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America's Leadership in Clean Energy

10/23/2009 12:00 PM Kresge
President Barack Obama, 44th President of the US

Description: 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.

President Obama provides a historical overview of America's spirit of innovation and discovery and calls upon the heirs to innovation to take risks in solving the huge challenges around clean energy and climate change that face our country and the world.

In framing the clean energy issue in a global and economic context, Obama declares, "Countries on every corner of this earth are beginning to recognize that energy is growing scarcer. Energy demand is growing larger and rising energy use imperils the planet that we will leave to future generations. That's why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century. From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to produce and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I'm convinced of that, and I want America to be that nation." Barack Obama came to MIT not just to praise the school'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."

About the Speaker(s): Barack Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University, then moved to Chicago to work with church groups assisting communities hit by hard times. After attending Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review, he returned to Chicago to help lead voter registration drives. From 1992 to 2004, Obama served as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. While there, he passed major ethics reform legislation, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. Obama successfully ran for United States Senate in 2004. While a senator, he focused on lobbying reform, setting limits on conventional weapons, and ways to bring transparency to government, such as websites for federal spending.

Obama began his run for the presidency in February 2007 and was elected the 44th President of the United States in November 2008. On October 9, 2009, Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts to promote a nuclear"weapon free world.

Host(s): Office of the President, Office of the President

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