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University of Delaware Energy Institute Inauguration

September 19, 2008 - 3:43pm


Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Thank you very much, Dr. Harker.  I applaud your contributions to the field of higher education - as well as your commitment to a more secure energy future.

Throughout history, our universities have played a key role in finding solutions to our most pressing and complex challenges.  The federal government - certainly the Energy Department - relies on our partners in academia, as well as in the private sector, to fulfill our critical missions.  With its many contributions to the field of energy research, the University of Delaware is certainly one of our valued partners.

With the launch of the Energy Institute here today, you are not only expanding the University's substantial expertise in this area, you are also fostering the type of collaboration among academia, industry and government that is so essential as we together confront our significant energy challenges.

As you know, our world faces 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 national 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 50 percent 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 we cannot do this alone.  We all must continue to work together to move America to a cleaner, more secure, more diverse, and more affordable energy future.

Some have asked, "Will we be able to do it?"  I say, "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 and academic sectors - all of you here today - share in this responsibility.

You are an integral part of our national energy agenda.  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.

There are things all of us can do right now that will make a difference - to save money, to help our environment and, collectively, to take some pressure off of demand.

Maximizing efficiency is simply essential.  In fact, I often make the point that the biggest source of immediately available "new" energy is the energy that we waste every day.

And so, 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.  For example, last year, we announced the selection of 13 industry-led solar technology development projects - including  projects led by General Electric Energy right here in Delaware and BP Solar - for awards of up to $168 million between FY '07 and FY '09.

These Technology Pathway Partnerships - as they are called - are comprised of more than 50 companies, 14 universities, 3 non-profit organizations, and 2 Department of Energy National Laboratories.  The projects serve as the centerpiece of the President's Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015.

And just this past March, we announced an investment of up to $13.7 million over three years for 11 university-led projects focused on developing advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) technology manufacturing processes and products.  Two University of Delaware projects were among those selected and will together receive $3.0 million dollars over three years in Department of Energy funding.

As you well know, increasing the use of solar energy is critical to diversifying our nation's energy sources in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase our energy security.  I applaud the important work your scientists and researchers are undertaking in this area and congratulate you for your accomplishments.

Wind is clearly another important potential source of renewable energy.  The U.S. has had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world for the last three years in a row.  In 2007, wind power provided 30% of the new generating capacity.  This is a trend we are proud of and we intend to continue supporting its advance.

In particular, I would highlight the importance of offshore wind resources - often located near fast-growing, populated coastal areas where demand for power is huge and growing.  Just this past May, a Department of Energy report found that offshore wind capacity could be about 54 gigawatts, or one-sixth of total wind power generation by 2030.

I know that the University's working group on offshore wind power within the College of Marine and Earth Studies will continue to play a critical role as this important resource is further developed.  Certainly the recently signed Delmarva Power-Bluewater Wind contract - the first such agreement in the country - shows that there is interest in offshore wind opportunity here in the state.

The Department of Energy's renewable energy investments obviously extend beyond wind and solar.  In particular, I would also 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.  Likewise, we have advanced the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, advanced batteries and other vehicle technologies.

This work is critical for many reasons, but the most significant is that more than two-thirds of the petroleum we consume each day goes to our transportation sector.  So, if we are to dramatically reduce our oil consumption and our greenhouse gas emissions, we must have viable, readily available and competitively priced alternative fuels, as well as greatly enhanced efficiency throughout the sector.

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 rely heavily upon 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 all of 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.  Through the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, the Department is working with industry partners on large volume tests to demonstrate the ability of a geologic formation to safely, permanently, and economically store more than one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

In fact, 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.  Here there is good news to report, with 12 combined operating licenses currently submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  This is evidence of the resurgence we are seeing in the United States as it becomes more and more clear that nuclear power must play a significant role in our future energy mix.

To realize this energy future, we are 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 are making available over $40 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 among government at all levels, the private sector and academia.

As I'm sure you would agree, all of this work must continue at a rapid pace.  And that brings me to another important point that I cannot overemphasize.  For this collaboration to continue on the scale we need, we simply must invest in the next generation of leaders - of mathematicians, scientists and engineers - to steer us through the energy challenge.

That means encouraging young people to adopt scientific fields of study, spurring their interest in math and science, and ensuring that colleges and universities around the world are able to keep pace with the technological revolution.  I believe these investments are vital to a successful and prosperous global future.

And for those future mathematicians, scientists and engineers in attendance here today, I want to tell you that, with the very critical work we are undertaking in so many areas at the Department of Energy, we need you.  And so I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to consider a stint in the federal government - at the Energy Department specifically - whether for a few years or for your entire career.

I know you have many career options.  But if you look across the spectrum of what's available to you, it is my belief, having spent time myself in a number of sectors, that federal service offers the best way to truly make a difference - whether it is at our network of 17 world-class National Laboratories, in technical program management, or in policy development at our headquarters in Washington.

The bottom line is this: all of us - in government, in industry, and in academia - have a responsibility to help this nation address the major energy challenges we face.  We need everyone involved.  By providing a forum for ideas and fostering the type of collaboration we need, the University of Delaware's Energy Institute and others like it will help lead us toward a cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy future for all Americans.

Thank you very much.

Location: University of Delaware Energy Institute Inauguration in Newark, Delaware

Media contact(s): Kristin Brown, (202) 586-4940