Energy Sec. Chu details climate change risks & opportunities

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, April 9 – Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Spring Forum Thursday that “We will live in a carbon-constrained world.” One consequence of rising temperatures, he said, is that “food production in the U.S. will be at risk.”

How temperatures are changing - from Energy Secretary Chus PowerPoint presentation. 
Sec. Chu predicted that climate-change constraints will increase because “the full effects of what we’ve done today won’t be felt for at least 100 years” as the world’s oceans gradually warm – and warned that the immediate impacts could surge if thawing Arctic tundra triggers a “runaway effect” created by a burst of carbon emissions.

Along with his dire forecasts, Dr. Chu had good news: thanks to its research and manufacturing advantages, the U.S. could re-capture the green technology lead from China if the U.S. re-writes its energy and environmental policies ASAP – starting with putting a cap on carbon emissions. Pointing out that “Investment flows toward opportunities for profit,” Chu said the U.S. has a choice: make the policy changes which will create clean-energy investment here in the U.S., or see this investment continuing to flow instead to countries like China, Germany and Spain which have made the needed policy changes already.

Chu said the U.S. needs to wake up to the fact that “China is leading in the new industrial revolution.” As an example of how far ahead China is, he contrasted America’s high-speed Acela trains running at 80 MPH with China’s high-speed trains hitting 220 MPH.

As an example of what is being done already at state level, Chu pointed to state and local building codes which provide incentives for energy-saving weatherization. He said states with strong building codes already are both creating new green jobs and reducing energy costs for homes and businesses through weatherization projects which provide a one-year payback. In contrast, he said, he’s talked to officials in other states such as the Dakotas, Wyoming and Kansas who claim their lack of building codes is a “states’ rights issue” – which Chu called instead a “right to waste money.”

Chu said that until Congress passes legislation to create changes such as a carbon cap and a national Renewable Electricity Standard, investment money will remain “on the sidelines,” with needed infrastructure such as energy storage and high-voltage, long-distance, smart-grid transmission systems postponed. He noted that while the U.S. continues to postpone action, “China is spending $9 billion a month on clean energy.”


 How the U.S.A. has lost the lead - from Energy Secretary Chus PowerPoint presentation.
Combining the good and bad news, Chu concluded that:
  • “In order to avoid the chance that we pass ‘tipping points,’ climate scientists are calling for more aggressive action.”
  • “We will need a new industrial revolution to mitigate climate change and to decrease our dependency on foreign oil.”
  • “The United States has the opportunity to be the innovation leader.”
  • “To achieve our clean energy goals, we need rapid, large-scale deployment of technology.”
  • “Technology deployment requires investment.”
  • “Investment flows toward opportunities for profit.”
  • “Market opportunities are structured by policy.”
  • “The most important policy that will stimulate innovation is a declining cap on carbon emissions.”
  • America still has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution and secure our future prosperity, but time is running out.”

To return to the News Index page, click: