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Discover and Deliver: The Big Picture on Energy

January 20, 2011 - 1:49pm


Sometimes when one gets so focused on the daily tasks at hand, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture around us. But when you take a step back, it is an impressive canvass. Thanks to the hard work of everyone at the Department of Energy over the past year, we’ve made remarkable progress in laying the foundation for a new energy future, advancing groundbreaking science, and reducing the nuclear dangers facing our citizens. In the process, we’ve begun to change the way the Department does business so we accomplish our work more efficiently and more effectively.

The steps we’ve taken have put America on the course that leads to a clean energy future and millions of new jobs. Through the Recovery Act, we awarded more than $32 billion to promote clean energy and put our citizens to work. In just two years, we’ve laid the groundwork for a strong advanced vehicle manufacturing industry and put America on track to double renewable energy generation. We’ve toughened and enforced appliance standards that will save consumers more than $250 billion, and we’ve helped more than 300,000 families weatherize their homes so they can cut their energy bills. More than 2.5 million smart meters have been deployed as we embark on what will become the most significant overhaul of the electrical grid since it was pioneered by Thomas Edison. From the country’s largest solar thermal plant to the world’s largest wind farm to America’s first new nuclear power plant in 30 years, our momentum is real and tangible.

We are also expanding the frontiers of science to spur innovation and position the United States to lead in the global clean energy economy. With funding for the first time from the Recovery Act, we quickly set up ARPA-E, which has already established itself as a widely-respected research agency, to support potentially transformative research. We launched three Energy Innovation Hubs and dozens of Energy Frontier Research Centers to accelerate innovation. And we began to take a strategic approach to how we fund research and development. From a car battery with a 500 mile range to producing gasoline from sunlight, we have unleashed bold new research efforts that – if successful – could fundamentally change the way we use and produce energy. This includes the world’s largest, most comprehensive effort to develop, test and deploy carbon capture and sequestration technologies that are crucial to avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

These investments will pay dividends for decades, but we also saw the immediate benefits of the Department’s scientific leadership in 2010, as we mobilized the expertise of our national laboratories to help end the worst oil spill in America’s history.

Finally, our work has strengthened nuclear safety and security at home and abroad. We permanently cleaned up 235 square miles of contaminated land – an area 10 times the size of Manhattan Island – and collected enough debris and contaminated soil to fill more than 350 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And we have taken steps to improve project management so we can continue the momentum. Since President Obama outlined an ambitious nuclear nonproliferation and security agenda in Prague, we have secured enough loose nuclear material to make more than 800 warheads and improved security at hundreds of sites around the world. We also played a central role in organizing April’s historic Nuclear Security Summit, which brought together 47 world leaders to agree on effective national and international measures to secure nuclear material and prevent nuclear smuggling. And we made the world a safer place by helping negotiate the New START Treaty – the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades – and supporting the effort to get it ratified by providing the Senate with assurances about the modernization of our nuclear security enterprise.

Each member of our team, by performing their individual role so well, contributed to our overall success. And together, we have started to change the way the Department works – breaking down bureaucratic silos to better integrate our energy and science efforts, including sharing expertise to develop funding opportunity announcements, getting loan guarantees out the door for the first time, recruiting talented hires, and improving management and operations.

While we have made tremendous progress, our work is not done. As we enter a new year filled with promise and possibility, the Department will continue to rely on the creativity, talent, and dedication of our team to discover and deliver solutions to our national challenges. Together, we can move our country forward and build a brighter future.

I look forward to sharing our accomplishments in the months and years ahead.