America's Leadership in Clean Energy

author: Barack Obama
published: June 16, 2010,   recorded: October 2009,   views: 5640

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In welcoming President Obama, MIT President Susan Hockfield summarizes the vast array of energy innovation at MIT, including the MIT Energy Initiative and the student-led 1700 member Energy Club, and declares, "We share President Obama's view that clean energy is the defining challenge of this era."

In his introduction of President Obama, Professor Ernest Moniz, Director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), discusses global issues on clean energy, science and innovation, and credits Obama for expanding the nation's energy vision.

Barack Obama came to MIT not just to praise the Institute's leading edge energy research but to encourage all of America’s “heirs to a legacy of innovation” in their pursuit of discovery. The nation owes much of its prosperity to risk-takers and entrepreneurs, Obama said, and now, given the linked challenges of energy and climate change, we need such pioneers more than ever.

After visiting MIT labs working on more efficient solar cells and lighting, batteries “that aren’t built, but grown,” and offshore wind plants that function even when the air is still, Obama told a large crowd that as the nation inevitably transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we’re counting on the kind of “innovative potential on display at MIT.”

Obama acknowledges the great challenges facing energy researchers and entrepreneurs. As traditional energy supplies become more precious, and energy demands grow, nations are competing to develop new ways to produce and use energy, said Obama, and the winner will lead the global economy. “I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple.”

His administration’s response has been to make massive investments in both clean energy and basic science. Obama aims these efforts at both the current recession, and the nation’s future economic health. Clean energy jobs today and research “to produce the technologies of tomorrow” will “lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity.” He hopes this comprehensive approach will culminate in legislation that will transform America’s entire energy system.

But Obama is under no delusion that all will embrace his plan. “The closer we get,” says Obama, the “more we’ll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to that much-needed action we’re engaged in.” What worries the president more, though, is a dangerous pessimism shared by many, “that our politics are too broken and our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal with this energy issue.” Implicit in this argument, he says, is that America has lost its fighting spirit.

Obama rejects this argument “because of what I’ve seen here at MIT … and because of what we know we are capable of achieving when called upon ….” The nation that harnessed electricity and the atom is one that has always sought out new frontiers, “and this generation is no different.” Obama invokes the achievements of the past as a call to arms “in what is sure to be a difficult fight in the months and years ahead” -- to ensure that “we are the energy leader that we need to be.”

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