Our Nobel-Prize-winning Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, gave a blunt speech to the Washington Post Live Smart Energy Conference today.
Of course the WashPost event is sponsored in part by Shell Oil.
And you can watch it here through about 2 pm (DC time).
Here are some highlights of Chu’s remarks:
Once again, there is a huge opportunity before us – a global clean energy market that is already worth an estimated $240 billion and is growing rapidly. In fact, a very reasonable estimate is that solar photovoltaic systems alone represent a global market worth more than $80 billion this year.
China – like many countries – has learned from the U.S. how government can support critical emerging industries. Last year, China offered roughly $30 billion in government financing to its solar companies, including $7 billion to Suntech. At least 10 countries have adopted renewable electricity standards, and more than 50 countries offer some type of public financing for clean energy projects. For example, Germany and Canada operate government-backed clean energy lending programs, and in the last several months, the UK, Australia, and India have announced plans to do the same.
America faces a choice today: Are we going to recognize the opportunity and compete in the clean energy race or will we wave the white flag and watch all of these jobs go to China, Korea, Germany and other countries?
The global competition is fierce, and support for innovative technologies comes with inherent risk. Not every company or every product will succeed, but that is no reason to sit on the sidelines and concede leadership in clean energy. Some in Washington are ready to throw in the towel and write off the clean energy industry. They don’t think America can compete or they don’t think it’s worth trying. Others think that the best thing we can do is for the government to get out of the way and let the free market work.
To those in Washington who say we cannot or should not compete, I say: that’s not who we are. In America, when we fall behind, we don’t give up. We dig in and come back. Why should we concede one of the biggest growing markets in the world that is in our sweet spot: technological and manufacturing innovation? America has the opportunity to lead the world in clean energy technologies and provide the foundation for our prosperity. We remain the most innovative country in the world … but “Invented in America” is not good enough. We need to ensure that these technologies are invented in America, made in America and sold around the world. That’s how we’ll prosper in the 21st century.
Chu used a different metaphor than “white flag” last year — see Video: Chu on why China’s bid for clean energy leadership should be our “Sputnik Moment.” Either way, it’s great to see a scientist use metaphors, a cornerstone of persuasive messaging — see “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor”: How to be as persuasive as Lincoln.
The speech only disappoints because Chu never once mentions global warming, which is clearly a major reason why other countries are putting so much money in renewables and why clean energy is ensured of staggering market growth in the coming decades. Chu used to be blunt on this, too, back in early 2009 — see Chu on climate change: “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.”
I suspect the White House communications shop has, subtly or not, told Chu they (idiotically) believe climate change is not a winning political issue, which is the exact opposite of the truth — see Bombshell: Democrats Taking “Green” Positions on Climate Change “Won Much More Often” Than Those Remaining Silent.
Here are Chu’s full remarks (with links to sources):