Clinton: Why high oil prices are good thing

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The Independent Online

Such is his interest in alternative energy, Mr Clinton told The Independent on Sunday, that he intends asking local government officials in Westchester, New York, where he lives with his wife Hillary, to investigate supplementing the local grid with solar-generated power. His new presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, has enough solar panels to provide one-third of its power needs.

The environment was a key area of discussion at the former president's three-day forum on world affairs, held at a Manhattan hotel and dubbed the "Clinton Global Initiative". He also raised the issue of oil prices during the meeting's opening session on Thursday, during which he and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, engaged in a panel discussion about the world's immediate challenges.

Teasing his guests on stage, who also included the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and King Abdullah of Jordan, Mr Clinton said he knew he could not ask the question directly, but perhaps they were not unhappy that oil prices had risen so sharply. The price of crude oil has doubled in two years. The rhetorical inquiry drew a broad smile from Mr Blair, who looked ready to blurt agreement. "A sitting politician can't answer that question, of course," Mr Clinton explained in conversation with the IoS. "But I think it is a good thing because, believe me, this is going to concentrate minds all around the world. It is quite clear that we are too dependent on hydrocarbons."

The three-day meeting - attendees ranged from heads of state to Barbra Streisand and Rupert Murdoch - was only the latest manifestation of Mr Clinton's quest to maintain influence on world affairs, even five years after leaving office. The Clinton Global Initiative expects to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for sustainable development projects worldwide and to help fight Aids.

Ms Rice warned during the panel discussion that as countries like China and others in Asia face pressures to continue to grow their economies at breakneck speed, it would be impossible for Europe and America to demand that they ration their fuel consumption. And she suggested that nuclear power would inevitably grow much more important, despite worries about military proliferation.