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Remarks by Senator John Kerry - A New Manhattan Project

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

In the summer of 1942, the scars of Pearl Harbor were still fresh. The day of infamy was a recent memory and Americans stood ready to win the war. Planes and tanks had to be built at a record pace, strategies conceived, battles planned, and young Americans dispatched to frontlines across the Earth. And Franklin Roosevelt knew that to meet the threat we faced from fascism, we had to do something else as well: marshal America's most brilliant minds and innovative technology.

The initiative he created was called the Manhattan Project because its first offices were at 90 Church Street in New York City.

On September 11th, 2001 - one block away from that site - the World Trade Center was brought down in another sudden, sneak attack, the most brutal and deadly attack America has ever known. The federal office building at 90 Church Street was damaged but still stands.

To this generation, September 11th was our December, 7th - and it calls for a response equally profound - not just in armed force, although that is essential - but in the imagination, the daring and the sense of exploration that define America at its best.
Terrorism is the new Fascism, the new Communism, the new totalitarianism - a grave and global threat to our values and our way of life. We can defeat it; we must defeat it; and we will defeat it; but we need more than hard words and powerful weaponry. In a different direction, in a different way, we need to reach as high as Roosevelt reached - with a new national initiative on the scale of the Manhattan Project to harness our thinking and our technology - this time, not to create a new kind of bomb, but to develop new forms of energy that will at long last make America more energy independent.

So I have come here today to set out a strategy for greater energy independence - so that within a decade, this nation will no longer have to rely on Mideast oil. And in achieving that new form of freedom for America, we can at the same time clean the environment and create new jobs for half a million Americans.

With sixty-five percent of the world's oil reserves in Middle East, our over-reliance on oil presents a real threat to national security. We can unleash the spirit of American ingenuity to meet this challenge. My strategy calls for new investments in research, new incentives for companies and consumers, new partnership across the old dividing lines, and higher standards of energy efficiency for both business and government to meet. We can create Americans jobs and confront the dangers to our environment at the same time as we make this nation safer, stronger, and more secure.

The challenge will not be easy but neither was the Manhattan Project. It will require real resources and strong leadership and an unwavering will to make tough choices and take on entrenched interests. But America has shown again and again that when we come together to address the challenges of the day, we will succeed. The message that I bring with me is one that I will carry to every part of our country in this campaign - and it will be central to my Presidency: If we care about the national security of America, we can settle for nothing less than energy security for America. The cause is urgent, and the time is now.

We need boldness to match the challenges before us. Toughness to meet the threats we face. But with George Bush in the White House, all we've had is politics as usual. And after September 11th, that is just not acceptable.

Time and again he has postponed, equivocated, done nothing or done the wrong thing. I believe that in the war on terror, we have to find Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein - and I wish we already had. But in seeking energy independence, we have to do more than find a little more oil by drilling in and despoiling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - it does far more harm than good, and it is wrong for our future.

Today we have an energy policy of big oil, by big oil and for big oil. It may work for their profits, but it will never work for America. And yet George Bush persists in pursuing a course that can only be described as energy dependence - an approach, that despite all his boasts about a stronger America, will actually risk our hopes, make us weaker, and make both our economy and our country more vulnerable to blackmail by hostile powers.

This President Bush opposes raising fuel economy standards - which are at a 20 year low. He proposes budgets that shortchange investments in clean, renewable, domestic sources of energy like wind, solar, and biomass. He disdains energy conservation. He crafts his energy plan in secret meetings where the doors are open to industry lobbyists, but firmly shut to the public and the public interests. He has kept the official government documents of what happened there secret, but it is plain to see that his Vice President and his Administration put their friends in the oil and energy business first. George Bush and Dick Cheney have put the big oil's interests before the national interest - that's wrong for our environment, wrong for American jobs, wrong for national security.

I stand here today, as I will stand in the months and years ahead, and I say to you and the American people: I believe it is time to put our national security first. I believe it is time for this Administration to stop invoking the false choice of drilling in Alaska or the more distant prospect of hydrogen cars as a standard operating procedure for changing the subject, evading responsibility, and avoiding the imperative of moving toward greater energy independence now. Our national security is at stake and we have to act today, not wait for decades while new crises threaten or strike.

Every day and every year we delay, America will continue to pay a high price for our over-reliance on foreign oil. We spend $20 billion annually on oil imports from the Persian Gulf. Instead of indefinitely sending that money to the Mideast, we should launch an energy strategy to invest in the Midwest and in the rest of America, generating new jobs and new technologies here at home.

But this is not just a question of dollars and cents. It is a question that measures the depth and strength of our commitment to national security. The money we pay today for foreign oil too often pours into the pockets of some of the planet's most uncooperative and repressive regimes. The dollars we spend at the pump can too easily be diverted to finance the very terrorists that would seek to destroy us. And our endless reliance on the Middle East for oil means that others half a world away hold life insurance policies on America's economy. September 11th doesn't just demand that we confront the danger of terrorism; it demands that we drain the swamps that can sustain and even increase it.

There is a better way. We have the opportunity and potential to create an oil-free future. Once the idea of creating clean, renewable sources of energy right here in America was dismissed as science fiction. Today, it is potentially right around the corner - and, more often than not, the technology is already here.

With common-sense investments in advancing and speeding breakthroughs, we can literally, on large scale, for the first time in human history, harness the natural world around us to light and power the world we live in; the sun, the wind, water, and a rich array of crops can provide us with secure forms of energy at reasonable costs for a modern 21st century economy.
We can use new technologies and innovations to recast existing sources of energy - like oil, coal, and natural gas - and use them more cleanly and efficiently.

And by seizing the amazing opportunities presented to us by American agriculture, it will ensure that the renewable fuel content of gasoline will grow to five billion gallons in the next decade. That's good for America and American farmers.
We can do all this while creating jobs - not losing them. And while preserving and not subverting the environment for this and future generations. The threat from greenhouse gases and global warming is real and we have to confront it head on.
In sum, setting a national goal of ending our reliance on Middle East oil within this next decade is critical to the long-term national security of the United States. No foreign government can embargo clean, domestic, renewable sources of energy -- and no terrorist can seize control of them.

So I am running for President to declare America energy independent - with deeds and not just words. And there is a path to that more secure future if we just summon the will to lead the way.

First, as President, I will channel the funds the government is already owed to invest in rapid growth in technologies that save energy and create alternative fuels. Through a new energy security and conservation trust fund, Americans will have a guaranteed commitment to reducing our dependence on oil. America only has three percent of the world's oil reserves. There is no metaphysical or miraculous way for us to drill our way out of a 60% foreign oil dependency. We have to invent our way out of it; American ingenuity has to drive the process - and new American jobs will be the dividend.

Unfortunately, the funding today is sporadic, uncertain, and always insufficient. We may not have the greatest oil reserves on Earth; but we do have the great resources to find and foster new fuels and to conserve and optimize traditional ones. So the trust fund I propose will take existing royalties that corporations now pay for the right to drill on public lands and dedicate that money to R&D into cleaner and more abundant energy sources. We will do justice to conservation and we will, for the first time, have a guaranteed national commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil - to fund renewable energy, accelerate the development of fuel cell vehicles, and support biomass projects like those here in Iowa which can convert our agricultural plenty into energy security.

Second, the road to more energy independence depends on making our cars and trucks more energy efficient. One out of every seven barrels of oil in the world is consumed on America's highways. Instead, I propose both economic incentives to build the cars, the trucks, the SUVs, and the buses of the future - and higher standards for gas mileage for every new vehicle produced or sold in this country. The threats that America faces today don't just come from gun barrels, they come from oil barrels - and we need to disarm that danger.

But the fact of the matter is that for too long, our national security has been ignored while politicians engage in a false fight between the environment and jobs. The result is that we have been standing by while we are both losing jobs and endangering the endangering.

Let's be honest: Energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles are one of the most promising, profitable, and job creating innovations we will see in this century - from today's hybrids to tomorrow's hydrogen cars. America cannot afford or accept a fuel economy gap. Yet, already foreign automakers have beat us to the punch with cars that get all the acceleration and go all the distance, but require half the gas.

We must seize this important opportunity and make sure that America leads the way. If we continue to lag behind, we multiply the risks that the cars of the future will be built in Japan or Korea or Europe at the expense of American jobs. President Bush says that he wants children born today to have the option of driving a fuel cell vehicle when they turn 18. But he doesn't say who will build that car. I know who I want to build that car - I want it built in America by American auto workers.

But this is a race - and America has to enter it now with all the resources at our command. The President wants to wait and hope for a bright and clean future. I want to work to create that future. My plan calls for a hydrogen-based energy economy by 2020. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe - and if we can tap it in the right way we can achieve a revolution for our time as far reaching as any we have ever known - from the invention of the wheel to the coming of steam power and electricity. Tapping into the power of the lightest element, hydrogen-powered cars can go long distances while emitting water vapors instead of exhaust fumes.

But we cannot convert to hydrogen overnight. Today, a car fueled by hydrogen costs as much as $500,000 and efforts to create the infrastructure for full hydrogen use are scattered, disorganized, and underfunded. To enlist America's scientists and researchers in both the public and private sectors, as President I will create a new Hydrogen Institute to fund research and design the codes and standards that will ensure the safety of a new hydrogen economy. For decades, Americans best researchers and top scientists have come together to solve important national challenges. We must call on them again. I know they are up to the task.

I will charge the Hydrogen Institute with developing a road map for putting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road by 2010 and two and half million hydrogen cars by 2020.

But that alone is not soon enough, fast enough, or ambitious enough. We dare not delay, as President Bush has suggested, depending solely on hydrogen power someday and leaving our security, our jobs, and our environment vulnerable today. We can reduce our dependence on dangerous foreign oil if we have leaders ready to make the right choices. The Bush Administration has misused the potential of a hydrogen economy as a cover for scare tactics today in an excuse to put off the pressing challenge of fuel economy until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. He has kicked the issue down the road - when we should be working toward an energy independent America today.

Any energy strategy that lacks a specific commitment to make today's transportation more efficient only locks in our nation's dependence on foreign oil; it undermines our national security and the economic security of every family in America.

We have the technology to manufacture cars with far better gas mileage - and we can and must do it now. Not a single American will have to give up driving an SUV, or a pick-up truck. President Bush is stopping this progress - not because American ingenuity isn't up to the task, but because they're playing politics.

When I'm President, that will come to an end.

The research shows that the best way to reduce oil dependence in the near term is to increase fuel efficiency in the near term. A recent study found that raising fuel standards accounts for 80 percent of the savings in oil we can achieve by 2012. We can build the right kind of cars, SUVs, minivans and trucks. We can do it affordably and efficiently. We can give Americans a wide range of choice without leaving America with no choice but endless energy dependence.

No one should kid themselves: making America more energy independent while creating jobs and preserving the environment at the same time, won't be easy. But it is a challenge we can and must meet. With a clear vision, effective leadership, and innovative policies, I know it can be done. We elect Presidents to show leadership when our safety and prosperity is at risk. Those are the stakes today. America's security and American jobs are on the line - and we need leadership to bring our country together to meet the challenges before us.

And as we require higher fuel efficiency, we have to help companies and consumers alike make the transition -- and my plan does exactly that. It offers tax incentives to buy efficient vehicles, and new incentives for manufacturers to convert factories to build them. My plan invests $1 billion a year to help the auto industry convert to new plants to build more energy-efficient vehicles - to make sure the jobs of the future stay right here in America.

This plan is balanced and fair. It sets serious goals, but makes sure we have the tools to meet them. It will strengthen the American auto industry, protect and create jobs, and even as we safeguard our environment, we will be able to say within a decade, that we will also safeguard our nation from reliance on Mideast oil.

Third, the energy security strategy I propose will focus on renewable sources where the reserves are, in effect, endlessly greater than all the oil fields on Earth. We can generate more and more of our electricity from wind, the sun, and forest and farm products. I believe we can and should produce twenty percent of all our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Twenty by 2020 - now that's a clear vision for America.

We will fund research in this area - including research to realize the vast promise of new forms of ethanol from biomass which can become an entirely new cash crop for America's farms and commercial forestries.

This also requires spurring more private sector investment in clean energy projects. Too many of today's projects don't get built because sponsors can't raise capital even when there are attractive financial returns. By extending tax credits for renewable energy projects and making the small ethanol producer credit more workable for farmers, we can increase jobs while we make this nation more energy independent.

Right here in Iowa, Iowa State has already begun a graduate program in biorenewables. And a recent state bioeconomy symposium set a goal for Iowa to increase its production of biobased materials twenty fold - by 2020. You can do it. We can do it. But we need national leadership committed to doing it.

And government itself, in its own operations, has to lead the way, not lag behind. For example, with five hundred thousand buildings and a huge fleet of cars, the US government is the largest single consumer of energy in the world. If Washington leads by example, we can demonstrate that we can save energy and save billions of dollars at the same time. As President, I will put the government on course to cut its energy bill twenty percent by 2020 - and I will challenge local governments, corporations, universities, small businesses and hospitals to do the same.

As President I will also propose tax credits for builders and homeowners to make their homes meet the highest energy-efficient standards. And I will offer more Americans more choices of public transportation to go to work and get home - quicker, with less pollution, and at lower cost.

Fourth, the energy strategy I will pursue envisions a comprehensive effort to expand the supply of natural gas. It is the cleanest form of fossil fuel - and ninety percent of it is found here at home. Today, high prices and supply shortages are hurting the families that depend on natural gas to heat their homes, as well as the businesses and farms that rely on it to do their work. The first step is to crack down on the profiteers who manipulate the natural gas market. My plan calls for a North American Compact, bringing together our allies in Canada and Mexico to develop and transport clean natural gas resources from across all over North America - especially in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Fifth, my energy strategy treats coal as a valuable resource - not just a ploy to carry a state in an election, but as an essential fuel which can contribute realistically and responsibly to the energy policy of the next generation. Some - like George Bush - hope to create fear in coal producing regions that any environmental changes will doom their economy and their livelihood. Others say coal that has no future. Both views are wrong - wrong for jobs, wrong for energy independence, and in the end, even wrong for the environment. Instead we can and must develop and deploy clean electric power from coal.

We have the breakthroughs - and others are in reach - to lower pollution from power plants without abandoning the coal industry, the families and the communities that depend on it. Any other course would be unfair to them, unsustainable economically and unacceptable economically if we were serious about greater energy independence. Instead of continued decline in coal, we have to promote the new prosperity that can come from new and cleaner coal technology.

Finally, this energy security plan is not about spending more, but spending smarter. The Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress have been lavishing billions of dollars in subsidies and corporate welfare on big energy companies while starving the researchers and consumers who could power our way to energy independence. The Bush policy is to subsidize off-shore drilling and strip-mining while refusing to fund the energy revolution that will create jobs and make our country and economy more secure. This has to change - and if I am President, we will change it.

And at the same time, we will repeal the outrageous one hundred thousand dollar tax break for the purchase of luxury gas-guzzlers like Hummers. This was intended to help farmers and others who need light trucks - and that's right - not to subsidize lavish and inefficient machines. Americans have the right to drive whatever car they want - but at a time of international threats, and in a generation of long term danger, they don't have the right to have the government finance more dependence on foreign oil.

One hundred-fifty years ago, folks in my home state of Massachusetts couldn't imagine a time when they didn't get their power from whale oil. A hundred years ago, oil drilling was rare; in the late 1800s, it only accounted for three percent of the nation's energy consumption. Part of the genius of America is that change is a constant; the demands of a different time have always brought out the best in our nation's spirit. We have faced hard times economically, overcome them and become stronger and more prosperous than ever. We have confronted great dangers and met them. We have dreamed of far horizons, of unimaginable leaps of science and invention, and made them real. We are the greatest free society and the greatest technological society on Earth.

Now we must simultaneously call on all these elements of our national character as we seldom have before. At stake is our national security as well as our prosperity, a new era of job creation and our leadership in the energy breakthroughs that will open vast new markets for our products and an unparalleled summons to safeguard the earth God made and we guard.

One hundred years ago this week, a young man named Henry Ford and eleven investors joined together to form the Ford Motor Company. They started with $28,000 in cash and waited more than a month before they got their first order. But the American auto industry they and other great companies built became the backbone of our economy and an inspiration to the world. During World War II, Detroit became the arsenal of our democracy - marshaling its know-how and can-do spirit to defeat fascism and make America secure.

A little less than half a century later, when an American President challenged America to go to the moon, there were doubters who said it was impossible. When we seek to eliminate dependence on middle east oil, the doubters will be heard again, some of them cynical and some of them self-interested. But I have faith in the capacity of the American people to rise to a decisive test. And I believe in this time of danger in the world, of dependence on Mideast oil, it is time to challenge Americans to go to the moon here on Earth.

There is urgency in this endeavor and pride in what we can accomplish. The scale, the ambition, the consequences may equal the Manhattan Project; but the roots of what I propose go deeper into American history, back to the beginning. It was Thomas Jefferson who said that the American Revolution would have to be renewed every twenty years. In less than a month, we will mark the 227th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence which he wrote. Now we face a new and very different threat to our freedom that our founders never foresaw - and we in this day and decade must write for America a new declaration of energy independence.

I want to know within the next ten years that the light which shines from the Statue of Liberty - and the light which gleam across the parks where Iowans celebrate the Fourth of July - will not have to be powered by Mideast oil but can symbolize an America free from dependence, stronger and more secure than ever before.

I ask for your help - not just in this campaign - but in the cause of that more truly independent America. Americans have long proven they know how to meet the challenges of our day. We can embrace the challenge of greater energy independence - and we can meet it. But we need a President who can lead us there. And that's why I'm running for President.

Thank you.

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