Speech: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's Speech to the Alliance to Save Energy

Last edited 09/29/2021

Alliance to Save Energy, Russell Senate Office Building

Thank you, Kateri. And thank you to the entire Alliance to Save Energy for your leadership. It is great to be back among so many people I know here in the Senate.

Being here today reminds me just how much our world has changed in the last nine months.

When I left the Senate in January to serve in President Obama's Cabinet, we were in the throes of the greatest economic recession since the 1930s. Credit was frozen. 700,000 people were losing their jobs every month. Five trillion dollars of Americans' household wealth had evaporated in just three months. It seemed the nation was heading off an economic cliff.

Now, just nine months later, thanks to the President and Congress's leadership, we have steered away from what could have been an even greater economic disaster. The emergency actions to help people save their homes, to shore up credit, to put people to work through the Recovery Act, and to restore confidence in our economic system were the right actions at the right time for the right reasons. We are now on the path of recovery.

But make no mistake: full economic recovery will take more time and more work.

We must continue to implement the measures needed to bring our country back from the brink. But we must also lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity in America. We must tackle, head on, the two signature domestic issues of our time: health care and energy.

On health care: the status quo is simply not an option. The same is true for energy.

I worked with many of you to pass the 2007 Energy Bill and the 25x'25 resolution when I was in the Senate. We all know the degree to which our dependence on foreign oil puts our national security, our environmental security, and our economic security at risk.

We export hundreds of billions of dollars every year to buy the oil we need to power our country. We can't afford it any more.

And we can't afford to let the rising costs of our failed energy policy continue to go unchecked. Climate change is affecting water supplies for cities and farms; leading to more severe droughts, hurricanes, and floods; contributing to more intense forest fires; and putting coastal communities at risk.

We have to address the underlying cause of these problems by building the clean energy economy we know we need.

And now is the time to do it. Millions of jobs are at stake.

Already, across the country, we are seeing the opportunities that would come from a clean energy economy powered by American resources and American ingenuity.

In Colorado, where I'm from, we're adding thousands of jobs at new wind turbine manufacturing plants in places like Pueblo, Brighton, and Windsor.

Ranchers across the eastern plains, Wyoming, Nebraska, and elsewhere are earning extra money as wind farms spring to life.

And in my native San Luis Valley – one of the poorest areas of the country – a new solar farm has brought hope for a brighter economic future.

The potential is huge. By one estimate, if we fully pursue our potential for wind energy on land and offshore, wind can generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity by 2030 and create a quarter-million jobs in the process.

As President Obama has said: it's a win-win. Good for the environment, great for the economy.

But to harness the potential of the clean energy economy – and to lead the world in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies – we need a new approach to energy in America.

That is why I am so proud of the work we have done in the last nine months at the Department of the Interior.

At Interior, we manage one-fifth of the nation's land mass and 1.7 billion acres of ocean off our coasts, including many of the best locations for large-scale renewable energy projects. We are also the Department that is – and will be for years to come – on the front lines of our nation's response to the impacts of climate change on our land, water, wildlife, and tribal resources.

To meet these new challenges we have already begun to change how the Department of the Interior does business.

We are now managing America's public lands not just for balanced oil, natural gas, and coal development, but also – for the first time ever – to allow environmentally responsible renewable energy projects that can help power President Obama's vision for our clean energy future.

These changes to how we do business are vital. In large measure, the vast deserts, plains, forests and oceans that belong to every American have – until now – been largely unexplored for their vast renewable energy potential.

But now we know the extent of the possibilities. The wind potential off the Atlantic coast alone is greater than our national electricity demand. And more wind potential blows across the Plains, solar potential shines over the Southwest, and geothermal possibilities bubble up across the country.

Harnessing this renewable energy potential in an environmentally responsible manner is part of President Obama's new energy agenda.

And it is an agenda on which we are making swift progress.

In these first months of the Obama Administration Department of the Interior:

We have created the first-ever framework for offshore renewable energy development.

We have cleared out bureaucratic red tape between FERC and Interior that was creating unnecessary confusion for potential offshore renewable projects.

We have invested $41 million through the President's economic recovery plan to facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewables on public lands.

We are creating Renewable Energy Coordination Offices in western states to help swiftly complete reviews on the most ready-to-go solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass projects on public lands.

And we have identified twenty-four “Solar Energy Study Areas” that the Department of the Interior is evaluating for environmentally appropriate solar energy development across the West. These areas alone could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power more than 29 million American homes.

The reforms we have already made will pay great dividends for our nation's energy security.

We believe that of the solar projects currently proposed, more than 4,500 megawatts of new capacity – mostly in California, Arizona, and New Mexico - will be ready for construction by the end of 2010. That is enough to power almost 1.5 million homes.

We also believe that of the wind projects currently proposed on BLM lands, more than 800 megawatts of new capacity will be ready to go in the same time frame. That is enough to power around 240,000 homes.

And in the offshore, we are off to a fast start. Just a few weeks ago, I was proud to award the first-ever exploratory leases for renewable wind energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore New Jersey and Delaware.

This is all good news for our clean energy future. It's also good news for the people who will be going to work on these projects. Engineers. Surveyors. Welders. Machinists. These are good jobs right here at home.

Of course, our nation's energy plan must be comprehensive. That's why we are continuing to responsibly develop our nation's oil and gas resources - in the right way and in the right places.

Since January, we have held 21 onshore lease sales and two offshore auctions, offering more than 55 million acres for oil and natural gas development. Those sales have generated more than $875 million in revenues.

Unfortunately, America's oil and natural gas resources are limited. We consume 25% of the world's oil, yet we sit on only 3% of its oil reserves.

As we have learned over the last 40 years of “same old, same old” policies, we can't drill our way to energy independence: We must diversify. We must find efficiencies. And we must choose a clean energy future.

President Obama says it well: we will either remain the world's largest importer of oil or we will become the world's largest exporter of clean energy.

But we need comprehensive clean energy legislation to do that. We need to invest in renewable energy. We need to invest in energy efficiency for our homes and businesses. We need to invest in carbon capture and sequestration technologies. And we need to level the playing field for new technologies by putting a price on carbon through pollution limits.

These are some of the ingredients for the clean energy legislation that is so vital to our economy.

I will be working with many of my former colleagues in the Senate to get us over the finish line. And I hope you will, too. Because it is through the type of leadership that the Alliance to Save Energy has demonstrated through the years that our country has been able to come as far as we have.

After all, five years ago, who would have thought that the Department of the Interior – with its reputation for focusing almost exclusively on conventional energy production - would today have a green roof?

Who would have thought that the Department of the Interior would be undertaking its first-ever Carbon Footprint Project?

And who would have thought that many of Interior's facilities in parks, refuges, and public lands, would soon be equipped with energy saving measures and solar panels?

We have come a long way in a short period of time.

To be sure, the road ahead to the new energy frontier will be difficult. But the urgency of the problems we face – and the speed at which our world is changing – gives us no choice but to transform a moment of crisis into a foundation for lasting economic growth.

We will succeed in this project of remaking America. We will succeed because our spirit fuels our determination and gives us hope that we can fulfill America's great promise. We will succeed because President Obama and I will do all we can to support the innovation and transformations that will repower our nation.

Together we will recover. Together we will rebuild. And together our economy will lead the world once again.

Thank you.

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