December 11, 2008

President's Energy Speech

Joseph A. Stanislaw has spent his career concerned about the future of energy production and consumption. The J.A. Stanislaw Group specializes in strategic thinking and investment in energy and technology, advising industry and governments as they set energy policy.

Deeply influenced by the writings of E. F. Schumacher, Mr. Stanislaw has authored several papers on alternative energy technologies and their promise.

He writes of his latest innovative essay: "With the historic election of Barack Obama to President, our nation enjoys new opportunities to confront monumental challenges--especially the convergence of energy, climate change, and security. This is the speech I would like to see President Obama deliver when he takes office in January 2009."

We have excerpted sections of it below. The full essay is at

Best wishes,
Staff of the E. F. Schumacher Society

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My fellow Americans, this is my first address to you as your President. It is also one of the most important speeches I will ever make.

Our nation confronts many challenges. . . . one challenge transcends them all.

It is--at once--our most critical economic, national security, foreign policy, and environmental challenge. It lies at the heart of how we educate our children and operate our government. It is the key to unlocking millions of jobs, and to preserving and developing our local communities. And it is our way out of this economic crisis, the most severe crisis our nation has faced since the Great Depression.

This issue is energy--how we produce it and how we consume it.

The threats we face today that are linked to energy have multiplied. Not only are our economic security and well-being at risk, but so too is our fundamental security. Our reliance on foreign oil threatens our independence. Our exposure to climate change poses an unacceptable risk to our communities, our environment, and our culture.

It is this convergence of economics, climate change, and security that
makes energy the most important issue of our time.

In leading our country into a new energy era, I have on my side one all- powerful weapon--a weapon none of my predecessors ever fully enlisted in their efforts: you, the American people. Each and every American, beginning today, has the power to drive our country to greater energy independence. Each and every American can contribute in a meaningful way to creating the green economy of the 21st century and to combat climate change.

I will be accountable to you. And I expect you to be accountable to me and to each other. This is what democracy means.

We will appeal to American common sense by expediting the era of cutting-edge clean vehicles, energy efficient homes, and smart appliances--all of which will save you money and improve your lives.

We will build on the American ethic of fairness by allowing competing technologies to prove themselves on their true merits -- making our markets reflect and capture the true cost of energy . . .

We will inspire and support America's spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship by investing in research and providing powerful incentives to bring new technologies into the marketplace.

We will lead the way by making energy a force for international unity, not division, and by seriously addressing climate change.

And we will honor America's forward-looking spirit by investing in education, from cradle to grave, so that we change how Americans of all ages view our energy challenges and the related environmental issues.

Nor will we suddenly turn our backs on oil and gas. No matter how fast the progress on alternatives, the world will be primarily reliant on fossil fuels for at least two generations--the bridge to tomorrow's new energy future depends on this. . . . There is no quick fix. But a rising tide of alternative sources of energy--combined with new demand patterns and new demand efficiencies--will mitigate the eventual, gradual drop-off in hydrocarbon production that should begin in the next quarter-century. This will create a bridge to the new, cleaner energy era ahead and will create a wave of new jobs--a new industrial revolution.

Allow me to outline five areas of action, including specific targets, on
which my administration will begin working immediately.

The first, and most vital goal, is education. There is only so much that presidential leadership alone can accomplish. For this great American project to succeed, we must make knowledge of energy part of our national DNA. This can only be done through education.

So tomorrow, I will convene a blue-ribbon commission of high school and college educators, business and labor leaders, economists, and technology experts to look at every aspect of our education, training, and public awareness systems. . . .Their first goal will be to identify the skills our schools must teach so that we develop a world-class workforce that can usher in a new era of energy and environmental progress – these include basic skills needed from electricians, to welders, to plumbers, to more advanced engineering skills.

But education requires not only learning in the classroom, but learning in the real world. So today I am announcing the massive expansion of AmeriCorps. Every graduating high school senior will be encouraged to undertake one year of national service. The top priority will go to projects that will rebuild our communities so that they become energy efficient and environmentally aware.

Our second goal is one that also enlists every single American--energy efficiency.

The greatest proven reserves of fossil fuels that we have are not in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf of Mexico--they are in your cars' gas tanks, in your homes' oil heaters, in the electricity plant down the road. A barrel of oil saved is a barrel found. Everything we do today, we could be doing more efficiently as soon as tomorrow--consuming less energy by using technologies that are already available to us.

By the end of my first term in office, our goal is to put in place energy efficiency programs and initiatives to promote alternative transportation technologies that will eliminate the need for oil imports by 2025.

Our progress towards energy efficiency, however, will only be possible if we continue to develop smart technologies and alternative forms of energy. For this to happen, we need markets that are honest and fair--markets that reflect the true price of energy. This will be my administration's third goal.

Simply put, when you buy a gallon of gas today, or fill your boiler, the price of these fossil fuels does not reflect their true costs to our society. Over the course of my first term, therefore, I will confer with the energy industry about adopting a carbon tax or a carbon trading system that creates a cost for carbon to make the economics of our energy systems reflect the honest cost of fossil fuels. The revenues we raise from such a tax or trading system would be invested in helping to finance the upfront costs of energy efficiency technologies for Americans, as well as in the research we need to develop clean and alternative technologies.

This is my fourth goal: to make America the world leader in every promising clean and alternative energy technology. There is no silver bullet to achieve our energy targets--we need every bullet.

As importantly, my government will renew our country's aging infrastructure, laying the foundations for the green economy of the 21st century. A smart energy grid will be one of our signature projects. Specifically, within two months from today, we will begin work on demonstration projects for a smart grid system in two to three locations in America, so we can prove the worth of these technologies. We will then reward states that allow for the rapid implementation of smart grids and we will develop programs to speed the construction of such grids across the country.

If we are willing to spend $1 trillion to bail out banks, surely we can invest an equal amount to build the basis of our future prosperity. In doing so, government will lead by example. We will use America's might in the market to set the highest standards for energy technology. Those companies that lead the way will be rewarded in the marketplace through the government's purchasing power.

Your government will construct buildings that meet green LEED standards. Your government will retrofit its buildings to the highest "green" standards. Your government will purchase automobiles and electronics that rate in the top 10 percent of energy efficiency. By doing so, we will create economies of scale for these technologies that will bring down prices for all Americans. And your government will hire employees who have received certification in energy efficiency.

I expect that city and state governments, many of which have been visionaries in this field, will follow the federal government's lead. In fact, we will help them do so by offering federal guarantees for municipal bonds raised for this purpose. We also will require any entity drawing on federal funds to meet federal energy standards.

In everything we do, in fact, we will be guided by a profound commitment to our local communities--it is the prism through which we will develop all of our energy policies.

. . . in cooperation with today's top technology companies, we will launch a major web portal to allow local communities nationwide and worldwide to share their best ideas and practices for transforming themselves into green economic leaders.

Government also will use the current crisis in our economy to transform local communities. As we rebuild our financial system, we will ensure that it functions to promote housing and urban transport improvements that are responsive to our energy goals. This includes, among other measures, providing mortgages with lower rates for more energy efficient homes.

And when the smoke clears--and the smoke will literally clear--we will have created millions of new jobs--jobs that pay well and stay put for all those students educated by the "green economy" schools we will have created. Jobs that revitalize local communities. Jobs that make America a global industrial leader once again. Jobs that cannot and will not be exported.

But if there is one thing we have learned during the economic and foreign policy crises of the past decade, it is that we cannot go it alone. America is not an island.

On the energy issues that matter most, we need to reach out and develop deep cooperation with our allies and trading partners. This is my fifth goal.

Our ultimate destination is energy independence. But, the path to that ultimate destination is mutual interdependence. We will achieve this by creating transparency in energy markets, by investing jointly with our allies in new and renewable technologies, by leading negotiations for a successor treaty to the Kyoto protocol, and by creating a G20 for energy security.

To oversee all aspects of this greatest challenge of our generation, I am creating today a National Energy Council, which will be located in the White House.

Their core mission will be to create the vision, the direction, and the conditions to drive us to this new energy future.

We should not expect short-term miracles from this plan. Over the next four years, we must do the hard work of defining and putting in place a 50-year vision for the wholesale transformation of our society to one that has a sensible long-term energy policy – and is also clean and green. If we do this, our energy costs and our foreign dependency will drop dramatically each and every decade. This is the promise I make to you and your children and your grandchildren.

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Used with permission of Joseph A Stanislaw and
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (