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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks, Testimony, and Releases from the Under Secretary > 2003 Remarks, Testimony, and Releases from the Under Secretary

Paths to the Future: Investing in Innovative Energy Technologies

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Address to the Conference on Carbon Sequestration
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Alexandria, VA
May 7, 2003

Thank you Dr. Olsen for that kind introduction. Our interaction and collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has been essential on a wide range of topics. I would also like to congratulate your fellow panelists -- and my colleagues -- Dr. Jim Mahoney and Dave Conover on their leadership in developing the President’s climate change science and technology programs. Their efforts, indeed all of our efforts, respond directly to President Bush’s vision of integrating climate change actions with a forward-looking energy policy. In fact, the Bush Administration’s climate change plan is premised on the need for a better understanding of the science of climate change and for breakthroughs in new energy technologies.

Also congratulations to today’s organizers. This second conference on carbon sequestration is most timely and extremely relevant. I looked over the agenda for this week and I must say that it is comprehensive and substantive. Now, what I would like to do today is place carbon sequestration in the larger policy landscape. We live in an era of remarkable technological innovation and change. Whether you think of microelectronics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, or nuclear fusion, there is a large array of emerging technologies with astonishing potential to change our lives. Over the next generation we will begin to see the effects of what I call “transformational technologies” in our daily lives.

Addressing global climate change will require a sustained effort involving all nations over many generations, and an approach that will harness the power of markets, the creativity of entrepreneurs, and draw upon the best scientific research. What is essential is to embark on a trajectory that will at once enhance energy security and economic competitiveness while significantly reducing future greenhouse gas. Absent significant breakthroughs in energy technologies, however, it is difficult to see how such a glide path can be attained.

A major scientific study published last November in Science made this point succinctly. The study surveyed possible future energy sources, evaluating them for their capability to supply massive amounts of carbon emission-free energy and for their potential for large-scale commercialization. Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that no refinements of existing technologies would allow us to approach the goal of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Instead, we require what constitutes a revolutionary transformation in the way we think about energy production and use. This means developing and deploying cutting-edge technologies on a market-basis over the course of the coming two generations.

Carbon sequestration is one of the key innovative and transformational technologies I referred to earlier. The simple, unavoidable fact is that fossil energy use is and will continue to be a major source of affordable energy and power for many developed and developing countries as they strive to ensure their long-term economic vitality.

Fossil fuels account for approximately 85% of energy use today, and they will remain the dominant source of global energy for the coming decades. In particular, the world holds abundant coal resources. This coal is in many cases the cheapest and most available energy source for developing countries. Just consider that in rapidly developing countries such as China and India, of the Asia Pacific region, coal recently surpassed oil as the single largest source of energy. Coal use continues to increase, with current projections suggesting that world coal use will increase by more than half over the next three decades.

In light of such realities, it just makes good sense to invest in new technologies for cost-effective clean fossil fuels, especially coal. Critical in this technology mix are investments in technologies that allow for the capture, separation and storage of the carbon emitted by combustion of fossil fuels, to keep it from entering the atmosphere. And the diffusion of effective technology that we hope is successfully developed will be of enormous benefit to developed and developing countries alike.

That is why the U.S. Government has launched an international effort to advance the development of carbon capture, separation and storage technologies. Earlier this year, President Bush announced the Administration’s new Carbon Sequestration Initiative. In his statement, the President said “We will work together on this important effort to meet the world’s growing energy needs, while protecting the health of our people and our environment.”

The initiative has two components. The first is an international initiative called the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum designed to initially bring together 14 countries to promote research, development and deployment in the area.

The Forum provides a way for the United States and other governments to take action by working in collaboration on this cutting-edge technology. We will realize the promise for effective action in several ways: one, by partnering with the private sector on carbon sequestration activities already underway; two, by strengthening international multilateral efforts in developing, demonstrating and deploying carbon sequestration technologies; and three, by mobilizing international resources. Next month, ministers and other high-level officials from various countries will meet in a major international conference in Washington to kick-off this groundbreaking initiative. We have invited representatives from 13 countries and the European Union to participate in this Forum. The countries are as follows: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the Russian Federation, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The second element of the Carbon Sequestration Initiative is a pioneering $1 billion, public-private effort to construct the world’s first fossil fuel, emissions-free power and hydrogen production plant that Undersecretary Card described yesterday.

Carbon capture, separation and storage will be critical technology for the entire world in the twenty-first century. If successfully deployed, it will enable the sustainable use of the world’s abundant fossil fuel resources and no less importantly, and emission-free production of hydrogen. In the absence of this technology, it will be far more challenging to address global carbon emissions.

Development of this technology, however, is still in its early stages. Commercial deployment remains just over the horizon, hopefully, early in the coming decade. The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum provides a vital mechanism to facilitate such collaboration.

Carbon sequestration is but one of a host of transformational new energy technologies that hold the promise of creating whole new industries and providing clean and abundant sources of energy. Another major initiative that we have embarked on is the President’s hydrogen initiative. This initiative provides $1.7 billion over the next 5 years to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, a hydrogen infrastructure, and advanced automobile technologies, with the hope of commercialization by about 2020. As President Bush has stated, “We’re on the cutting edge of change that is going to dramatically change this country for the better.” This effort on hydrogen is directly linked to our efforts on carbon sequestration. Our ability to capture and store carbon will allow us to use our immense coal reserves as sources for the hydrogen fuels, without contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As we move forward with this initiative, our ability to work with other countries will help ensure more rapid and coordinated development and deployment of these technologies, needed infrastructure, and universal codes and standards to help us make the transition to a hydrogen economy.

Energy Secretary Abraham outlined last week our view of an International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy. We hope to help lead the international community toward a hydrogen economy by working with a group of OECD and key developing nations that have strong interest and R&D capacity on hydrogen and fuel cells. If we suceed in doing so, as Secretary Abraham has said, “. our children and grandchildren can be spared the price spikes, the volatility and the environmental uncertainty that we know today. They can grow up in a world marked by energy security, economic vitality, and a healthy environment.”.

We are also taking actions to actively engage our international partners on nuclear fusion technologies. Earlier this year the United States rejoined negotiations on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). If successful, this $5 billion, internationally-supported research project will advance progress toward producing clean, renewable, commercially-available fusion energy by the middle of the century. Our partners in this endeavor include the United Kingdom, the EU, Russia, Japan, China, and Canada. While it remains a great challenge, if our efforts are successful, fusion, the energy of the sun and stars, can provide an abundant source of emission-free energy.

In addition, I would be remiss not to mention the Generation IV initiative, a DOE-led initiative of ten countries advancing R&D to develop improved nuclear power systems to be commercially deployable by 2030. Nuclear power, which provides some 21% of electricity in the United States is, after all, by far, the most widely deployed source of emission-free electricity.

While there is a wide array of other technologies such as nanotechnologies that are also likely to have a large impact on energy in the future, this portfolio of technologies that are the focus of the President’s energy security and climate change strategy, offer a continuum of new 21st century energy technologies: carbon sequestration over the coming decade; hydrogen over the coming generation; and nuclear fusion out to mid century or beyond. R&D investment and partnerships – domestic and global -- underscore the President’s commitment to lead the world on climate change -- and our view that the key to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions is developing and deploying new, clean energy technologies. Indeed, these technologies offer the hope of clean and abundant sources of energy to millions if not billions of the men, women, and children throughout the world.

To realize this promise, the President has laid out what constitutes a revolutionary roadmap, tapping into a wide variety of energy sources. This involves the development and deployment of new and cleaner energy technologies that will help us address climate change while dramatically enhancing our energy security. As President Bush said in February of this year, “by being bold and innovative, we can change the way we do business here in America; we can change our dependence upon foreign sources of energy; we can help with the quality of the air; we can make a fundamental difference for the future of our children.”

Development of these technologies depends on continued strong economic growth. Growth is part of the solution to climate change, not the cause of it because nations with growing economies are nations that can afford to invest in the necessary technology.

The President’s climate change plan builds on the knowledge about the need for an effective global response to climate change. Over the last year, the State Department, with support from our fellow agencies, has initiated action-oriented, climate change dialogues with more than 14 nations and regional entities, which together represent more than 75% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These partnerships have resulted in important action to pursue research on global climate change and deploy climate observation systems, collaborate on a number of the energy and sequestration technologies that I have described, and explore methodologies for monitoring and measuring greenhouse gas emissions. Our activities on the domestic and international fronts complement one another.

When thinking about the task before us, I am reminded of the words of Sir Winston Churchill, who explained that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” There is no doubt that stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, while achieving sustained economic growth around the world and enhancing our energy security, is an enormous challenge. But with this challenge comes great opportunities. If successful, we will develop the cutting-edge technologies required to offer all people access to affordable and abundant sources of energy, while lessening human impact on the environment. In my view, this will be one of the great legacies of our actions.


Released on May 8, 2003

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