The world needs to follow the Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council’s lead and ask themselves how they can make a difference.
Businesses that find ways to change the way they produce and consume energy will save money and be able to create more jobs, which is needed for America to grow and prosper, the former president said.
Simple changes, such as painting the tar roofs of old school buildings white instead of black, can cut cooling bills, he said.
Clinton works on a climate initiative to create jobs in America with President Barack Obama’s economic advisory council. A better building partnership was created with several businesses, financial institutions and cities, he said.
“And all we’re doing is retrofitting buildings. It creates more jobs and gives you free power,” Clinton said. “And the problem with all sustainable power is this: All the costs are upfront, then the benefits take place over years. But, its great economics.”
Building a new power plant using coal or nuclear power creates about 800 to 900 jobs per billion dollars expended. But by retrofitting every school, every government building and every college building in Kentucky, 7,000 jobs would be created per every billion dollars spent, Clinton said.
He gave several examples of ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint while saving money.
A few years ago, Walmart reduced packaging on its goods by 5 percent, and “it had the equivalent impact of taking 211,000 diesel trucks off the road,” Clinton said.
In Germany and Demark, which both made a commitment to reduce their greenhouse gases by 20 percent by the year 2020, “they came up with a very clever idea,” he said.
“They would substitute 20 percent of their coal with wood pellets,” he said, adding that the pellets were made mostly in Virginia.
“They saved their coal industry, they saved their coal supply and they cut their emissions by 20 percent,” Clinton said.
In Haiti, Clinton helped build a teaching hospital in Port-au-Prince that has 1,800 solar panels on its roof. It is the biggest solar building in the Caribbean, he said.
“There are things like this going on all over the world,” he said.
In Mexico City, air quality was improved by building vertical gardens.
“There are all kinds of simple things we can do,” he said.
Changing the way we live and do business does not happen overnight. It is a process.
“There is no silver bullet here. This is about changing the way we do our business,” he said.
Working together is the only way to affect change, Clinton said. Businesses and governments must rely on networks of cooperation.
“Constant conflict seems to produce the best political results, but it is lousy economics,” he said. “What works in the long run is when you get people together who don’t see thing the same way, have totally different perspectives and they adopt a common goal and figure out how to make it work.”
The Bluegrass Sustainability Youth Council understands what must be done, Clinton said.
“Sustainability means just that. You don’t do something good today and forget about it tomorrow,” he said. “You change the way you do things so that it opens up new possibilities every day from now on into the future.”
Tresine Logsdon, the teacher facilitator of the council, said her group hopes to build on its enthusiasm and continue to make a difference.
“Together we will lead the Horse Capital of the World to becoming the green capital of the world,” she said.