San Antonio, Texas
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Thank you, Fatih, for that introduction.
It’s great to join all of you today in a virtual capacity – and Fatih, it’s good to see you again just weeks after IEA’s Big Ideas Conference.
I think we’d agree that in recent months, we’ve witnessed devastating developments throughout the world.
We’ve seen the rise and spread of COVID-19.
We’ve seen its crushing effect on the well-being of citizens.
We’ve seen its dramatic impact on the world economy.
We’ve seen its undeniable mark on the world energy landscape.
But we’ve also seen the world rise to these challenges in powerful ways.
The two reports that inform this conference point us to another great challenge -- and back to one of the greatest questions of our time:
How do we produce our energy in a way that improves our environment and keeps our economy growing?
There are two different approaches to this issue.
There is the top-down government-driven approach – and there is the bottom-up competition-based alternative.
I believe the bottom-up approach is fully coherent with who we are as democratic societies and nations.
And I can affirm that our Administration clearly adopts this approach, which supports free markets, funds scientific research, and honors the choices of producers and consumers alike.
In contrast, the top-down approach lets government do the choosing – taxing more, regulating more, imposing climate risk assessments on companies, so it can steer people away from some energy sources and in the direction of others.
Those supporting this approach often want to go even further -- by banning every fuel that produces emissions.
Some would even ban zero-emissions nuclear energy, compelling us to rely on renewable energy alone.
Now there is an obvious problem with this approach:
Renewables by themselves cannot ensure the reliable flow of electricity in any nation.
Simply stated, every nation can benefit from a wider mix of fuels to keep its grid running.
But that’s not the only problem with this top-down energy philosophy.
As mentioned, it vetoes the democratic choices of the marketplace.
Most of all, it neglects a pivotal idea we’ve inherited from the Enlightenment – the idea of continued human progress.
And it does so by taking a static rather than a dynamic approach to energy by assuming that what is true today will remain true tomorrow.
Our experience with the coronavirus alone refutes that assumption.
While we cannot predict their exact timing or nature, we can be sure that other black swan events will come.
But we can be better prepared; we can embrace policies that support both our environment and our economy.
In this, Fatih, I fully agree with your call for innovation, especially in clean energy technologies.
By any measure, innovation is dynamic and not static.
Now what does that mean?
If an energy source is already clean, it aims to generate more of it.
If an energy source isn’t as clean, it seeks to make it cleaner and ultimately fully clean.
And if an energy source is intermittent, it seeks to make it reliable.
Rather than accepting the status quo, innovation strives to transform it.
To quote from one of your reports:
“Innovation is the key to fostering new technologies and advancing existing ones.”
And as we all know, technology changes everything.
That’s why my country is abandoning none of our fuels – and not one iota of economic opportunity – in the quest for a clean energy world.
That’s why we are dedicated to an all-fuels, all-technologies energy strategy.
I’m proud of the fact that besides being the world’s largest producer of oil, the United States is also its leading natural gas producer, its largest producer of nuclear power, and its second largest generator of wind and solar power, with the highest year-to-year growth in renewables occurring this past year.
In 2019, our wind generation surpassed hydro for the first time, and our renewable consumption surpassed coal for the first time in over 130 years.
That’s on top of the fact that today’s nuclear energy technology helped us avoid more than 524 million U.S. tons of carbon, the equivalent of removing 100 million cars from the road.
And it’s all happening through pro-innovation policies.
Yes, that includes robust support for R & D projects.
Last year, the U.S. was the leading R&D spender for clean energy tech, including nuclear, CCUS, renewables, and energy efficiency.
And as I speak, our 17 National Laboratories are working with many of your countries on such projects.
But it also includes support for a bottom-up energy philosophy.
It’s a philosophy which by regulating less, lets us innovate more.
And it’s a philosophy that works in the real world.
That’s why we not only lead the world in oil and gas production, but in reducing energy-related carbon emissions.
Fatih, according to your IEA Global Energy Review, these emissions have fallen in the United States by nearly 1 gigaton since 2000, the largest decline by any country over that period.
As we look to the future, I believe that together, we can achieve the impossible by harnessing the greatest renewable resource of all – our own power to innovate.
But first we must reaffirm the values we share.
And so, together, let us reaffirm free markets and freedom of choice.
Let us reaffirm our belief in human advancement.
Let us be dynamic and not static.
And let us move on to a future of clean energy and unmatched opportunity -- for this generation and for generations come.