LAS VEGAS Representatives from Google Inc. and General Electric Co. said Tuesday that widespread use of renewable energy in United States would be possible if it were cheaper.
Renewable energy options will remain "boutique" industries unless their costs are cut to make them competitive with coal and other widely used power sources, said Dan Reicher, director for climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org, the company's philanthropic arm.
Reicher spoke to a group of politicians and energy experts at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. The meeting's attendees said they hope to develop a national energy agenda to take to the Democratic and Republican parties at their upcoming conventions.
"There's a whole set of factors that go into the ultimate cost of energy," Reicher said after announcing a plan for Google to invest more than $10 million to develop "enhanced geothermal systems" technology to generate energy from rocks deep below the earth's surface.
Google's project replicates traditional geothermal systems deep below the Earth's surface by circulating water through hot rock and running the steam through a turbine that generates electricity.
Google said its goal was to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity enough to power a major city.
"These are all high-capital-costs projects," Reicher said.
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. also delivered a keynote speech Tuesday, where he talked about efforts being made in Utah to use clean energy. By way of example, he pointed to the state's use of natural gas vehicles.
Taking steps like using natural gas or other renewable energies are important, since efforts for America to become "energy independent" need to "move from the abstract to the concrete."
It also requires more than just talk, which is often where such efforts fall short. But Huntsman said that is changing, slowly, through groups such as the Western Governors Association, which is working on developing a national energy policy.
"Everything is in place, except the political will," he said in a phone call following his speech. "We have the brain power and the intellectual property ... but we lack the will."
One by one, speakers at the meeting touted the benefits of various energy-related initiatives, including how large-scale solar power could generate thousands of jobs and why wind power could lessen America's dependence on foreign oil. Extending tax credits, establishing caps on carbon emissions and modernizing the nation's electricity grid were also ideas that speakers said would be crucial to building a "green" economy.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the energy discussion was timely, and he criticized presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain for not having a real debate about energy.
"They're treating us to a political silly season," Bloomberg said, not mentioning either candidate by name but citing ideas such as tapping the nation's strategic oil reserve or giving Americans a gas tax holiday.
Contributing: Josh Loftin, Deseret News