President Obama Calls For America’s Clean Energy Leadership at MIT

By Kailani Koenig-Muenster
October 23, 2009
President Barack Obama has called on the United States to lead the global clean energy movement. Today he spoke to scientific innovators and local politicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He said the world’s most powerful nations, including China, India, Japan, and Germany, are in the middle of a race to be the sole leader of new environmental technology.
“The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy,” said Mr. Obama. “I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple.”
He cited America’s history of scientific innovation in college grants and space research as why the United States should be ahead. “We’ve always been about innovation. We’ve always been about discovery. It’s in our DNA.”
This speech was made just as the Senate was working on its version of a new clean energy bill called The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The bill is sponsored by Senator John Kerry and would make the research tax credit permanent and create a 2020 mandate to curb America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. Although the act is supported by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, its bipartisan future is still uncertain.
“There may be plenty of room for debate as to how we transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels — we all understand there’s no silver bullet to do it,” said Mr. Obama at MIT.
He went on to say, “There’s going to be a lot of debate about how we move from an economy that’s importing oil to one that’s exporting clean energy technology; how we harness the innovative potential on display here at MIT to create millions of new jobs, and how we will lead the world to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. There are going to be all sorts of debates, both in the laboratory and on Capitol Hill.”
While the President tried to rally support for the current legislation, he also continued to hammer the importance of last winter’s stimulus package. Mr. Obama said the stimulus money is going toward new sustainable technology like weatherizing homes, upgrading to smart eclectic meters, installing solar panels, and building wind turbines.
“The Recovery Act, the stimulus bill represents the largest single boost in scientific research in history,” Mr. Obama said to a roaring applause. “An increase — that’s an increase in funding that’s already making a difference right here on this campus.”
The President toured several MIT research facilities on campus before he faced the crowd of local energy and environmental power players. The school showed him new discoveries like lighting that depends on nanotechnology, offshore wind plants that can generate power on a calm day, and lightweight high powered batteries that are grown, not built.
“You just get excited being here and seeing these extraordinary young people and the extraordinary leadership of Professor Hockfield because it taps into something essential about America ….. it’s the legacy of daring men and women who put their talents and their efforts into the pursuit of discovery,” said President Obama. “And it’s the legacy of a nation that supported those intrepid few willing to take risks on an idea that might fail but might also change the world.”
Despite his strong support for growing green technology, Mr. Obama has not yet declared whether he will attend December’s international climate change summit in Copenhangain.
After the speech, the President attended fundraiser for Governor Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign. Patrick watched the MIT speech along with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Senator John Kerry, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, and Congressman Michael Capuano.