SHAHEEN SPEAKS AT NEW ENGLAND WOMEN IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT LUNCHEONSeptember 17, 2012
Senator Shaheen spoke at the New England Women in Energy and Environment Luncheon to discuss her views on energy policy and highlight the importance of women in leadership positions in the fields of energy and the environment.
Below are Shaheen's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you for hosting me at this afternoon’s New England Women in Energy and the Environment event. I am happy to be here at the invitation of a group committed to connecting professionals interested in serious discussions about our regional and national energy priorities.
I’d like to thank Sue Tierney for the kind introduction and our other Analysis Group hosts Martha Samuelson and Andrea Okie. I’d also like to recognize Mary Usovicz who helped coordinate the logistics of today’s event with my staff.
Today I am going to talk about the energy challenges that we face in New England and across the country and the policies that we need to put in place to properly address them. I’d also like to discuss the importance of diversifying the energy and environmental sectors of our economy to include more professional women.
The United States has very serious energy problems. We remain overly dependent on foreign oil and reliant on an outdated energy infrastructure that harms American businesses and gives our overseas competitors an unfair advantage. Gasoline prices are on the rise again and monthly electricity prices are straining our wallets. In addition, dirty, old, fossil-fueled power plants continue to pollute our nation’s air, contributing to global warming and threatening the health of our citizens.
The benefits of a comprehensive national energy policy that offers solutions to these problems are clear. The world is on the verge of the most significant economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. This transformation will be built on a fundamental change in the way we produce and use energy. Millions of new jobs will be created in alternative energy, energy efficiency and other forms of clean energy.
I am excited about these opportunities, but we need to make sure that the United States is there to take advantage of this potential. Because we all know that the United States isn’t the only country in need of jobs, or seeking new innovations. China, Germany and even Brazil are aggressively vying to lead the charge and secure these new jobs.
I want to make sure we are taking the lead to seize this great potential. That’s why I support a national policy that will create the necessary incentives for consumers and industry to innovate so we can position the United States as a world leader in energy once again. My biggest disappointment is that Congress has not yet adopted such an approach.
The United States must utilize a wide-ranging mix of energy sources, including natural gas, oil, nuclear and renewables like wind, biomass and solar, to address our energy needs. This will make our energy future more stable and our economy stronger.
However, we can’t just talk about the supply side. We also need to address how we consume the energy once we have it. Efficient energy consumption is an integral component of any truly effective energy policy. If we make sure that energy efficiency technologies are commercially available, we will immediately begin reducing costs across our economy.
When it comes to transitioning to a clean and sustainable energy future, energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest approach to improving our nation’s infrastructure and our economy’s independence. Energy saving techniques and technologies lower energy costs and free up capital that allows businesses to expand and our economy to grow.
We can start improving our efficiency now by installing commercially available technologies such as modern heating and cooling systems, smart meters, computer-controlled thermostats and low-energy lighting. There are substantial opportunities that exist across all sectors of our economy to conserve energy, create jobs and clean up our environment.
It’s also important to recognize that reducing energy demand directly strengthens our national security and protects our soldiers serving around the world.
I chaired an Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on board the U.S.S. Kearsarge in Norfolk, Virginia to focus on the Navy’s investment in energy efficiency and alternative energy. Secretary Ray Mabus testified and raised a number of issues that underscore the myriad benefits of reducing the Navy’s fuel needs and expanding the network of energy sources that the fleet uses.
For example, last year, oil price increases, caused primarily by political unrest in oil-producing regions, forced the Navy to go $1 billion over its fuel budget. When the Navy has to spend more on fuel, resources are diverted away from essential functions like training for our sailors and marines. This is just not acceptable, and we can do better.
We cannot afford to ignore the urgent economic and national security implications of energy consumption policies, and many of my colleagues across the political aisle agree with me.
I recently collaborated with Senator Rob Portman, a Republican Senator from Ohio, to introduce a bill on just this issue. It’s called the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, also known as Shaheen-Portman, and it lays out a roadmap to create and implement a national strategy to increase the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors of our economy. It would also create much-needed American jobs.
The bill provides incentives and support for residential and commercial buildings to cut energy use. It helps manufacturers finance and implement energy efficient production technologies. The bill would also require the federal government, the single largest user of energy in the country, to adopt more efficient building standards and smart metering technology.
Shaheen-Portman would have a swift and measurable benefit to our economy and our environment. A recent study by experts at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that our legislation would save consumers $4 billion by 2020 and help businesses add 80,000 jobs to the economy. It would also cut carbon-dioxide emissions by the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the road.
My legislation passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a broad 18-3 bipartisan vote and has more than 200 endorsements from a wide range of businesses, environmental groups, think tanks and trade associations, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Environmental Defense Fund. This bill has the kind of support it needs to pass Congress and become law. We need to start by getting it to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
But this will only happen if Americans make their support known for this important effort. Each of you can do this by signing my online petition and encouraging others to do the same. The petition urges the leaders of both parties to bring the Shaheen-Portman bill before the Senate for a vote. I’ve already collected nearly 5,000 signatures from supporters across the country and the number is still growing. You can find a link on my website at www.shaheen.senate.gov.
As we try to diversify sources of energy, it makes sense to promote the development of clean energy technologies like wind, solar and biomass. These sources don’t need to be mined or drilled for, just captured and redirected. The trick is figuring out how to do this efficiently. One approach I support is extending key tax provisions that create jobs and protect our environment, including the Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program (TGP) and the Cellulosic Biofuel Producer Tax Credit. These measures provide incentives for businesses to invest in renewable energy sources.
We have seen the benefits of these tax incentives in New Hampshire. Revolution Energy, a renewable energy company based in Dover, used the 1603 Treasury Grant Program (TGP) to finance two solar installations on public school grounds in our state, and is in the process of completing a third project, saving school districts money. In addition, Iberdrola Renewables used the renewable production tax credit (PTC) to help bring wind energy to my state. The company is producing power from a 24-megawatt wind farm in Lempster and constructing a second 48-megawatt wind farm in Groton.
In New England, wind energy is the most viable option for renewable electricity generation. If all the wind projects currently proposed in New England were built, we could generate more than 5,700 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year without producing carbon dioxide emissions. As a region, this is an opportunity we must embrace.
In addition to solar and wind energy, natural gas also has a pivotal role to play as we transition to a clean energy economy. The last decade has seen a dramatic change in the energy industry, as technological advances have opened up vast new stores of previously unrecoverable shale gas. This has significantly decreased natural gas prices, and combined with pending Clean Air Act regulations, has led to a steady increase in its use for electricity generation, especially in ISO-New England. Particularly in our region and in states like New Hampshire, natural gas has the potential to provide affordable, clean electricity to homeowners and businesses.
However, we need to address the serious concerns that have been raised about the effects that new drilling techniques have on our valuable water resources. That’s why I chaired a Water and Power Subcommittee hearing to examine the effects of shale gas development in the northeast. I believe it is important for the Committee to take a holistic view of natural gas production and how it impacts water supply quality in New England.
I remain committed to maintaining the integrity of key public health and environmental laws like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. That’s why I have voted repeatedly against efforts in the Senate to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating dangerous and toxic air pollutants through rules like Utility MATS and Boiler MACT. We can and must develop affordable, reliable sources of energy without sacrificing the public health and welfare of our citizens.
I have been glad to see a growing number of women in the U.S. Senate championing important energy and environmental issues. I am proud to serve as a member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a number of my female colleagues like Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski and Senators Maria Cantwell and Debbie Stabenow. In addition, as Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer is a leader on pressing issues like climate change.
I have had the privilege of working with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Patricia Hoffman, the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy.
There are also a number of key advocacy organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (Frances Beinecke, President) and the Alliance to Save Energy (Kateri Callahan) that are spearheaded by incredibly hard-working and well respected professional women. And I’m glad to be here with such a fantastic community of women leading these important efforts.
We need to encourage more young women to join us in working to improve our energy future. Jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are projected to grow faster than those in any other sector over the next decade. Developing a STEM workforce will help ensure that we are training future leaders in the professional fields that are critical to advancing energy development and guiding our energy policy.
As many of you know, women are underrepresented in the STEM Fields—particularly in engineering, computer science and math. Currently, women make up nearly half of the US workforce and half of the college-educated workforce, but they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.
We must do a better job attracting women to STEM occupations. Our energy future and our economy depend on it. It needs to start when they’re young; we need to encourage and support girls interested these fields early on. Female role models in the STEM fields need to be connected to women early in their careers and gender stereotyping, or the idea that “girls aren’t good at math and science,” must end at all levels of school and career.
That’s why I introduced the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program, legislation that will support non-traditional STEM education training methods in secondary schools. This program will foster innovation and access to careers in STEM by encouraging collaboration among students and professional mentors. Importantly, the bill encourages the applicants to recruit young women and individuals from other populations traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields to participate.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today and thank you all for coming. The need for developing the brightest minds is essential given the many energy challenges we face. Organizations like New England Women in Energy and the Environment provide a critical forum to foster conversation about how best to begin addressing our nation’s energy needs.
Press Office, (202) 224-5553
Next Article Previous Article