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Deputy Secretary Poneman's Remarks as Prepared for Delivery at the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea

June 21, 2010 - 1:04pm


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman
American Chamber of Commerce in Korea
Monday, June 21, 2010
Seoul, Korea

Good afternoon.  Thank you, Amy [Jackson] for the introduction.  It's a pleasure to be back in Seoul.  I have many fond memories from past visits, and I am glad to have the opportunity to join all of you today.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to thank the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea for hosting me, and for its work fostering dialogue on issues that are critical to the businesses and citizens of the Republic of Korea and the United States.  I'm honored to be a part of the conversation today.

Sixty years ago this month marked the beginning of the Korean War - a conflict that brought our citizens together and forged an enduring alliance between our two nations - an alliance that President Obama recently described as "rooted in shared sacrifice, common values, mutual interest and mutual respect; an alliance that is stronger than ever.  And, as we have seen in recent weeks, our alliance is needed more than ever."

Our two nations share broad and deep ties that bind us together on issues ranging from the economy to regional security to energy.  Today, I would like to focus my remarks on energy and what the United States is doing - and what our nations can do together - to build a clean, sustainable energy future.

Shared Energy Challenges

Let me begin by outlining the challenge we face.  Today, both the United States and Korea rely heavily on fossil fuels to power our economies.  This reliance can be detrimental to our energy security.  And as we've tragically seen off the U.S. Gulf Coast, our excessive dependence on oil also puts our environment at risk.  The BP oil spill is the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States. It's also an urgent call to transition to a clean energy future. 

In addition to these risks, both countries - indeed all countries -- face the shared challenge of climate change.  The science is clear: our climate is changing, and these changes could have devastating consequences around the globe. Droughts, floods, severe storms, and rising sea levels could result in hunger, disease, displacement, and conflict over resources.  Many nations could face major agricultural disruptions and rising sea levels could flood low-lying areas in East Asia.

For the sake of our future security and prosperity, our generation has a responsibility to act. 

The U.S. is Working to Build a Clean Energy Future

So, here is the question is: How should we address the energy and climate challenge? The answer: We must build a new energy future where we use energy efficiently and rely on clean sources of energy to meet demand.

Building this future won't be quick or easy, but we will all be better off for it.  Tackling the energy and climate challenge will provide enormous opportunities to create new jobs and increase market activity in the clean energy sector, enhance energy security, and combat climate change. 

Clean energy represents a growing market that provides new export opportunities for businesses. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that investment in clean energy will hit a record $200 billion this year. Tom Friedman has dubbed this era the Energy Technology Revolution.  As with the Internet Technology Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that came before it, the countries that lead in this revolution will be the countries that lead in the global economy.

Recognizing both the responsibility and opportunity before us, President Obama has taken bold and swift steps domestically to advance clean energy.

The economic stimulus the President signed into law last year made an $80 billion down-payment on our low-carbon future.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is putting Americans to work making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity, and modernizing the electric grid.  I recently viewed construction on the McNary-John Day transmission line, and saw firsthand the jobs that are being created to put up a transmission line that will increase the integration of renewable energy and lay the foundation for a clean energy economy.

To truly drive a clean energy transformation, the President is committed to passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation last year and, recently the U.S. Senate introduced legislation as well.  We look forward to working with the Senate this year to pass legislation.

U.S. Energy Efficiency Efforts

For the next few decades, energy efficiency and conservation present many of our best  opportunities to create jobs, save consumers and businesses money, and cut carbon pollution.  As Secretary Chu likes to say, energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit, it's fruit that is lying on the ground.

The United States is moving aggressively on this front.  Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest single investment in home energy efficiency in U.S history. For low-income families that are hit hardest by high utility bills, the Recovery Act provides $5 billion for local agencies to perform home energy audits and weatherization services.

The Department of Energy is also pursuing new efficiency technologies, toughening appliance standards, developing efficient building systems, and helping cities and states to develop efficiency programs.  In addition, the President has announced historic new mileage standards for our vehicles. 

U.S. Clean Energy Efforts

While efficiency is important, it's only one part of the equation.  On the supply side, we must develop and deploy clean sources of energy. 

Recognizing that coal is likely to comprise a major source of electricity generation for the foreseeable future, Secretary Chu has challenged us by establishing our goal to advance carbon capture and storage technology to the point where widespread, affordable deployment is possible within 10 years.  Through the Recovery Act, we are supporting numerous CCS projects, which we estimate will capture more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2015.

We are also working to restart our domestic nuclear industry to help meet our baseload power requirements without increasing carbon emissions. President Obama has called for a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in the United States.   Earlier this year, he announced $8 billion in conditional loan guarantees for what will be the first U.S. nuclear power plant to be built in nearly three decades.  We hope that more reactors will follow soon.

We also are pursuing new ways to harness energy from the sun, the wind, and the soil.  Through the Recovery Act, we are supporting several hundred wind and solar projects.  By partnering with private industry, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Energy have already funded enough new renewable energy projects to power over one million homes.

As we increase our use of renewables, we must make sure we have the infrastructure to handle this transition.  We have begun to modernize our electric grid to improve reliability, save consumers money, and allow for increased integration of renewable energy resources. We have invested $4.5 billion through the Recovery Act to upgrade the grid.

Finally, we are working to transform the transportation sector to cut our excessive dependence on oil and revitalize our auto manufacturing industry.  Through more than $4 billion from the Recovery Act, we are making our transportation system more efficient, developing plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, and deploying new, clean fuels.  Through our advanced technology vehicle manufacturing loan program, we have provided about $8 billion in loans for the development of advanced vehicle technologies.  This investment is already having an impact.  I recently visited Smyrna, Tennessee for the groundbreaking of an advanced battery manufacturing plant for the Nissan LEAF.

Both the U.S. and Korea have many technologies in hand today to begin a transition to a low-carbon economy.  But, over the long-term, we will need breakthroughs and better technologies to make the steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we need.

Under Secretary Chu's leadership, we have put science and technology at the core of everything we do in the Department.  From working to overcome known hurdles in basic science to bringing together groups of researchers to focus on achieving goals like making fuels from sunlight to seeking the boldest and best ideas for potentially transformative energy technologies through our ARPA-E program, the Department is pursuing a broad-based clean energy research strategy to achieve energy breakthroughs. 

Opportunities for Cooperation

The Republic of Korea, too, understands the urgent need to transition to a clean energy future.  Like the United States, Korea has made clean energy a centerpiece of its economic recovery, implementing a "Green New Deal" to create jobs, as well as a cleaner, greener Korea.  In the long-term, President Lee Myung-Bak has articulated a powerful vision for a prosperous Korea through a "Low Carbon, Green Growth" plan.

As the two of the world's largest economies, the United States and Korea have a special role to play in solving the global energy and climate challenge.  By bringing our best minds together and putting the full force of our vast technological and scientific capabilities to bear on this problem, we can gear up innovation to find the answers we need. 

There is no question that we can do more together than we can do alone - and we can do it faster and cheaper.  That is why we are working together on a range of energy issues ranging from nuclear energy to gas hydrate R&D.  We have agreed to collaborate on smart grid projects.  And the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Korea Institute of Energy Research will be working together on clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies. 

By strengthening our clean energy partnership, we can bring new technologies to market and grow demand for clean energy technologies -- creating new export opportunities for our companies and promoting economic growth in both the United States and Korea.

Multilateral Cooperation

While the actions the United States and Korea take are critical, the energy and climate challenge is a global problem that demands a global solution.  That is why President Obama has renewed American leadership in this arena and engaged with countries around the world on a bilateral and multilateral level.

We have already made much progress over the past year.  The commitment of G20 and APEC countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over the medium-term will further improve the efficiency of markets, enhance our collective energy security, and reduce harmful greenhouse gases. 

In addition, the Copenhagen Accord was an important step forward and should be operationalized quickly. Continued progress will require positive engagement by all, and we look forward to working with the international community through a number of mechanisms, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Clean Energy Ministerial that Secretary Chu is hosting next month, APEC, and other fora. 

As part of that engagement, later today, I will be traveling to Fukui to participate in the APEC Energy Ministers Meeting.  I look forward to discussing with my colleagues how we can put our countries and the region on the path to a low-carbon future.  


We've come a long way, but there is more work ahead of us as we seek to build a clean, sustainable and prosperous future for ourselves, our children, and our children's children.  Your companies have an indispensable role to play in this transformation.  We will need your innovation to develop new technologies, and to bring them to the marketplace. 

Indeed, it is the private sector that will ultimately drive this revolution and bring it to scale.  The government can make some initial investments to spark innovation and give private capital the confidence to come off the sidelines to support clean energy investments.  Government can also provide regulatory support and predictable rules of the road to enable those investments to flourish. 

Ultimately, it's the private sector that will drive the investments, manufacture the products, eliminate inefficiencies, and provide the market in which the energy revolution will thrive.

Working together, we can create jobs and increase economic growth in Korea and in the United States by making clean energy solutions more available.  We can save businesses and households money by reducing the cost of clean energy technology and cutting down on energy waste.  And we can diversify our energy mix to cut pollution and enhance the security of both our nations.

Thank you.