Speech: Remarks of Secretary Salazar The Business Council

Last edited 09/29/2021

Cary, North Carolina

It is an honor to be here today.

For over 75 years, every president, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Obama, has sought your advice and counsel.

Through times of war and crisis, prosperity and peace, you have lent your ideas, your insights, and your time to the betterment of our country.

I know President Obama is grateful. I am grateful.

Today, we face economic challenges not seen since the first days of the Business Council, when executives from America's leading companies gathered with President Roosevelt, his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, and others to help craft the New Deal.

In 1933, President Roosevelt, Secretary Ickes, and the captains of industry shared an understanding that the Great Depression would require deep changes in government and business if we were to emerge stronger and more prosperous.

The New Deal would require new thinking, new ideas, and a new conversation between government leaders and business leaders about America's future and about the policies and regulations that contributed to the collapse.

Many of those conversations – those ideas – those partnerships – began right here at the Business Council.

Today, we need your help again.

Yes, America is on the path of recovery. Over the last eight months, we have taken emergency actions to help people save their homes, shore up credit, put people to work through the Recovery Act, and restore confidence in our economic system. These were the right actions at the right time for the right reasons.

But full economic recovery will take more time and more work. 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. Health care costs are out of control.

The value people get from their health care dollars is low compared to other countries.

And the health care system we have now puts American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

We need reform, and we need it now.

The same is true for energy.

Every year, we export hundreds of billions of dollars to buy the oil we need to power our country. We are falling behind the world in the energy technologies that will shape this century. And the rising costs of our failed energy policy have been unchecked for too long.

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 are on a course we cannot sustain.

Our energy policy is a liability to our economic security, our national security, and our environmental security.

We need a new energy plan for America – one that takes advantage of our conventional resources – including oil, gas, and coal – and renewable resources like solar, wind, biofuels and geothermal.

America's renewable energy 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 means we must pass comprehensive clean energy legislation. The legislative efforts underway now in the Senate are vitally important. 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 strong clean energy legislation that we are working with Congress to pass.

But building a new energy plan for America will also require us to make better use of our lands and resources here at home. We must harness the energy and resources we need in ways that will allow us, generation after generation, to experience America's great outdoors as we do today.

We must establish the type of relationship with our lands that many farmers and ranchers share with the world around them.

Growing up on our ranch in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, my parents taught me and my seven brothers and sisters that our livelihood depended on us serving as stewards of the water, soil, and wildlife around us. We had to preserve the health of our lands, so that we could ranch and farm, generation after generation. That's the type of long view we must take as we develop America's energy supplies and protect our landscapes and open spaces. And that's the responsibility we have at the Department of the Interior, as the stewards of America's resources.

We oversee one-fifth of the nation's landmass and 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf. Our responsibilities range from the Arctic to the Everglades. From Yosemite to the Gulf of Mexico. We supply water for drinking, agriculture, and industry across much of the country. We uphold trust responsibilities to Native American tribes. We teach young people to experience the outdoors – to fish, hunt, and hike. We do the science that helps our country wisely use and protect nature's bounty. And we help provide the energy that heats our homes and powers our commerce.

Under President Obama's leadership, the Department of the Interior is committed to helping our country build a comprehensive energy strategy. That means we are developing our nation's oil and gas resources - in the right way and in the right places.

Some critics would have you believe otherwise. They want you to believe the Obama Administration is “anti-this,” or “anti-that.” The truth is: we are developing on all fronts, but responsibly.

We have held 27 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.

I participated in one of the offshore auctions we held earlier this year and visited a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The technology today is remarkable, and we are encouraged by new deep-water plays in the Gulf and by the rapidly expanding reserves of shale gas around the world.

But there is also a reality that we have to recognize. America's oil and gas supplies are limited. So we must diversify.

That's why we at the Department of the Interior are changing how we do business.

Not only are we proceeding with oil, gas, and coal but also – for the first time ever – we are allowing environmentally responsible renewable energy projects on public lands that can help power President Obama's vision for our clean energy future.

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 is blowing across the Plains, solar potential is shining over the Southwest, and geothermal possibilities are bubbling up across the country.

In these first months of the Obama Administration we have been busy finding ways to develop this renewable energy potential in an environmentally responsible manner.

And I am proud of our progress.

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 awarded the first-ever exploratory leases for renewable wind energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore New Jersey and Delaware.

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.

We have set aside 1,000 square miles of public lands in twenty-four “Solar Energy Study Areas” that the Department of the Interior is evaluating for environmentally appropriate solar energy development across the West.

And 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 believe that of the solar projects and wind projects currently proposed, more than 5,300 megawatts of new capacity could be ready for construction by the end of 2010. That is enough to power almost 1.8 million homes. And project construction will create over 48,000 jobs.

To get this clean power to market, we are upgrading America's transmission grid for the 21st century. We are clearing out red tape at the federal level, identifying transmission corridors that can move power from where it's produced to where it's consumed, and fast-tracking approximately 1,000 miles of new transmission projects that can get under way the end of 2010.

Under President Obama's leadership, we have entered a new energy frontier. And in this new energy frontier we are moving beyond some of the old ways of thinking about our public lands.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said: “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.”

That is still true today. We don't have to choose between our energy future and the protection of the environment. We can and are doing both, but we need your help.

As President Obama said in his meeting with the Business Council at the White House earlier this year, our growth and prosperity as a nation depends upon what government and business do together.

We at the Department of the Interior can develop the rules for clean energy development on public lands.

We can help identify appropriate places for appropriate conventional and renewable production.

And, most importantly, we can enforce the rules, make decisions based on sound science and the public interest, and follow the law and the highest ethics standards.

The rest, though, is up to you and the people who work for you.

You are the ones who are powering America's economic recovery. You are the ones who, through your business practices, will help us reduce carbon pollution, while leading the world in clean energy technologies. And you are the ones who, through the imagination, talents, and expertise of your workforce, will help us build a new foundation for growth and prosperity in America.

Thank you.

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