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2008 MED Week Conference

September 4, 2008 - 3:20pm

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Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Thank you very much, Ron, for that kind introduction and for your friendship and your tremendous leadership of MBDA.  I believe I'm correct in saying that you're the longest serving National Director in MBDA's history and that's certainly no accident.

Since the early days of this Administration, you have led MBDA with great skill and integrity.  And you have done it in a way that has advanced the agency's vital mission, and also advanced the cause of good government.

You and your team at MBDA have helped to transform the agency, making it more responsive, more results-oriented, and more effective.

It's my great pleasure to return to MED Week, an event that showcases the many contributions to our economic strength and competitiveness that minority business enterprises are making across this nation.

The theme of this week's conference - the power of strategic alliances in the global economy - is fitting.  Because if we are to address the most pressing challenges our nation faces - in any number of areas - then we absolutely must do two things.

First, we must recognize both the challenges and the opportunities of the global business environment in which you all currently operate and continue to pursue policies that encourage and support economic growth and development here and around the world.

Secondly, we must recognize the need for - and the power of - strategic partnerships to solve our biggest global challenges.

In my view, this is particularly true with regard to our nation's energy situation.

As business owners, you certainly don't need reminding that our world is confronting rapidly growing demand for energy, rising prices, and an urgent need to produce and use energy more cleanly and efficiently in ways that do not harm our shared environment - or our security.

And these demand pressures, though already acute, will only increase with time.  The International Energy Agency estimates that the world's primary energy needs will grow by more than 50percent by 2030.

To address this challenge we absolutely require intense, strategic partnerships between industry, government - at all levels - and academia.  In short, we need everyone involved.

That's really my message to you today.  Government has a critical role to play, but cannot do this alone.  And likewise, the business community cannot solve this alone.  Nor even can our nation's premier scientists - at our universities and National Laboratories - confront this challenge alone.

Instead, we all must continue to work together to move America to a cleaner, more secure, more diverse, and more affordable energy future.

Of course, we will do it - and in fact, we are on our way.  Now as always, the strength and vibrancy of our economy is rooted in America's ability to innovate, in our commitment to discover, to create, and to change.

Throughout our nation's history, our collective ingenuity has been responsible for dramatically improving the efficiency of our industries, and for creating entirely new ones, for making us safer and more secure in the world, for remarkable improvements in our health and well-being, and for making our lives more convenient and comfortable.

But all this opportunity brings with it a tremendous amount of responsibility.  The simple fact is, our lives today - our homes, our offices, our vehicles and our industries - consume an enormous amount of energy.

And so we must continue to address this key truth:  the production and use of energy has a significant cost - both in monetary and environmental terms.

The way I see it, a fundamental responsibility of the Energy Department - and of our government - is to recognize that cost and lessen it.  But I also believe that the private sector, which you all represent, shares in this responsibility.

You are an integral part of our national energy agenda. And this agenda consists of several major tenets.

The first is improved energy efficiency throughout our economy.  All businesses - small and large and across all industries - must look for ways to use energy more efficiently.

This applies not just to our most energy-intensive industries, but also to our offices, our construction industries, and our transportation sector as well.

To that end, I encourage all of you to consider how your business can operate more efficiently and to participate in an energy assessment program.

By way of just one example, the Energy Department provides funding for 26 Industrial Assessment Centers located at premier engineering universities around the country, which are working to increase the energy efficiency of small and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers.

These Centers will send out teams to provide no-cost assessments of a facility's energy use, waste and productivity.

Within 60 days, the plant manager will receive a confidential report detailing the team's analysis and money-saving recommendations, along with estimates of related costs and payback periods.

As a testament to the value of the program, over the past five years, over $100 million in annual energy cost savings have been implemented at about 2,500 plants - that's an average annual savings of about $40,000 per plant.  And you can learn more about how to be a part of this program at www.energysavers.gov.

I would also encourage you to take some time to visit DOE's exhibit booth here at MED Week where you will find a wealth of good information, including a sheet of energy saving tips for small businesses. 
These are things you can do right now that will make a difference - to save you money, to help our environment and, collectively, to take some pressure off of demand.
 
At the same time that we continue to bring about dramatic changes in how we use energy, our nation also must continue to pursue the development and widespread deployment of renewable energy technologies and alternative fuels, including solar and wind power, advanced hybrid vehicle technologies, hydrogen fuel cells, and advanced biofuels.

To this end, the Energy Department continues to partner closely with academia and the private sector and we have made remarkable progress over the past few years in these areas and many others.

By way of example, I would highlight the Department's sizeable investments - totaling over $1 billion since the start of 2007 - to spur the growth of a robust, sustainable next-generation biofuels industry, and in particular, to tap the great potential of cellulosic biofuels derived from nonfood sources.

We are rightly placing a great deal of emphasis on renewables and alternative fuels.  But until we achieve transformative breakthroughs - which we are on our way to doing - our world will continue to operate on fossil fuels: oil, natural gas and coal, as well as liquefied natural gas and nontraditional fuels like oil shale and oil sands.  But we must find, develop and use these resources more cleanly and efficiently.

We must expand our domestic oil production, including in the Outer Continental Shelf, as the President has called for and do so in an environmentally sensitive manner.  We also must use our nation's abundant coal supply in ways that reduce - or perhaps eliminate - its environmental impacts.

One way to do this is through the development of carbon capture and storage technology.  In all these areas, the Energy Department is engaged with the private sector to make a real difference in how we utilize our conventional resources.

And finally, any realistic approach to addressing our energy and climate challenges must also acknowledge that new nuclear power plants must be built in this country.

These are, in essence, the major components of our national energy strategy: dramatically improved energy efficiency; an aggressive move to renewable energy and alternative fuels; more efficient and environmentally sustainable use of fossil fuels; and advanced nuclear power.

To do all this effectively, we actively pursuing new approaches to getting beneficial technologies developed and out into the marketplace quickly.

Under President Bush's leadership, we have increased funding for basic research in our National Laboratories and in conjunction with universities.

We are aggressively funding advanced technology development through public-private partnerships with companies of all sizes and across the nation.

We've recently announced the availability of over $30 billion in loan guarantees aimed at getting large-scale clean-energy projects built as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We've also established innovative programs to bring venture capital-sponsored entrepreneurs into our National Laboratories to help commercialize new technologies.

We are looking at this challenge in a new way to try to incentivize the collaboration that is necessary between government and the private sector, which you all represent.

To that end, I want to encourage you to learn more about how your business might partner with the DOE areas.  Now, perhaps some of you are thinking, what can I do?  How can my business make a difference?  Maybe you're a small, entrepreneurial business, or one operating in an industry not directly related to the energy arena.  Well, let me mention a few things.

First, the Department of Energy is the largest civilian federal purchaser of goods and services, procuring over $22 billion annually.  And a good deal of that goes to small businesses.

I'm proud to report that we've grown our prime-contracting partnerships with small businesses considerably over the past several years - from $500 million in 2001 to over $1.4 billion last year.

And if you include sub-contractors as well, the number is between $4.5 and $5 billion a year.  That is serious money and these companies are making serious contributions to our Department's mission and to our nation's energy security.

These businesses run the gamut of services and industries.  In fact, one of our current IT services contracts - on the order of $1 billion over seven years - was awarded in 2005 to a joint venture between two minority business enterprises, 1 Source Consulting and RS Information Services.

Another way that smaller businesses can partner with the Energy Department is through our Small Business Innovation Research - or SBIR - program.

We will soon issue our funding opportunity notice for 2009, and expect to have over $100 million in funding available in a wide variety of technical areas - including advanced coal research, wind and solar energy technology development, advanced battery development, hydrogen fuel cells, and advanced technologies for nuclear energy.

I encourage you to learn more about this program, which is open to all qualifying small businesses, on our web site, energy.gov, or at DOE's booth.

And on this subject, let me end with a brief story.

In 2003, the DOE made an SBIR award to a young company called A123 Systems for a project called "an advanced cathode material for lithium-ion batteries."

While this company now has major private investors, on many occasions the company's founders have described this SBIR grant as their first source of outside funding.  And the results - now just 5 years later - are remarkable.

This company now employs over 1,100 people who produce batteries with an unprecedented combination of power, safety and long-life as compared to previous lithium-ion batteries, and with applications for cordless power tools and - most significantly - for hybrid-electric vehicles.

I've had the pleasure of visiting A123 Systems - located right outside of Boston - and I can tell you first hand that this company is doing terrific work.

The bottom line is this: whether you are a small business or a larger one, whether you are well established or just starting out, whether you are operating in a local community or half-way around the world, all businesses have a major opportunity - and, I would argue, a responsibility - to help this nation address the major energy challenges we face.

Because we need everyone involved.  And I mean all of us - in government, in the private sector, in the non-profit community and in academia.

I believe that together, with the support of the American people, the right leadership and funding commitments from Washington, the talent of our nation's scientists and engineers, and the capital, commitment and innovative power of our commercial sector - which you all represent - we will achieve a cleaner, affordable, and secure energy future for all Americans.

Thank you very much.

Location: Washington, D.C.

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