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Public Statements

Kerry At Green Jobs Conference: Pass Comprehensive Climate, Energy Bill

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today addressed hundreds of environmental and labor leaders at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference to promote passing comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the Senate.

"Just as clear and present is the danger the climate changes of this planet pose to our economy and national security," Kerry said. "We cannot drill and burn our way out of danger. But we can invent and invest our way out of it by fully and passionately supporting a shift to a clean energy economy that will allow America to do what it always does -- to lead the way into the future."

The full text of his remarks as prepared is below:

In 1931, not long before he died, the famous inventor Thomas Edison had a conversation with his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone about the energy needs in the future. He told them: "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

Edison wasn't an environmentalist, by any means. But he did recognize that oil and coal are finite sources of energy. And if we intend to maintain our standard of living, if we want to remain competitive in the world economy, if we expect to continue protecting our national security, we're going to have to find new, renewable and sustainable clean sources of energy -- solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric.

I know what the conventional wisdom is out there -- that with all the election-year jitters, a looming Supreme Court confirmation and a difficult legislative schedule, that Congress is going to avoid tough choices as November nears. But I believe this is the year -- perhaps our last, best chance -- to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

The right bill can create good jobs, strengthen our national security and give us cleaner air -- all while finally tackling the great challenge of global climate change. And believe me, after months of work, including numerous meetings with Senators on both sides of the aisle, we have the right bill.

I know some of our critics, even some of our friends, have suggested that we settle for an "energy only" bill. But as tempting as that may be to some, it is an approach that ignores the fact that America today is confronting three interrelated crises: an energy security crisis, a climate crisis and an economic crisis. Our best response to all three is a bold, comprehensive bill that accelerates green innovation and creates millions of new jobs as we develop and produce the next generation of renewable power sources, alternative fuels and energy-efficient cars, homes and workplaces.

We all want American prosperity. We all care deeply about American jobs, competitiveness and the living standards of our families. And that is precisely why we need the energy and climate change legislation we will bringing forth -- legislation that will promote the kind of investment and research that will not only get our workers back on their feet and but will also transform our world.

While we've been working on this legislation, there have been a number of major studies across a broad range of industries, government and national regions that have all concluded that our bill will be the engine of job growth. One of the more significant studies came from the University of California, Berkeley, which estimated up to 1.9 million net jobs by 2020.

All clean energy sectors stand ready for a surge in job creation. For example, the American Wind Energy Association estimates 500,000 jobs in the wind sector by 2010 -- many in heavy-industry jobs on retooled assembly lines to manufacture turbines, blades and towers near wind farms. In 2008, jobs in this sector increased by 70 percent (85,000 today). Similarly, the Solar Energy Industries Association projects employment will grow to 440,000 by 2016 and will be broadly distributed across the United States. And advanced-technology vehicle deployment will create 62,000 additional jobs by 2014, of which 20,000--54,000 will be in the United States, according to a study prepared in March for the Natural Resources Defense Council, United Auto Workers and Center for American Progress.

Investment in U.S. wind, solar, and geothermal resources actually grew during the recession of 2009, due in large part to President Obama's federal stimulus package, which set aside $90 billion for clean energy and is projected to result in 720,000 new or saved jobs by 2012.

It's happening already in many parts of the country. Let me cite a couple of good examples.

In Massachusetts, a company called A123, headquartered in Watertown, is using its $249 million Recovery award to build car battery factories in Livonia, Romulus and Brownstown, Michigan. Ninety new jobs have been created by the company since December, and another 3,000 are expected by 2012.

Abound Solar, based in Loveland, Colorado, already has 370 employees and is growing fast. The firm started production of low-cost, thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar panels about six months ago and expects to reach $1 per watt manufacturing cost quickly with a 65-megawatt line in a factory in Longmont, Colorado.

That is precisely the kind of innovation Thomas Edison was talking about back in 1931 -- putting his money on the sun and solar.

Other countries recognize that the leaders of the 21st century will be those with clean energy economies. The United States, with its innovative spirit and economic vitality, is positioned to lead the way. And soon, hopefully, the Senate will debate legislation that will make our way easier. But if we delay any longer, we run the risk of falling behind in the emerging global competition for jobs, manufacturing and markets. The legislation that I have put together with Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

Other countries are not standing still as policymakers in the United States try to reach a consensus on how to proceed forward to an economy fueled by clean and sustainable energy sources. China, in particular, is moving rapidly to become the leader of the global clean energy economy. The Chinese just raised auto efficiency standards to 36.7 miles per gallon, higher than our new target for 2016. Today its renewable capacity is only 2% less than the United States, and it is set to grow rapidly from almost 10 percent of its energy use to 15 percent by 2020. And last year, for the first time, Chinese investment in renewable energy exceeded ours, skyrocketing 50 percent.

The clean energy industry is still in its infancy in the United States and yet already relatively substantial in its size -- with 770,000 jobs (and growing three times faster than jobs in general), venture capital exceeding $12 billion and public investments of $85 billion in direct spending and tax credits. A comprehensive national strategy for a clean energy future would produce explosive economic growth -- at a time when America needs it most. And just as importantly, it will put our country on the path to sustainable long-term economic growth.

We have not lost our ability to take on big challenges. We have acted boldly in every crisis we have faced as a nation.

The New Deal helped lift America from the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The Marshall Plan restored stability in Europe in the 1940s and 50s. The Apollo Project put a man on the moon in the 1960s. And the Pentagon's ARPANET program formed the backbone of the Internet that spawned the information and technology boom of the 90s.

For nearly half a century, we were willing to pay any price and bear any burden to win the Cold War. The threat from Soviet nuclear warheads was a clear and present danger in our lives.

Just as clear and present is the danger the climate changes of this planet pose to our economy and national security. We cannot drill and burn our way out of danger. But we can invent and invest our way out of it by fully and passionately supporting a shift to a clean energy economy that will allow America to do what it always does -- to lead the way into the future.


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