Vegas Should Bet On Clean Energy

Spending time in Vegas again gave me the opportunity to experience the power of the omnipotent dollar.

But it’s not the gambling I’m talking about. The noise of the slots, the cries of pain at the craps games, and the cold stares from the packed blackjack tables are something to behold.

No, it’s Vegas’ hunger for electricity that got me thinking. Big voltage goes from the grid to various mini-cities on the Strip – such as the new Palazzo resort hotel, which, together with Venice, has about 8,000 rooms. This energy flows into the MGM Grand, Caesar’s Palace, the Flamingo and everything else. Only the air conditioner bill can crush a third world country. Put together the rest of the operations, the high-resolution billboards and the lighting visible from the space shuttle, and that’s enough to keep Nevada Power Co. one of the most stable and profitable investments of all time.

But imagine this: What if Vegas grows up for alternative energy and energy efficiency? It’s a risk, of course. But where else can you bet on a Wizard of Oz slot, deliver beer, and get a leak just 10 feet away? Vegas feeds on risk.

And while energy efficiency improvements have proven their worth, renewables still have a long way to go. Forbes’ Devon Swezey, for example, predicts a clean tech crash. “The reason is simple,” Swezey writes. “Clean energy is still much more expensive and less reliable than coal or gas.”

And the economy is biting, subsidies are dying, and public sector budgets look like a two-egg breakfast left out overnight in the parlor in Paris. So what?

That’s not really what drives the industry right now. For example, go out on the Strip in Vegas and breathe the air. Accompanying the constant stale smell of fried food, mass urination, sweat and other disgusting things is a good dose of pollution. This is not fresh air. And it’s not just Vegas.

The truth is, the weather is bad in most big cities. Of course, beautiful Fresno has the worst. I met my asthma here. Especially not in the long run. He might as well have been punched in the face. This has a cost. Coal and gas may be cheap per kilowatt, but that energy becomes very costly when multiplied by the 100 million people pouring into pharmacies to treat allergy-related ailments.

And then there’s the whole carbon debate. Fox News may try to brush it off, but it’s pretty clear we have a serious problem.

“Here’s the truth: The world is round; Saddam Hussein didn’t attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the USA and the climate crisis is real. It’s time to act,” says Al. A piece of Gore for Rolling Stone.

I tend to believe this. And I am not alone.

Tom Daykin of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal writes about Fritz Kreiss and Catherine McQueen, owners of the 19-room Green Leaf Inn in rural Delavan, Wisc. It uses a wind turbine, geothermal energy and solar energy to produce a non-existent carbon footprint.

Tax and audit firm KPMG LLP announced that it has benefited from a 22 percent carbon reduction in its overall operations over three years. This KPMG is a virtually tree-hugging hippie and follows a plan to improve the environmental performance of its business.

I’ve compiled a relatively long list, but I’ll keep this talk a little short.

So where better to showcase clean energy than in Vegas? A silly town in the desert where no one thought they could succeed. Heck, if that were the case it would have really dried up during this “recession”. But no, the World Series of Poker was a huge success this year and people flocked despite the unrealistic dinner prices.

Outfit your next casino hotel resort with solar panels, tap some geothermal and go LED crazy. Yeah, in Vegas baby.

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