Senator Jeff Bingaman, "Forging a Clean Energy Future” - Compton Lecture 4/25/2008
HOCKFIELD: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to another in our series of Compton Lectures. Let me give you a little bit of context about the Compton Lectures before introducing today's speaker.
The Compton Lectures were established just over 50 years ago in 1957 to honor one of my predecessors, MIT's President Karl Taylor Compton, who had died three years before. Karl Taylor Compton guided MIT for almost a quarter of a century-- from 1930 until his death in 1954. He was recruited to MIT as president from Princeton in 1930 and continued to serve as president until 1949, and then served as chairman of the corporation or board of trustees. He was a transformative figure in MIT history.
The Compton Lectures honor his wide-ranging intelligence and curiosity. They were begun-- and I quote from the founding documents-- "to bring to MIT some of the great minds on the world scene." And they surely have. From the great physicist Niels Bohr, who gave the inaugural Compton lecture, to Senator Edward Kennedy who spoke here last spring.
President Compton himself was known for his high intelligence, his deep knowledge, his integrity, his thoughtfulness, and his ability to see the future. So it's extremely fitting that we should honor his legacy with a speaker who embodies these same exceptional qualities, Senator Jeff Bingaman.
Harry Truman used to say that it's amazing how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. And there could not be a more fitting headline for Senator Bingaman's legislative career. Born and raised in New Mexico, he served as the state's-- United States Senator since he was first elected in 1982. In that role, he has consistently taken the long view, speaking not only for the people of his state, but also tackling the broadest questions of our national interest with an open mind, and importantly, a steady, moral compass.
The people of the State of New Mexico clearly know that they have good thing when they see it. In the last election, he won with 71% of the vote. In the Senate, he's built a reputation for calm, persistent bipartisan leadership on three subjects that endear him to MIT.
First, on American competitiveness and its major drivers-- innovation, science, and technology. Second, he's been a proponent for stronger science and math education. And third, one of the reasons we're very excited to welcome him to campus, is his work on energy policy, including the challenges and opportunities of clean energy, the topic that he'll explore today.
Having met with the Senator a couple of times, I can tell you that he understands perhaps better than any other government leader what it takes to promote innovation in every part of the economy, and especially, in the realm of clean energy. A few years ago, many of you will remember the National Academy of Sciences produced a report that we call The Gathering Storm-- Rising Above The Gathering Storm, which galvanized action in Washington around America's lagging competitiveness in science and technology.
Although, you won't find Senator Bingaman's fingerprints directly on that report, it came together entirely thanks to his vision and persistence in concert with Senators Domenici and Alexander. Not surprisingly then, Senator Bingaman also took the lead in passing the America Competes legislation last fall, which calls for renewed and major investments in federal R&D and in science education.
He has been an outspoken advocate for stem cell research, understanding that without looser federal guidelines, American scientists may well be left behind. As chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Bingaman also spearheaded the congressional effort to pass major energy legislation in 2007. And he authored one of the Senate's most important climate change cap and trade bills.
In short, some of the most complex problems that face us as a nation in these, he is leading the country to thoughtful, creative far-sighted solutions, and we are all extremely grateful for his leadership. Now, I understand from his staff that Senator Bingaman does not like to have a fuss made over him. He is described as someone who not only carries his own suitcase but will carry yours, as well.
Nevertheless, without his permission, I would invite you all to help me make a fuss in welcoming Senator Bingaman to MIT.
BINGAMAN: Thank you very much. Dr. Hockfield the-- President Hockfield, thank you very much for that overly generous introduction. And let me start just by making the obvious point that our nation is the world leader in science and technology and innovation. And the students here, and the faculty here at MIT, deserve much of the credit for that.
Anyone who pays attention to our energy problems and how those are being addressed knows that if we in this country have anything akin to a war room where energy challenges are being confronted, to try it here at MIT. Karl Compton, who Dr. Hockfield was referring to, himself said, "Nowhere in the country is there such a concentration of scientific and engineering laboratories and personnel." And that's obvious to anyone who's spent any time here.
I compliment President Hockfield and all of you who have been working on this MIT Energy Initiative. And I particularly thank President Hockfield for the generous invitation and the overly generous introduction. So it's an honor for me to be here.
One of the greatest lessons I've learned over the years is to seek advice from people who know more about a subject than I do. And one of those people whose advice I sought before coming here to Cambridge today was your former MIT president, Chuck Vest, who is now, of course, the President of the National Academy of Engineering in Washington.
He urged me to say a few words about the factors that have resulted in me, a lawyer, and a politician being here in front of you talking about science technology and energy policy and being interested and involved in those issues. The most important factor was probably my father's lifelong commitment to science. Both my parents were teachers and my mother taught elementary school. My father was the chemistry professor and head of the science department at Western New Mexico University in my hometown of Silver City, New Mexico.
There's no way you can grow up in a house with a chemistry professor without developing some appreciation for the importance of science. Another factor, undoubtedly, was my uncle. He was heavily involved in the politics of our state. He ran the political campaigns for a long time New Mexico Senator Clinton Anderson. So both my exposure to my father's career in science and engineering, and my exposure to politics through my uncle's avocation came together to bring me to the Senate.
And those influences are probably also responsible for my focused attention on the role that government in science and technology can play in helping us meet our energy challenge. I know many of you have similar influences in your lives as you move forward with your education and your choice of a future career. I hope you'll consider ways that you can use your MIT education to address the great challenges that face our society in this century, government at all levels, but especially in Washington.
We'll very much need to have people with your qualifications and ability if we're going to understand and respond intelligently to these challenges. When we talk about energy challenges, what are we really focused on? The energy challenge that we recognize today, I believe, is very different from and more encompassing than what we recognized as our energy challenge even a few years ago.
Until fairly recently, at least in Washington, our energy challenge was seen largely as the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil. For the past quarter century, we've seen the amount of oil that we import grow substantially. And although relatively little has been done to counter that trend, that issue of imported foreign oil has dominated energy debate in Washington.
Dependence on foreign oil remains a major concern. But today, I think we see our challenge-- our energy challenge as much larger than that and in many ways very different. Different in nature, different in scale, and certainly more urgent. The energy challenge we see today is a global challenge. It's not a national challenge. It's to change the way that the world produces and stores and distributes and uses energy so as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It's to shift not just our own economy but the global economy from dependence on combustion of fossil fuels to use of non emitting energy sources. With a concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere on a trajectory to unacceptable levels, our sense of urgency to take action has risen, as well. Simply stated, it's not enough to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2025. We need to act and we need to act now.
With respect to the scale of the challenge, it is immense. We and other nations in the world will need to overhaul the existing energy infrastructure on which we depend. And that infrastructure did not develop overnight. 200 years ago, the combustion of fossil fuels, primarily coal, produced the steam that turned the turbines that power the Industrial Revolution.
Today, our planet has more than 50,000 coal-burning power plants, accounting for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The normal rate of turnover for this infrastructure is at least 40 to 50 years. 100 years ago the decision was made to power our transportation sector by burning petroleum-based fuels in an internal combustion engine, rather than through the use of electric motors and batteries.
Today, we have over 600 million vehicles using some version of that internal combustion engine, producing 14% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. But our challenge is not limited to just the power plants and the vehicles that we drive. We live in a world of growing demand for energy as billions of people are rising out of poverty. As that demand grows, it will require new energy production capacity. And today, that new capacity generally consists of more coal-fired power plants with the same high carbon emission-- carbon dioxide emissions as our current energy infrastructure.
Just a couple of weeks ago, India announced that it's building a new 4 gigawatt coal-burning power plant complex. These plants will emit more than 23 million tons of CO2 each year. And the justification is that the need to bring electricity to one of the world's poorest regions is more pressing than the need to limit carbon dioxide from burning fuels, and this is the least expensive way that they know to do it.
It's difficult to argue against that rationale when most of us here have never known a life without electricity. So as we struggle to develop alternatives to our current energy infrastructure, we must recognize that in order to achieve sustainable use of those alternatives worldwide, they need to be cost competitive so that they are the option of first choice.
To accomplish all this, we will need both a revolution in technology and major changes in our economy. Our past technological choices are clearly inadequate for the future. The solutions we need can only come from new technologies. And if the challenge of developing those new technologies and implementing them worldwide is immense, so, too, are the opportunities afforded by tackling this problem in the right way.
If we see our most pressing environmental problems as an opportunity to reassert US leadership in science and technology and innovation, we have the potential not only to solve those problems, but also to revitalize our research and development enterprise, to rebuild our manufacturing base in the process. But how do we go about accelerating the development and the widespread use of new technologies to address our energy challenge?
One promising place to start is to adopt policies that will put a price on emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases. By levying a cost on the putting of greenhouse gases in the air, we will accelerate the private sector development and use of technologies to avoid and to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
In the Senate, we're working on a design for a regulatory framework in the form of a cap and trade system that will recognize the real costs of continued emission of greenhouse gases and shift development toward low carbon production. In the last few years, we've seen a dramatic increase in private sector entrepreneurs who want to develop clean energy technologies. If we're successful in putting a price on the emission of greenhouse gases, that will stimulate private sector involvement even more.
The proper design of a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions is not the subject of my talk today. But I do want to just say in passing that it is not a simple matter. Having been in the Senate for 25 years, I can assure you that in Congress we have the ability to design and enact a totally unworkable system. And without the help of some of this country's best minds, we could wind up doing just that.
So while putting a price on CO2 emissions is an essential part of the solution, it's not the only tool we should be using to resolve the problem. We should also change the way that we pursue technology, development, and deployment. It's here that I want to focus my talk today.
I want to cite five main areas where our policies to support technology, development, and use have fallen short. I think they're right up here on the screen. First, the need to support our science and technology enterprise. I'll say a few words about that. Second, the need to set priorities for energy, technology, development, and use. Third, the need to sustain a support-- the support for those research and development priorities. Fourth, the need for a long-term regulatory and tax framework that will promote development of new technologies. And fifth, the need for a strategy on how we can create the high wage jobs involved in the manufacture of these clean energy technologies.
Our first key failing is in our support for basic science and engineering throughout this country. The best recent analysis is the one that President Hockfield referred to, the report from The National Academies, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. That report was a well-supported wake-up call for policymakers on the need for major sustained support for basic sciences in this country.
We, in Washington, are beginning to respond. While we don't have major progress to report as yet, I believe we will make significant progress in the months and years ahead. One aspect of our anemic and unreliable support for the basic science and engineering enterprise in the country has been the anemic and unreliable support for energy-related science and technology development.
And that brings me to the second point on the chart. We failed to set priorities among the promising energy technologies that would lower our greenhouse gas emissions. You can find government reports on climate change technologies. The Department of Energy put out such a report in 2006 that it labeled as a strategic plan. But the report was basically a shopping list of viable technologies. There were no concrete goals, no roadmaps for making progress, no timelines for development. Such reports are not entirely without value, but what we have nationally today is far from being a strategy. It is far from adequate, in my view, to address the challenge that we have as a nation.
What we need is to formulate a strategic research and development plan that maps out a prioritized set of technological goals, the steps that are needed to achieve those goals, and the time in which those goals should be met. I'm not talking about a document that would limit scientific or technological exploration in other areas, but instead, a roadmap with broad highways along which we could ensure that science and technology support would be forthcoming.
Any energy research and development roadmap that we design will have to have plenty of on ramps and off ramps to incorporate new knowledge, new understanding, and breakthroughs that will inevitably occur. Japan has recently begun to move along the path of developing such a strategic plan with their release last month of the Cool Earth Innovative Energy Technology Program. And we have a copy of the chart that they have recently released.
This document identifies 21 areas of technology development which were chosen to meet two criteria. First, each is expected to deliver substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in the world by 2050. And second, each is a technology area in which Japan believes it can lead the world. Technology roadmaps are being formulated for each of the 21 technologies, giving R&D direction and milestones on performance with timelines toward achieving long-term goals.
Perhaps the closest parallel we have to the Japanese priority setting effort is a project to identify the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. This was described in a report recently by The National Academy of Engineering. Among the grand challenges that were identified are 2 of the 21 technology areas covered in the Japanese innovative technology program, specifically making solar energy economical, and developing carbon sequestration methods.
Well, there's a significant effort underway at our national laboratories-- or our National Academies to determine US research and development needs in the energy area, it's also clear, I believe, that the systematic setting and maintenance of priorities for energy technology development is not something that we have committed to at the highest levels of our government. So what do I propose as a solution to this? I believe we should take five steps.
The first would be to establish overall responsibility at those highest levels of our government for such an effort. Much of what's covered on the previous chart of innovative technologies is funded by the Department of Energy. But a number of key areas belong to other departments of government, such as the Department of Commerce. Even the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Commerce have a difficult time getting the research funding that they need out of the White House budget office, which is run by the Office of Management and Budget.
So I believe what we need to do is make the President's Science Advisor, give him more authority. One way is to provide that enhanced authority would be to direct that the President's Science Advisor hold a concurrent appointment at the Deputy Director level in the Office of Management and Budget. That would ensure that the same person with responsibility for overall science and technology policy in government has some real authority to ensure that the funds to support that science and technology make it into the federal budget.
As a second step, the President's Science Advisor, armed with his enhanced authority, or her enhanced authority, should work with the key departments and The National Academies to come up with a manageable set of energy technology areas that promise to aid us in meeting our energy needs and substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. Some of these will be technology areas that the Japanese or others have identified. Others will be new to the list.
A third step, in each of the chosen technology areas, a working group of academic and government, laboratory, and industry should be convened and a broad roadmap developed to chart the way forward. And responsibility for pursuit of that roadmap in each technology area should be assigned to a particular department or a particular agency.
Fourth, to ensure that an adequate degree of sustained focus and an adequate level of funding is provided, the President should be required to submit to Congress with his budget early each year a separate document detailing the funds being requested of the Congress in support of each technology area across the agencies of government.
And finally, to ensure that the areas being pursued continue to be those that hold the greatest promise, The National Academies should be directed to prepare an updated analysis of energy technology priorities every five years. We already do something very similar with our defense policy by requiring the so-called Quadrennial Defense Review every four years.
MIT has already begun to take the lead in prioritizing promising technologies with its reports on the future of nuclear power, on coal, and geothermal energy. I'm looking forward also to the completion of the other works you're doing on solar energy, on natural gas, as I understand it. Your reports have a real impact on what happens in Washington. In fact, it's precisely because of the future of geothermal energy report that we have an enhanced geothermal research and development program at the Department of Energy today.
This graph shows the lack of consistent support for geothermal energy development in recent years. In early 2006, the President proposed a budget for 2007 was zero funding for geothermal energy research. He did the same in early 2007, for the 2008 budget. But when the MIT report drew the attention of Congress in 2007 to the importance and to the promise of research on geothermal energy, Congress responded. And as a result, the funding level went back to $20 million for 2008.
The Department of Energy then took note of that report, took note of the interest that Congress had evidenced and reinitiated its requests for funding in 2009. But as we've learned from hard experience, it's one thing to set priorities and begin pursuing them. It's a very different thing to sustain that effort. What brings me that-- that brings me to the third major policy failing that I wanted to mention from the earlier list.
Our record for sustaining the effort at critical technology development has been poor. Once we set the course, why aren't we able to stick with that? One obvious problem is that each new administration feels a need to pursue something new instead of sticking with the difficult blocking and tackling required to move the ball down the field. We allow our attention and effort to be deflected. We comfort ourselves with the notion that some Hail Mary pass will, nevertheless, allow us to score a touchdown.
To this point, our stop and stop effort-- stop and start efforts with regard to geothermal development, unfortunately, have also been matched by similar efforts in the development of vehicle technology. On February 10 of 1970, before many in this room were born, President Nixon announced the following in a special message to Congress. "I am inaugurating a program to marshal both governments and private research with the goal of producing an unconventionally powered pollution-free automobile within five years." That was 1970.
Seven years later in 1977, President Carter announced his program for reinventing the car. 16 years after that, in 1993, President Clinton announced his partnership for a new generation of vehicles. 10 years after that, in 2003, President Bush announced his push for a freedom car.
So identifying the priority is obviously not enough. It's also necessary to develop a consensus on how to proceed, and that has to be a consensus that will survive from one administration and one Congress to the next. The development of a national strategic plan for energy technology development, together with regular updating of that plan, will go a long way toward avoiding this stop and start approach that has plagued us in the past.
The fourth major failing from the earlier list that I had up there-- fourth major failing in our science and technology policy happens after we discover or develop new science and engineering at places like MIT. We don't have long-term regulatory and tax policies to promote development and manufacture and widespread use of those technologies.
As Germany has shown in the areas of wind and solar, providing such long-term policies can create a booming renewables industry. In this country, we've seen a different story play out. Utility regulation and rate setting have historically been the job of public regulatory commissions at the state level. And while some states have enacted progressive policies, such as a renewable portfolio standard and net metering, many states have not.
We've tried for the last three Congresses to enact a renewable portfolio standard at the national level, but these efforts have met strong resistance from utilities and from the current administration. Similarly, in the area of tax incentives for increased efficiency and renewable technologies, our record has not been stellar. We have enacted some renewable tax incentives, but for budgetary reasons, those were enacted for only short periods of time.
Often, they were allowed to expire before we got around to renewing them. As an example, the most significant tax incentive that we've enacted to encourage alternative energy development has been the renewable energy production tax credit. In the case of wind energy, this credit provides a reimbursement of nearly $0.02 per kilowatt hour for electricity produced from a wind turbine for a full 10 years after that turbine is put into service.
Problem has been that the period during which one's required to put the turbine in service, in order to receive the credit, those periods were relatively short. We have a chart that shows how this problem has played out. The problem is illustrated. US wind capacity additions each year are reflected on this chart. In years when the production tax credit was fully available, there was robust development. In years when the tax credit was scheduled to expire, financial institutions were reluctant to invest in projects that were not certain to be producing before the expiration of the credit.
The result, obviously, was a boom and bust cycle that you can see on the chart. Clearly, a more consistent tax policy would have put us much further along in this development and use of wind power. Government-driven boom and bust cycles send the wrong message to entrepreneurs.
What we need is a way to provide long-term market stability for renewable electricity production. Part of that solution is to provide a long-term extension of the tax credits for renewable electricity. And I do believe that Congress will next year, with a new administration in office, finally pass a much longer term extension of these tax credits.
The fifth and final area that I'll mention today is the need to claim the economic benefits from clean tech manufacturing. First, we need to acknowledge, at least in theory, that it's possible to meet the energy challenges I've outlined without creating the domestic manufacturing capability and the domestic manufacturing jobs that ought to go with that. To use the current buzz word we, unfortunately, could wind up outsourcing that manufacturing, particularly, through our own inaction.
Advanced energy storage devices, thin film photovoltaic cells, highly efficient light-emitting diodes, all of these and much more will be needed for clean, efficient energy production and use. But there's no assurance these products will be produced in the United States. In fact, some would argue that unless we adopt substantial changes in the way we do business, it's more likely than not that they will not be produced here, that we will buy these products from abroad.
In their 1990 book, The Breakthrough Illusion, Professors Richard Florida and Martin Kenney state, quote, "although the commonplace impression that breakthrough innovations create permanent advantage for American companies may once have been true, it is just not the case anymore. A new reality is upon us. The US makes the breakthroughs while other countries, especially Japan, provide the follow-through."
Now, they wrote that 18 years ago. Today, I believe their statement is truer than ever. The other countries include many other countries besides Japan. Here's a chart that shows what's happened to world production of photovoltaic cells since 1995. It's interesting to observe that until 1998, we were reasonably holding our own. We weren't getting ahead of anyone, but we were reasonably holding our own.
In the last decade, though, while production in other countries has soared, the US photovoltaic industry has remained stagnant. And once again, point out that this is part of a larger problem of our declining manufacturing base. Here's a chart showing the drop off in US manufacturing jobs just during the last seven years.
This is not just an energy related technologies. This is in all sectors. A strategy to revitalize US manufacturing is the topic of another speech. Such a strategy will require developing a consensus on changes in our tax policy, procurement policy, trade policy, probably health policy, and education policy, as well.
We have a real opportunity now, I believe, to grow a high-tech renewables manufacturing base if we commit to the right policies. We have the knowledge, we have the technology, we have the workforce, we have the drive to make all that possible. Germany has proven that such a transformation can occur in an advanced economy. There are nearly 250,000 renewable energy jobs that have been created in Germany in recent years. And that's expected to grow to at least 400,000 by 2020.
Imagine what is possible in an economy of our size and our capabilities. Tackling the policy challenges in the five major areas I've discussed, it's important for all of us in this room, or we wouldn't be here on a Friday afternoon when the weather's great. But as students and researchers and innovators today, some of you may be wondering how does all this relate to students here at MIT?
Let me suggest the following. Each of the problems, as I said before, present great opportunity, as well as being problems. I'm told that MIT students know the connection between problems and opportunities better than anyone. And you at MIT have a critical role to play in solving our energy problems. Because of your knowledge and your abilities and your persistence, it's you who will likely emerge as the leaders in helping meet this global challenge.
Re-engineering the way the world produces, stores, distributes, and uses energy may in fact be the greatest challenge that we as a global community must face together. To my mind, it is a very worthy calling. Addressing the energy challenges will require governments, industry, scientists, and engineers to work together. I hope that some of you will come to Washington to help us structure the policies and programs that will facilitate this work.
As it happens, 2 graduates of this university are with me today and work with me on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bob Simon, who's director of our majority staff is right here. Alisha Jackson, who just graduated last year with a PhD here at MIT, is also with me. And she's a AAAS fellow working with our committee.
While some of you may choose to make contributions through government service, many others will make your mark on our future energy system through direct research and innovation. As Vannevar Bush, a former MIT Vice President and Scientific Advisor to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman said, "without scientific progress, no amount of achievement in other directions can ensure our health and prosperity and security as a nation in the modern world."
So the prospect for all of you to make a global difference is tremendous. Your enthusiasm and commitment to these issues is extremely encouraging, and you have my pledge that I'll do all I can to be sure that you have the resources and support and the policies in place to achieve success. Thank you very much.
HOCKFIELD: The senator will welcome questions. There are microphones in the aisle. If you step to the microphones in the aisle, and I will see the podium back to you. Thank you very much for that incredibly insightful posing of the energy challenge and a roadmap to help us address it.
BINGAMAN: Think I must have answered all the questions.
AUDIENCE: You've mainly addressed issues of how to provide more energy, more cleanly. What role do you see for conservation technology [INAUDIBLE] challenges?
BINGAMAN: Well, I should have perhaps been more explicit about that. Obviously, I think at least half of the solution has to be more efficient use of energy. And at least half of the technological progress that we need to make is how we can improve the efficiency with which we use energy-- produce energy and use energy both. So I think that conservation is absolutely central.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] excellent speech. I might say the problem was put very precisely. One question I have is, do you have any suggestions and how do you change how we measure growth that if you think growth is measured in terms of how much energy a country consumes? In terms of the rate of construction, in terms of then-- when everything is measured against the rate of energy consumption, what do you have-- or what's in place the Congress has in terms of changing the way how a country's measured in terms of how it's growing?
BINGAMAN: Most of the measurements that I'm aware of about the growth rate in the country are not tied to how much energy we're using. They're tied to other factors-- the gross domestic product and the amount of goods we-- goods and services sold and purchased. So I don't know that-- maybe I'm-- maybe there's a place where we are tying ourselves to the amount of use of energy, which I'm just not-- I'm not familiar with where we're doing that and making policy on the basis of it. Yes, please.
AUDIENCE: Hi. A few slides ago, you had a slide with the progress of photovoltaics.
AUDIENCE: This one. And could you go into more detail as to why Japan pulled ahead but US has stayed steady? From my understanding, US has so many events technol-- has made so many of the advanced-- advancements in photovoltaics, why is it that Japan pulled ahead as US lagged behind?
BINGAMAN: I don't have with me today itemized list of the various policies that they adopted, but I think they did have a very proactive set of policies that they adopted to encourage both the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, but also the use of photovoltaic cells in Japan. And some of those were in their tax code, some of those were other policies that they adopted. We can try to get that for you.
But I think there was clearly an effort by the government to-- a recognition that this was a growing sector of high-tech manufacturing that they wanted to have a major part in, and they adopted policies to ensure that.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] first speech I've seen that's also been backed with data and PowerPoint slides, though. Thanks.
BINGAMAN: Oh, OK. Good. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Senator Bingaman, you expressed a great optimism for our technological advancement. But I was curious to what extent behavioral changes you see as being necessary to be able to meet our energy challenges?
BINGAMAN: Well, obviously, to the extent we can achieve or see some behavioral changes, that would be good. I think that there can be some increased recognition in the general population of the importance of trying to conserve energy, the importance of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that can have a substantial effect over a period of time. I think it has an effect more in causing people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and causing people to purchase homes that are more energy-efficient to do a variety of things.
I think the unfortunate reality is that in this country, as in most countries in the world, the behavioral change is pretty much driven by economic factors to a large extent. If we put a cap and trade system in place, and the cost of energy goes up as a result, that will drive behavioral change. And that's just sort of the way the most humans respond. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Senator, with the recent increases in food prices, there have been some suggestions that our focus on ethanol fuel has contributed to that rise. What are your thoughts on this issue? And more broadly, how our energy policy can shift without causing these unforeseen impacts?
BINGAMAN: Well, my thought is, quite frankly, I think we need to closely monitor this issue and study it and try to make a determination as to whether the policies we are adopting and have adopted with regard to increased biofuels-- increased use of biofuels are adversely affecting us in other ways.
I think, frankly, that we did not have good information on that issue when we legislated this last year and increased the requirements-- the required use of biofuels. I think many of the people who are now coming forward and saying that the skyrocketing price of food is a result of increased use of biofuels also don't have very good information.
So I think the jury's still out on whether or not we've overstepped there. So I'm open to having someone really do a objective analysis of it. I don't think we've seen one yet.
AUDIENCE: Senator, I had the pleasure of asking this question to the Secretary of Energy a couple weeks ago, and I figured I'd ask another person from Washington.
BINGAMAN: Be sure and tell me what he said before I have to answer.
AUDIENCE: So as you mentioned, given that the energy challenge is a global challenge, and that the policies that you mentioned here are funded by American taxpayers, what should be done to transfer the technology to the countries that need it? And the secretary, unfortunately, said he couldn't give me an answer.
BINGAMAN: He didn't get-- he didn't give you any answer?
BINGAMAN: Well, I think it's-- you know, I think that, obviously, that's a very important and complex question. I think we are-- one of the best ways we can deal with the problem of greenhouse gas emissions is to transfer whatever technology is developed to deal with that problem. Transfer it as broadly and widely and quickly as possible.
That doesn't mean that we can't continue to benefit from having developed that technology. But I think the United States, unfortunately, has not played the leadership role it should in coming to grips with these problems worldwide. And I think that we have a great opportunity to do that. And I hope that that happens beginning this next year.
And I think part of that opportunity is to be sure that as we develop technologies that we know work, we're seeing to it that those become available, particularly, in less developed parts of the world.
AUDIENCE: Senator, I believe both you and President Hockfield spoke on how America in the recent years has been falling behind the rest of the world in science and technology. And I believe that this is largely due to the deteriorating quality of math and science education in public schools. Coming from a public school here in America myself, I can attest to this fact. And what plans do you and your colleagues in the Senate have to deal with this issue?
BINGAMAN: Well, first, I agree with you that that's one area and, obviously, this report that both President Hockfield and I alluded to from The National Academies, I think they're-- I think the first concern that they identified there was the lack of focus on math and science education in the country and called for a substantial increase in federal support, federal funding, to assist schools and school districts and states and upgrading the quality, training more teachers who are qualified to teach those courses.
So they have a whole series of things that they recommended. The challenge now to us in Congress and to the next administration is to actually go forward and start providing the funds and do so on a consistent basis to begin correcting this deficiency.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Senator, I appreciate your optimism and all the things you're doing to help, particularly, in the southwest where we have actually a strong surplus of sunlight recently. I'm wondering, though, if you're aware of why Japan and, particularly, Germany have had such a huge growth, 57% of all the solar PV in the world for the last five years has been shipped to Germany, with 27% shipped to Japan, even that made in the US.
And in fact, most of the PV that we make right here in Massachusetts goes to Germany, it's already pre-sold. And that's because they have very high feed in tariffs of $0.55 a kilowatt hour in Germany, and it's similar-- not quite as high in Japan, but also equally high now in Spain and Italy.
The United States has had a special investment tax credit of 30% for renewable energy technologies, which runs out this year. And I know last week, the Senate passed a bill extending the PTC for wind turbines by one year and try to get an extension on their investment tax credit. But our president has said he will veto any bill that even gives one penny of money to renewable energy at the expense of the $18 billion dollars that he wants to be sure it goes to the oil companies. Is this a problem that we can drill our way out of, or maybe think outside of the barrel?
BINGAMAN: Well, you, obviously, summed it up well. The problem-- this gets a little arcane, I guess. But the problem comes down to PAYGO rules in Congress. Once the Democrats took charge, we reinstated what we call PAYGO rules, which says if you're going to cut taxes, you're going to have to find an offset to pay for it. And so our proposal to extend these tax credits for renewable energy was offset by that $18 billion that we were getting by reducing the tax benefits that are going to the oil and gas industry.
So that's what we tried to do. The administration's position is basically that they do not want to see any reduction in tax benefits to oil and gas industry. But they also do not want to see any offset for the cost of extending these tax credits. I think that the next thing you'll see in Congress is we will be passing at least through the Senate, a version of these tax cuts-- or tax provisions-- renewable tax provisions that are not offset in any way and just add it to the deficit. And I think that's perfectly acceptable with the administration.
AUDIENCE: Well, we have about 270,000 jobs at stake, including a lot of them right here in this state where we're hoping to make this a major player in the renewable energy industry. So I hope that you can do something to try and get these-- we may not need the incentives and benefits for a long time, but they're very critical now.
BINGAMAN: No, I agree with you. And I think what will happen almost certainly-- or not almost certainly, but likely, is that we will pass them for a short period of time to get into the next administration, probably unpaid for. And then once we're into the next administration, hopefully, we'll find a way to act, in my view, more responsibly and actually find a way to offset the cost of making them substantially longer. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hi, Senator. And a very popular phrase these days is energy independence. And a lot of the presidential candidates are continuously talking about energy independence and how good it is. And what's your view on it, and is it a desirable goal for this country to attain?
BINGAMAN: Well, it's not a near term, meaning the next few decades. It's not an achievable goal. I think we are about 60% of our oil comes from overseas today, and it will take a substantial period here for us to develop the alternatives, develop the technologies, to wean ourselves off of that.
So I think energy independence is certainly a worthwhile goal, but it is a very distant goal. And I think, realistically, over the next couple of decades, I'd be very pleased if we could see a reduction in the amount of oil we're importing. If we could actually see significant shifting toward use of hybrid-- plug-in hybrid vehicles, other ways to avoid the need for so much oil. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Through most of your talk, I'd seen a focus on growth of renewable energies of increase in research or efficiency. But how far are you willing to go, or are you able to go, to actually pass legislation that reduces things like the quality of life or that we have to actually just stop driving our cars as much, not build hybrid cars so we can keep driving. Is that even at all possible that we are willing to step back in the things that we can do in our ways of spending that you're willing to do it like in Congress, say OK, you just cannot drive that much anymore.
BINGAMAN: Well, since this is a representative form of government we've got, people who pass laws saying you can't drive anymore aren't usually there too long. So I do think that there are ways that we can adopt policies, though, that will create incentives for people to find ways to reduce their energy consumption. This cap and trade proposal is intended to do just that.
It's intended to result in a lot of people looking at what is the extent of my energy consumption? Are there ways I can reduce it? And I think that's a much better way to go than for Congress to be trying to legislate, specifically, you can't do this, you can't do that, you can't do the other.
Now, I think there are the requirements that we put on automobile manufacturers. Anyone who wants to sell a vehicle in this market needs to improve their vehicle fuel efficiency. I think that's something we clearly need to be doing.
AUDIENCE: But are you willing to go as far to pass legislation that reduces our quality of life, or the amount of jobs that we have, or is that-- does every progress have to be forward?
BINGAMAN: Well, I think that's-- as I say, I don't think you're going to find a majority of the Congress in support of legislation that is intended to reduce the quality of life. That's just not a good campaign platform.
I haven't noticed any of the presidential candidates running on that platform. And I doubt that we will see that. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Senator, thank you very much for bringing us the past 30 years of history of failed projects in the clean energy transportation, which I find is very insightful and also very ironic that that has happened.
So I was thinking about the Department of Energy, which you mentioned in today's presentation, and which worries about the clean energy. And also the Department of Transportation, which I actually don't think you mentioned today, which worries about transportation.
And isn't the problem that we have Department of Transportation, which worries about transportation-- we have Department of Energy, which worries about something else, and there is nobody who-- no central authority which worries about clean energy transportation? Is it some restriction that we need to create to make it happen?
BINGAMAN: Well, you're right that we have-- we tend to compartmentalize some of these things in ways that are unfortunate. I do think that that's part of the reason why I think it will make more sense in these areas of technology development to have more authority at the level of the President's Science Advisor. And have a coordinating function occur there so it wouldn't depend upon whether it's in the Department of Energy or the Department of Transportation. There would be one policy and both departments would be trying to implement it.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
BINGAMAN: Okay. One more question. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Hi. You said that you wouldn't address design if cap and trade, but I can still ask about it, I suppose. So I was wondering, first, have you learned anything specifically from what Europe has done with the ETS mistakes or successes they've had? And also would you address which industries in particular would be included? Of course, the power utilities, but who else would be under the umbrella of cap and trade?
BINGAMAN: Well, I think we are in the process of trying to learn about the mistakes and problems that were encountered in Europe in their ETS, their Emissions Trading Scheme, as they call it. Frankly, they have just started on January 1 of this year the second phase of the ETS, and they're trying to determine whether or not it's structured the way it should be or not at this point. I think we're trying to determine the same thing.
I think they made quite a few mistakes in the first phase of their ETS. They, first of all, gave out too many allowances. They didn't have good based-- baseline data on the amount of emissions that were occurring. There were a whole bunch of things that they did wrong at the first, and they readily admit that. But they were sort of learning as they went.
We're trying to learn before we enact something and avoid that as best we can. What was the second part of your question?
AUDIENCE: Well, which industries will be included beyond the utilities?
BINGAMAN: My preference would be to include as much of the economy as possible. I think trying to put a system in place that is economy-wide is the way to start. And I hope we're able to do that. That gets into a lot of political arguments.
AUDIENCE: Do you have any hope that it'll actually be passed in the next 10 years?
BINGAMAN: What's that?
AUDIENCE: Will it actually be passed in the next 10 years, or is there hope?
BINGAMAN: No, I think it will, because we have three candidates for president, all of whom are committed to the enactment of a cap and trade system. I don't think it'll pass this year. But I do think that we'll have a good debate about it in June in the Senate and maybe make some progress toward getting a piece of legislation that then will give us a starting point for going into the next administration. I think in the next couple of years, we will enact cap and trade system. That's my guess
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
HOCKFIELD: I want to thank Senator Bingaman on behalf of all of us and MIT for sharing his insights with us today. But probably more important, for the work that he does every day in advocating for great policies that support research and development, that move us to that bright, clean energy future to which we all dream. Thank you, Senator.