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Renewable Energy Seminar

May 26, 2008 - 11:59am

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Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Thank you, Ambassador Stephenson, for your hospitality and friendship.  I'd also like to thank Minister Pinho for sponsoring this important event and for his leadership in advancing our global energy security --- as well as Professor Barros and Professor Assuncao for their commitment to this effort.  I'm very glad to be here with all of you today.

As a former university-based research professor, I am well aware of the tremendous role academic institutions such as yours play in solving our world's most pressing challenges.  And I have a great deal of respect for the important work you are undertaking --- both at the university itself and in the broader community --- in the area of renewable energy.

Your investment in this area of research reinforces a belief I have long held: that the United States and Portugal share a strong commitment to enhance the world's energy security through the aggressive development and deployment of renewable energy and other alternative energy technologies.

This is so critical.  Because, the truth is, improving our energy security and addressing global climate change are among the most pressing challenges of our time.  The International Energy Agency estimates that the world's primary energy needs will grow by over 50% by 2030.  Meeting this demand will require the investment of billions of dollars annually for decades --- around the world and at all stages of the energy cycle.

At the same time, we must develop and commercialize cleaner sources of energy to power our vehicles, homes and workplaces more efficiently and in an environmentally responsible way.

And of course, that's not even the full picture.  In the United States, there is an appropriately high level of attention on the impact of energy prices on our economy, our families and the health of our businesses.  And I share that concern, as does President Bush.

We also recognize the very severe effects of high --- and increasingly volatile --- energy prices on smaller, developing economies.  They can stifle economic development and business growth and inhibit improvements in the health and well-being of so many people around the world.  As a matter of principle --- and as a matter of policy --- we must not leave the needs of the developing world behind as we grapple with these issues.

While there is certainly no "silver bullet" that will solve the world's energy problems, we know that renewable energy and efficiency technologies are an indispensable component of the solution.  And all nations of the world ---- producing and consuming alike --- must be involved in this effort.

The fact is that renewable energy is helping the world bring about a new energy future --- one that is cleaner, more sustainable, more affordable, more secure and less reliant on carbon-based fossil fuels.

But there is another reason why renewable energy is so critical.  Each megawatt of renewable energy brought online not only reduces global dependence on fossil fuels, it reduces the price volatility of those conventional fuels as well. A major global effort to promote renewable energy will support economic growth and allow developing nations to "leap-frog" over some of the dirtiest, but most rudimentary and prevalent, fossil-fuel-based technologies, thereby improving public health and our environment.

The leaders of Portugal certainly understand this global energy reality.  As a nation that imports the vast majority of its primary energy supply, Portugal appreciates the critical importance of renewable energy technologies --- not just for reasons of energy security, but of environmental health and sustainability as well.

That is why this government has taken such aggressive --- and admirable --- actions to promote the development and deployment of renewable energy throughout this country, including their announcement in Washington (WIREC) in March to invest €12 billion over the next four years in projects like hydroelectric dams, wind farms, and solar thermal plants.

I'm proud to say that the United States shares this commitment to harnessing the power of clean, renewable energy.  Under President Bush's leadership, we are aggressively funding programs --- for both basic science and applied R&D --- to achieve the type of transformational discoveries we need.  In fact, since 2001, this Administration has spent more than $22 billion to research, develop and promote alternative energy sources and to reduce energy demand.

We are placing a strong emphasis on technologies such as solar, wind, and cellulosic biofuels derived from waste streams rather than edible fuel sources.

As you know, solar energy is a clean, abundant and renewable energy source that can increase our electricity-generating capacity, particularly during periods of peak demand; reduce our dependence on natural gas; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation overall.

And so we're working to get the costs down and to accelerate the growth rate of these technologies in the marketplace.  In fact, over the last 7 years, installed photovoltaic capacity in the U.S. has grown at a rate of 30% per year.

With regard to wind, the U.S. has had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world for the last three years in a row.  This is a trend we are proud of and we intend to continue supporting its advance.

Since the start of 2007, the United States has invested well over $1 billion to spur the growth of a robust, sustainable biofuels industry.  Our investments are advancing our national goal of making cellulosic biofuels cost-competitive with corn ethanol by 2012, and reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20% within a decade.  This has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe by up to 85%, and thereby significantly reduce carbon emissions from our transportation sector.

We are also working to advance safe, emissions-free nuclear power and exploring ways to use coal and other conventional fuels more cleanly and efficiently, for example through carbon capture and storage programs.  These initiatives will help us meet the President's goal to curtail greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2025.  This is an important goal and one we are very committed to.  In fact, between 2001 and 2008, this Administration will have invested more than $45 billion toward activities related to climate-change science and technology.

We must explore all of these avenues in order to achieve a diversity of energy supplies.  To this end, this summer DOE will issue new solicitations for up to $38.5 billion to guarantee loans for the most promising nuclear, uranium enrichment, efficiency, renewable energy and electric transmission, and advanced fossil projects --- projects that use new or significantly improved technology that avoids, reduces or sequesters greenhouse gas emissions.

Our goal is to support early commercial use of advanced energy technologies by helping projects realize lifecycle profitability.

We are also actively pursing new approaches to getting beneficial technologies out into the marketplace quickly.  This includes cost-sharing partnerships and innovative programs to bring venture capital-sponsored entrepreneurs into our National Laboratories to help commercialize new technologies.

What we're trying to do is look at this challenge in a new way --- to try to incentivize the collaboration that is necessary between government and the private sector.  Because we know that the key to unlocking our energy future is ensuring that the innovation cycle continues at a rapid pace across the spectrum --- in our government laboratories, at our universities, and especially in the private sector.

And that brings me to another very important point that I cannot over-emphasize: our long-term success absolutely depends on our ability to successfully cultivate the next generation of highly skilled scientists and engineers.  The truth is that we are depending on them to create the innovations we need and to deploy them effectively into the global marketplace.

And, as we move ahead in our efforts to encourage young people to adopt these disciplines as fields of study, to spur their interest in math and science, we must also act to ensure that colleges and universities around the world are able to keep pace with the technological revolution.  Universities like yours demonstrate what is possible if these vital investments are made.

The bottom line is that we must do what we can to help tomorrow's scientists and researchers and engineers receive a first rate education anywhere in the world.  That means we must now begin a global effort to increase not only the quality of a university education in math and science, but also the opportunity to receive it.  A successful and prosperous global future depends upon it.

I'm quite proud that the United States and Portugal are partners --- and key players --- in a global effort to address the challenges of the new energy reality.

Our two governments know this: together, with the right leadership from governments around the globe --- with open investment climates and supportive regulatory frameworks --- with significant international collaboration --- with the talent of our world's scientists and engineers --- and with the sustained capital and innovative power of our commercial sectors, we will achieve a cleaner, affordable, and more secure energy future for all people of the world.  I thank you for your time today and look forward to your questions.

Location: The Catholic University of Portugal

Media contact(s): Bethany Shively, (202) 586-4940

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