Confronting Energy Challenges, Revitalizing Our Economy

May 04, 2009

“I’m delighted to join everyone here this afternoon at the New Hampshire Forum on the Future for what I believe is one of the most important issues to New Hampshire’s future and to America’s future—a new energy policy for the 21st Century. 

“The economic challenges we face today are great.  But so are the opportunities.  President Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

“Our world is on the verge of the most significant economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution.  And we need to make sure we have policies in place that will aid our country as we go through this transformation, starting with our national energy policy.

“Millions of new jobs will be created in alternative energy and energy efficiency.  These jobs aren’t a lock for the United States – they will go to the first countries to invest seriously in clean energy.  China, Germany, and even Brazil are aggressively vying to lead the charge and secure these new jobs.  According to John Denniston, a green-tech venture capitalist who recently testified in front of the Senate Energy Committee, of the top 30 global companies that produce solar modules, wind turbines, and advanced batteries, only 6 are in the United States.  And today, more Germans are employed by their green-tech industry than by their automobile industry.

“I want these jobs, I want that prosperity, and I want that economic security to come to New Hampshire and the rest of our country. 

“At a time when unemployment is spiking, businesses are struggling, and families are making difficult choices just to get by, our only option is to confront our energy challenges head-on and make significant investments in our nation’s future. 

“The future I see includes a green economy that creates good American jobs, with good wages.  It includes a safe and secure America that relies less on expensive foreign oil from unstable regions of the world, and instead taps into the American ingenuity that created the middle class of this country.  And it includes an environment, from the forests of New Hampshire to the beaches of California, that future generations will still be able to enjoy. 

“We have been talking about “energy independence” since the 1970s and yet little noticeable progress can be shown.  In 1973, the time of the first Arab oil embargo against the United States, we consumed 17 million barrels of oil per day and imported 35% of our oil supply.  Shortly thereafter, President Nixon set a national goal of making the United States energy independent by the end of the decade.

“Yet, 36 years later, we are worse off.  Today, we consume more than 20 million barrels of oil a day - 12 million of which is imported.  Washington’s actions have not matched its rhetoric.  The United States has less than 3 percent of the world’s known oil reserves yet we consume 24 percent of the oil produced.  Our dependence on Middle East oil threatens our national security.  And this transfer of wealth will compromise our ability to continue to compete in the global economy.

“In New Hampshire we are especially vulnerable to our nation’s energy policies.  According to the Department of Energy, New Hampshire is one of the most petroleum-dependent states in the country because of our reliance on oil to heat our homes.  And a recent study by the New Hampshire Office of Energy Policy suggests that 84 cents of every dollar spent on diesel fuel and home heating oil leaves the state.  This is money we need to keep in New Hampshire, to power our state’s economy and to create jobs in our local communities.

“Electric power is also a big concern.  The Department of Energy projects that by 2030 we will see electricity demand increase 26% - a projection that takes into account efficiency gains and conservation efforts. 

“We need to invest in new energy technology not only to meet these increased demands, but also to mitigate against the threats of climate change.

“In New Hampshire, we are already seeing the effects of climate change.  Winters are warmer; snowfall is declining (although I know it doesn’t seem that way after this winter); and spring is arriving on average a week earlier than at the turn of the 20th century. As a result, our forests are changing and our wildlife habitats have been affected.

“This isn’t just an environmental issue for our state, it’s an economic imperative.  For a state where tourism is our second largest industry, we simply can’t afford to lose our ability to offer snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, or our first-rate skiing – a $650 million annual industry alone.

“Our national energy strategy has been on this unsustainable course for a long time.  In the short term, we need to smartly increase domestic production of oil and natural gas to meet our energy needs.  But in the long term these challenges call for a paradigm shift in the way we think about and use energy. Renewable energy creates twice as many jobs per unit of energy as traditional fossil fuels.  And renewable energy creates jobs in other industries as well – from engineering and raw materials, to manufacturing and construction.

“And I’m not just talking about how power plants and major industries use energy.    It’s about providing consumers with choices so they can be more energy efficient and save money in the long run, and providing businesses with more opportunities to develop and sell alternative energy and efficiency products and services.

“Simply put, this is about moving to a green economy.

“I believe my colleagues in Washington are committed to achieving these goals.  In fact, President Obama and this Congress have already made the largest investment ever in clean energy.  This will help our nation’s most innovative energy companies, many of which are right here in New Hampshire.

“I’m proud to represent a state that has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and is already leading the way in this new, clean energy economy. 

“New Hampshire has implemented a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard, an RPS which requires state utilities to generate 23 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.  This RPS will help to stimulate economic development and deploy renewable energy projects, such as Lempster Wind, New Hampshire's first commercial-scale wind farm with twelve turbines producing enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.

“As Governor, I put in place a program to improve energy efficiency in state buildings, reducing pollution and saving taxpayers several million dollars a year in energy costs.  And my administration, working with Democrats and Republicans, initiated energy efficiency programs that have saved New Hampshire families and businesses over $800 million and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons.

“I am proud of the work that we did and pleased that the innovation has continued.  Many New Hampshire companies have taken a leadership role in this fight, by developing and implementing 21st century technologies that showcase the infinite possibilities available to our state as the country moves toward a clean energy economy.

“GT Solar in Merrimack, one of our sponsors today (Fred Kocher), started in the basement of its founder’s home, and now employs over 200 people here in New Hampshire.  GT is a world leader in manufacturing the equipment to make solar panels. 

“Powerspan is pioneering research and development of carbon capture technology at its New Durham facility.  Coal is an abundant resource, but highly polluting as we all know.  Powerspan’s technology could not only help America burn coal more cleanly, but it could also be exported to other countries to combat global warming while creating good jobs here at home.

“And Segway recently announced their newest invention, the PUMA, which they’ve been developing with General Motors.  The PUMA is a zero emissions two-seat electric vehicle designed for use in congested urban areas.

“These groundbreaking technologies are major wins for New Hampshire, for the future of American energy policy, and for the future of our economy.  But we don’t have to always invent brand new ways of doing things.  Change can be as simple as taking what we know and making it better by being more efficient and more sustainable in the way we think about and use energy and our natural resources. 

“Using New Hampshire forest byproducts to create energy is a win-win – creating good jobs here while helping end our reliance on foreign oil. 

“Our state is home to New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey, the largest manufacturer and distributor of wood pellets in the Northeast. Using wood pellets for heat reduces energy costs for families and helps businesses remain competitive.

“Mascoma Corp is conducting groundbreaking research on converting wood waste to ethanol at its lab in Lebanon.  Just two weeks ago, Mascoma announced it is moving its corporate headquarters from Boston to Lebanon and in September   moving into a new building with expanded lab space to accommodate 80 jobs.

“These visionary companies are leading the way and helping New Hampshire and the U.S. transition to a clean energy future. It is an exciting time to be in Washington, as we work developing policies to encourage and support the private sector innovation that is underway.  I’d like to share with you some of things we are doing in the Senate to address these challenges.

“The economic recovery act passed in February will allow us to double our renewable energy generating capacity over the next three years.  It makes financing more affordable and available so great renewable projects like Concord Steam’s new state-of-the-art biomass plant can go forward.

“New Hampshire is receiving almost $24 million to weatherize homes and the State Energy Office will receive another $26 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. And the bill tripled a tax credit for middle class families to buy and install energy efficient windows, storm doors, and furnaces. For every $1 million invested in weatherization, 52 jobs are created.

“But there is more we need to do. I am a member of the Senate Energy Committee, where we are working hard to produce a bipartisan, comprehensive energy bill.  Let me talk about some of my priorities for that legislation.

“We need to upgrade our nation’s aging transmission system.  If we are going to bring more renewable energy online, use more hybrid and fully electric vehicles, and meet projected electricity demands, we must make serious investments in our power grid.  We need a smart grid that monitors energy needs in real time and maximizes efficiency.

“We need to make sure clean energy companies have the capital they need to start, operate, and expand their businesses – especially in this tough economic climate.

“We need to establish a national renewable portfolio standard which will lead to the deployment of clean energy technologies, foster the creation of green jobs and position the United States as a world leader.

“We need to establish financing mechanisms for both small and large manufacturers to become more energy efficient, so these energy-intensive businesses can cut costs and become more competitive in a global economy.  I’ve cosponsored legislation to do just that.

“And we need to develop a skilled workforce that is ready to make every home and business as energy efficient as possible.

“Here in New Hampshire, the Lakes Region Community College has one of only two programs in the country that offers an associate’s degree in Energy Services and Technology. This is about creating career advancement opportunities in energy efficiency and alternative energy - from installing energy efficient windows and solar panels, to retrofitting buildings, to maintaining wind farms, to conducting energy audits for families and businesses.  

“All these initiatives will help us achieve what we need most right now - to help American businesses create good American jobs.  Jobs that contribute to a clean energy future and jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas.

“In order to get this done, we are going to have to negotiate and compromise.  In Washington I’ve found there aren’t just partisan differences, there are geographic differences as well.  For example, biomass is an important resource to us in New Hampshire, and I’m working to make sure it’s utilized in the best, most efficient way in the energy bill.  In Michigan they’re concerned about advanced fuel cell batteries and in the Dakotas, wind is a priority.  The key is working together to move the ball in the right direction. 

“I have no doubt that we can confront the challenges facing our nation, while providing economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for people all across New Hampshire.  Our economic prosperity, national security and environmental quality are not mutually exclusive goals.  In fact, the sooner we recognize their intrinsic linkages, the sooner we can address our most urgent national priorities.  I look forward to working with each of you as we develop this new American clean energy economy.

“Thank you for having me here today.”

--Delivered at the New Hampshire Forum on the Future in Bedford, New Hampshire on May 4, 2009