Former President Clinton joined with Los Angeles city officials Monday to announce the launch of the nation's biggest environmentally friendly light replacement program.
The city plans to spend $57 million to retrofit 140,000 streetlights with LED bulbs, a move that is expected to ultimately save the city $10 million a year in energy costs.
"Greening is the future of Los Angeles," Clinton told a group of 100 invited guests at the City Hall Rotunda.
It was the former president's foundation, the Clinton Climate Initiative, that came to the city with the concept of replacing the inefficient bulbs with the more expensive LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.
"This partnership is a tremendous example of how cities can cut costs, while also make a significant impact in the fight against climate change," Clinton said.
City officials said the LED bulbs will result in savings because of reduced energy costs, and they will also last four to five times longer than the six-year life span of existing bulbs.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is up for re-election on March 3 and has been endorsed by Clinton, said the LED program is the latest in a series of efforts by his administration to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
He has set a goal that 20 percent of the city's power be renewable by 2010 and 35 percent by 2020.
"We are lighting the way to a greener L.A.," Villaraigosa said. "This is the largest retrofit program of any city in the country."
Under the program, scheduled to begin in June, the Bureau of Street Services will begin replacing the bulbs in the two-thirds of the city's 210,000 street signals that can be retrofitted.
It is expected to take five years to replace all the bulbs, starting with 20,000 the first year and 30,000 in each of the succeeding years.
The program is financed with a $14 million rebate from the Department of Water and Power as part of its energy-efficiency program and a $40 million loan from the agency. It will be paid back over seven years, at an interest rate of 5.25 percent, General Manager H. David Nahai said.
"It is worth it because the city will be saving energy in the long run," Nahai said. "We believe the cleanest energy is the energy you don't have to generate."
Clinton said the program is one of a number that Los Angeles and other cities should look to finance under President Obama's stimulus package, which includes millions for environmental programs.
"If every city in America would adopt this program, it would be the equivalent of 2<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 coal-powered plants," Clinton said, adding that environmental programs have the potential of creating millions of new jobs.
Clinton also offered a boost for the overall stimulus package, saying it is needed to slow the economic downturn, help keep people in their homes and solidify the nation's banking system.
The former president's Los Angeles trip came a day after he was ranked 15th among 42 presidents in a C-SPAN survey of presidential historians, moving him up six spots from the previous year.
Clinton ranked third in economic management and 10th in public persuasion, but 37th in moral authority.