By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Nov. 29 – Calling China's new leadership role in clean energy development a “Sputnik Moment,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Monday that “America still has the opportunity to lead in a world that will need essentially a new industrial revolution.” He said this revolution will require switching to inexpensive clean energy, including new biofuels, wind, solar and nuclear.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Dr. Chu said he expects that “a price will be placed on carbon” to help trigger the needed changes. He explained that with its long history of innovation, the U.S. can lead once again but that “I think time is running out.” He said there's an urgent need to focus more national attention on long-term, consistent federal investment in science education and in R&D to support private sector clean energy development. As a model for what the U.S. needs to do, Chu quoted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who told the World Economic Forum last year that:

“We should see scientific and technological innovation as an important pillar and make greater effort to develop new industries of strategic importance. Science and technology is a powerful engine of economic growth . . . We will make China a country of innovation. . . We will accelerate the development of a low-carbon economy and green economy so as to gain an advantageous position in the international industrial competition.”

Chu listed the Energy Department's range of programs designed to give U.S. entrepreneurs and manufacturers an edge through investments in clean energy innovation. “From wind power to nuclear reactors to high speed rail, China and other countries are moving aggressively to capture the lead. Given that challenge, and given the enormous economic opportunities in clean energy,” he said, “it's time for America to do what we do best: innovate.”

Referring directly to ethanol subsidies, Chu said “This is a complicated economic issue . . . corn-based ethanol is a good way of getting [clean energy] going, realizing that Americans can drive their vehicles using agriculture-based fuels, but we are primarily focused on developing the new technologies that can supercede ethanol made from starches and sugars like corn. But we're also focused on ways that go beyond ethanol. Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel.” He said that to avoid having to build new infrastructure, “one of the things that we are focusing very much on is how do you take biofuels but make direct substitutes for these fuels that can be blended in any ratio directly into the gas tank.”

Appealing for support for federal clean energy initiatives, Chu concluded that “This is an economic opportunity . . . in the long run, for the future economic health of the country, and that future is not 20 years in the future, we're talking one, two, three years, you've got to make these investments.”

Sec. Chu voiced his frustration with the National Press Club policy which barred him from using a PowerPoint presentation. But his complete Powerpoint slides are available at:

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