Now, in light of ongoing events in Japan, I want to say another word about nuclear power. America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy. It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe. That’s why I’ve requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that all of our existing nuclear energy facilities are safe. We’ll incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in designing and building the next generation of plants. And my Administration is leading global discussions towards a new international framework in which all countries operate their nuclear plants without spreading dangerous nuclear materials and technology.
A Clean Energy Standard will broaden the scope of clean energy investment by giving cutting-edge companies the certainty they need to invest in America. In the 1980s, America was home to more than 80 percent of the world’s wind capacity, and 90 percent of its solar capacity. We owned the clean energy economy. But today, China has the most wind capacity. Germany has the most solar. Both invest more than we do in clean energy. Other countries are exporting technology we pioneered and chasing the jobs that come with it because they know that the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy.
I want America to be that nation. I want America to win the future.
A Clean Energy Standard will help drive private investment. But government funding will be critical too. Over the past two years, the historic investments we’ve made in clean and renewable energy research and technology have helped private sector companies grow and hire hundreds of thousands of new workers. I’ve visited gleaming new solar arrays among the largest in the world, tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line, and toured once-shuttered factories where they’re building advanced wind blades as long as a 747 and the towers to support them. I’ve seen the scientists searching for that next big energy breakthrough. And none of this would have happened without government support.
Now, in light of our tight fiscal situation, it’s fair to ask how we’ll pay for all of it. As we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we have to make tough choices. We’ll have to cut what we don’t need to invest in what we do need. Unfortunately, some want to cut these critical investments in clean energy. They want to cut our research and development into new technologies. They’re even shortchanging the resources necessary to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs, terminate scientists and engineers, and end fellowships for researchers, graduate students and other talent we desperately need for the 21st century.
See, we are already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump; every time we lose a job or a business to countries that invest more than we do in clean energy; when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet you’ll inherit – we are already paying that price. These are the costs we’re already bearing. And if we do nothing, that price will only go up.
At a moment like this, sacrificing these investments would weaken our energy security and make us more dependent on oil, not less. That’s not a game plan to win the future. That’s a vision to keep us mired in the past. And I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America.
I want to close by speaking directly to the people who will be writing America’s next great chapter – the students gathered here today.
The issue of energy independence is one that America has been talking about since before your parents were your age. On top of that, you go to school in a town that, for a long time, has suffered from a chronic unwillingness to come together and make tough choices. Because of all this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe there isn’t much we can do to rise to our challenges.
But everything I have seen and experienced with your generation convinces me otherwise. I believe it is precisely because you have come of age in a time of rapid and sometimes unsettling change – born into a world with fewer walls, educated in an era of information, tempered by war and economic turmoil – that you believe, as deeply as any of our generations, that America can change for the better.
We need that. We need you to dream big. We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism, that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness – to save democracy, to touch the moon, to connect the world with our own science and imagination.
That is what America is capable of. And it is that very history that teaches us that all of our challenges – all of them – are within our power to solve.
I don’t want to leave this challenge for future presidents. I don’t want to leave it for my children. And I do not want to leave it for yours. Solving it will take time and effort. It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies, and, most importantly, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between – to do our part. But with confidence – in America, in ourselves, and in one another – I know it is a challenge we will solve.
Thank you. God Bless You, and God Bless the United States of America.