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Hillary Clinton calls out climate change deniers

Opponents "have to answer" for depriving people jobs by denying climate change, the former secretary of state said.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the National Clean Energy Summit on Sept. 4, 2014, in Las Vegas.

Hillary Clinton called out climate change “deniers” at a clean energy conference in Las Vegas Thursday evening, but revealed little new about what her own energy policy platform might look like if she decides to run for president.

Clinton began her remarks at the National Clean Energy Summit by laying out the problems climate change is already causing today, including extreme weather and droughts. “[These are] the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face,” she said. “No matter what deniers say."

She went on to make an optimistic pitch for clean energy investment as a means to simultaneously create jobs, grow the environment, compete with China, and reduce greenhouse emissions.

"The threat is real, but so is the opportunity,” Clinton said. “America can be the clean energy superpower for the 21st century.”

During a question and answer session with Obama White House counselor John Podesta — who is a likely pick to lead Clinton’s potential presidential campaign, should she pursue that avenue — the former secretary of state took another swing at those who don’t see the benefits of green tech.

“Aside from the deniers and the special interests and all the other folks who want to pretend we don’t have a crisis is the fact that we are leaving money and jobs behind,” she said. “For those on the other side, they have to answer to the reality they are denying peoples’ jobs and middle class incomes and upward mobility by their refusal to look to the future.”

Clinton has several hard choices to make on what her energy policy will look like if she decides to run for president, but — not surprisingly — she left those decisions up in the air on Thursday.

With regards to natural gas, which has boomed in recent years, the former secretary of state said new fracking technologies can be part of the solution, even though they present their own problems. "We have to face head-on the legitimate, pressing environmental concerns,” she said.

Whoever runs for the Democratic nomination can expect to face pressure from environmentalists to crack down on fracking. But Clinton simply repeated almost verbatim the position she lays out in her book, “Hard Choices,” calling for “smart regulations” which may include "deciding not to drill when the risks are too high."

Also, as expected, she did not mention the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

In her remarks, Clinton noted that the clean energy future she envisions is not “some kind of a dream,” pointing to Nevada as an exemplar. Just today, the electric car manufacturer Telsa announced it had selected the state for a massive new battery factory that will be powered by wind and solar energy, she noted.

Clinton touted other states’ work as well, including Iowa, perhaps raising a few eyebrows since that state hosts the first major primary events for the presidential elections. “This is a reality that can be brought to scale,” she said.

On climate regulations, Clinton praised Obamas’ use of executive authority through the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gasses, but said more needs to be done. "Now we have to step up and build on that success,” she said.

Clinton was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who hosts the conference and praised Clinton as someone who “understands climate change — she was first to identify the fact that there is something called climate change.” Reid noted that in addition to her public work, he appreciated Clinton’s loyalty to his son, who volunteered on the then-senator’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“I have great affection for this woman,” he added. "I watch her in action — she’s the best."