SUBMITTED NEWS RELEASE
“I want to thank Karl Gawell and all of you who are responsible for putting together this vital forum. Karl cut his teeth working for the late Senator Paul Wellstone, a great leader in his own right, a great champion of the environment, and a great friend who I miss to this day.
“We have all we need to make substantial progress down the road toward energy independence–a path that will put Americans back to work and lead our economy back to prosperity.
“Harnessing geothermal energy and turning it into green jobs can strengthen our national security, protect our environment and help our economy bloom once again. The work done so diligently by your companies is planting the seeds of sustainable growth. And that’s why making smart investments in that growth is so critical to our recovery.
“But the future of clean power is a classic test of willpower. We have millions of megawatts of renewable energy potential just waiting to be developed. We have millions of hardworking Americans just waiting to fill good-paying, green-collar jobs–jobs right here in America, jobs that can never be outsourced.
“The only question is whether we will create the right investment environment to make it a reality.
“Despite the downturn in other parts our economy, clean-energy jobs have been among its bright spots. Geothermal power production went up last year, and I’m confident that trend will continue in this new year.
“Nevada already has about 450 megawatts of conventional geothermal power in production. In the next three to five years–with the right mix of incentives and policy –my state alone could add 64 new projects that would bring that number up to nearly 2,500 megawatts. When you take into account the rest of the West, that number could easily double. That’s a lot of clean power. That’s a lot of jobs.
“Our success so far has been aided, in large part, by the economic recovery plan we passed almost exactly one year ago–as well as the landmark energy bill we passed in 2007 and the extension of important tax incentives.
“The recovery plan–what many call the stimulus–set aside an unprecedented $67 billion investment in clean energy research and development. $400 million of that was specifically dedicated to geothermal energy research and development. And by the end of next year, as many as 5 million homes in America could be powered by renewable energy.
“Things will only go up from there. The statistical arm of the Department of Energy–the Energy Information Agency–projects that geothermal generation will increase by 10 percent between next year and 2013. We shouldn’t take that for granted: The agency noted that absent the recovery act, there would have been zero growth–geothermal production would have completely stalled–until at least 2021, more than a decade from now.
“All told, the investments from the recovery plan will create more than 250,000 jobs–and additional, smart investments could bring that number to half a million. That would put us well on our way to meeting the goal of doubling our nation’s renewable energy output–including solar, wind and geothermal–in just the next three years.
“But I know more has to be done to create the long-term certainty that this important industry needs. If we’re going to address our combined economic, environmental and energy security challenges, we can’t stop now.
“I’ve never believed government to be the answer to all our problems. But I do think that in this case, government must at the very least create the right conditions for businesses to invest in renewable energy. It’s also important that those conditions include support for local communities and workers in the resource development process.
“We all know that geothermal projects take a long time to develop–from the drilling and exploration to the generation of the energy itself, to its transmission into our homes and businesses. So we must get moving.
“There are several areas ripe for improvement:
· First, we must adequately and consistently fund federal research and development to support rapid exploitation of all types of geothermal resources–from drilling technology to resource characterization to integration with other energy resources. That includes opening up access to federal lands and supporting policies that help speed the development of geothermal energy there. Secretary Salazar is already doing a commendable job in this regard.
· Second, we must make it easier for more businesses to produce and invest in geothermal power. That means extending and expanding tax credits, and a better-funded DOE loan guarantee program that works better for both developers and investors.
· Third, we know that the same renewable resources aren’t available everywhere across our vast country. That’s why we must improve the way we transmit that energy from where it is produced to where it is consumed. I’m leading two efforts right now to do just that:
· One is a job-creating energy transmission bill I wrote to help develop clean energy in the remote areas where it is most readily available and send it to the major cities around the country where it is most needed.
· The other is a tentative agreement I announced earlier this week in Las Vegas along with the Western Area Power Administration, NV Energy and LS Power. We have a plan to build a new transmission project that will share energy between the northern and southern ends of my state. That will help bring thousands of megawatts of renewable power to market and create many new jobs in the process.
· Fourth, Congress must enact an aggressive national renewable electricity standard that will save consumers billions of dollars on their energy bills. We tried to do this in our energy legislation two years ago, but I’m sorry to say some put their political priorities ahead of this national need.
· Fifth, we must more quickly wean ourselves off of oil by electrifying our cars, trucks and trains. We can’t afford to continue importing 21 million barrels of oil per day. That really hurts our national security. So we really need to reduce our oil consumption with clean and renewable power
· Finally–and perhaps most importantly–Congress needs to send the market a clear signal on the costs of global warming pollution to drive far greater investments into geothermal and every other form of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“We have to rely on markets for innovation and significant investments. We need the markets on our side. We know they generally encourage much more efficiency than any regulations can enforce. To paraphrase my friend John Doerr at Kleiner-Perkins, more money moves through private capital markets in one day than the federal government spends in one year.
“As you know, the House has passed a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that does many of these things. I support addressing each of these issues in the Senate’s version, and I expect that to happen this spring.
“We have a lot on our plate. We have to finish reforming health insurance and Wall Street, and also must help bring Americans out of unemployment. But we are not so busy that we can’t find the time to address comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
“Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have taken a lead in trying to craft a framework that would get more than 60 votes. We will need at least that many for two reasons: One, because any bill that seeks to rein in global warming pollution will be fought very hard by the same companies that profit most heavily from polluting. And two, because the rules of the Senate make it easy for a determined minority to stand in the way of all the good ideas you’re hearing at this forum.
“For example, next week Senator Murkowski of Alaska may offer an amendment–to a completely unrelated bill, it should be noted–that would stop the EPA from protecting Americans from global warming pollution. It’s a highly political move, and a highly hazardous one to our health and the environment.
“If this Senator succeeds, it could keep Congress from working constructively in a bipartisan manner to pass clean energy legislation this year. That’s why I will work hard to defeat this misguided amendment.
“I hope that doesn’t come to that. It would be an embarrassment for the United States to fall any further behind other countries, competitors of ours in the global economy whose governments strongly support their own renewable energy companies.
“America finds itself today staring up at countries like China that are moving far ahead of us in developing a clean energy economy. As others accelerate ahead of us, the choice we face is whether we will lead or lag. I say: Let’s lead.
“To succeed, we need two critical ingredients to come together: the political will and the financial investment. America is home to bountiful and clean renewable resources–but our own commitment to achieving energy independence may be the most important renewable resource we have.
“If we can bring both to bear–if we find the will within us to unlock the immense potential that lies beneath us–geothermal energy can supply a quarter to a half of the nation’s power in the next few decades.
“In my role as Majority Leader, I am committed to making the federal government a better partner, one that can help this industry continue to know the great success it has enjoyed over the last few years. In my role as a senator from Nevada–a state I like to call the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy–I am committed to realizing geothermal’s full potential.
“And though turning around the effects of years of recklessness might be the most difficult issue we tackle, taking on the clean-energy challenge also may be the most important policy we will ever pass. And we cannot afford to wait any longer to act.”