The New York Democrat called on government and business leaders to "put research in alternative and smart energy sources into high gear." She also called for a "massive public information campaign" to encourage consumers, businesses and municipalities to implement energy-saving practices, as simple as using efficient light bulbs.
Clinton spoke to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs at the Clean Tech Venture Forum conference here. The term refers to a range of technologies designed to cut down on pollution and use natural resources more efficiently.
Clinton said that the U.S. needs a more forward-looking energy policy that draws onthat would lessen the country's dependence on foreign oil. Appropriate policy changes would help consumers who face sharply higher heating costs this winter and set the stage for long-term economic development in alternative energy technologies, she said.
"The energy revolution can be as big and important as the industrial revolution and the explosion of the information age," Clinton said.
She proposed a "strategic energy fund," which would be created by a portion of profits from large oil companies.
The money would give consumers and businesses tax incentives to be more energy-efficient and be used to stimulate research investment, she said. Companies that invest in alternative energies and promote efficiency would be exempt, she said.
"We're not talking about a new tax on consumers," Clinton said. "It's redirecting a hidden tax that consumers are paying to OPEC and oil companies in the form of higher prices and harnessing that to secure our energy future."
Clinton said there are three important areas to which the U.S. should direct energy investments: fuel-efficient vehicles; promoting the use of accepted energy-efficient technologies, such as wind and solar; and newer energy technologies.
She proposed that tax credits be doubled for energy-efficient vehicles, such as hybrids and clean diesel trucks, and said that the U.S. government should try to replace its fleet with fuel-efficient vehicles by 2010.
To promote renewable sources of energy, she said, the U.S. should set an energy-usage goal that, by 2020, would have 20 percent of the energy generated coming from renewable sources.
In addition to calling for government incentives, she called on both venture capitalists and Wall Street investors to fund innovative companies in the sector.
Clinton argued that energy policies that focus on producing more oil don't adequately address the "seismic shift in demand for oil" coming from the growing economies of India, China and other developing nations.
"The truth is the current policies in Washington are clearly inadequate for the long-term challenges we face," she said. "There has been no openness or willingness to engage in a future-oriented energy policy."
She voiced her frustration with congressional moves as well, such as proposals to delay the implementation of regulations that require refineries to create ultra-low sulfur fuel. She also said special-interest groups have hampered adoption of incentives that promote alternative fuels at the federal level.
Clinton called on her colleagues in the Senate to be more optimistic about the ability of American consumers and innovative companies to cut down oil consumption.
"We're posed with the chance and the opportunity to change our energy future," she said. "We can be the world leader of new energy technology and not just the world's major consumer of oil."