Chu, Markey Make Argument for Clean Energy Bill at Kennedy School Forum

August 6, 2009
by Doug Gavel

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu presented a compelling argument for a renewed national energy policy during an appearance Thursday (August 6) at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Using Power Point charts (see the presentation in PDF format) and extensive data to supplement his address, Chu outlined to an overflow audience both the global warming challenge and potential strategies that could provide solutions.

“We are changing the destiny of the earth,” Chu said, “but we have the opportunity to minimize that change.” And to do so, he remarked, will require a bold “new industrial revolution” sparked by innovation, regulation and investment.

“For the next coming decades, energy efficiency, using energy more wisely, is going to be worth a huge savings environmentally…and reductions in carbon dioxide [will come by] using energy in a more intelligent way,” he said.

Chu was introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), co-author of a major energy bill now making its way through Congress. Among other things, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 would establish new clean energy standards, incent the development of new clean energy technologies, and enhance consumer incentives to switch to less carbon-intensive power sources.

“[This] is a comprehensive bill that paves the way for increased energy efficiency, and sends the right signals to industry that says ‘we’re serious. There is going to be a cap on carbon…Begin to make adjustments today. You have time to make those adjustments. But let’s get moving,’” Chu remarked.

The bill passed through the House of Representatives in June, and is now awaiting action in the Senate. Markey told the audience he is optimistic it will pass and be signed into law by the president.

“It will be the most important energy bill to ever pass the United States Congress,” Markey said. “I believe that people underestimate how quickly we are going to move to this new revolution once we put the market incentives in place, and once we fund basic research.”

Chu addressed concerns that the bill does not go far enough quickly enough in combating the carbon emissions problem, telling the audience that “you want as strong a bill as possible, but you want a bill…so the real issue is getting going.”

Markey, in turn, dismissed claims made by political opponents that the bill is too costly, and will amount to a new tax on the American people, drawing comparisons with the costs and benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act that addressed the acid rain problem.

“It turns out that the costs of compliance with that law was 80-to-90 percent lower than all the experts projected because of the technological revolution it unleashed to solve the problem. I think the same thing is going to happen here,” Markey said. “The quicker we can get it on the books, the quicker we can turn to the Chinese and Indians and say that we are no longer as a country preaching temperance from a barstool. We are now going to be the leader.”

The program was moderated by Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood. Audience members included Ian Bowles, secretary, Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; and former Congressman Joseph Kennedy, who now serves as chairman and president of Citizens Energy Corporation.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Photo credit Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office.

“For the next coming decades, energy efficiency, using energy more wisely, is going to be worth a huge savings environmentally…and reductions in carbon dioxide [will come by] using energy in a more intelligent way." - Steven Chu

Rep. Ed Markey

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is co-author of a major energy bill now making its way through Congress.Photo credit Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office.


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