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April 6, 2010

Energy Secretary Encourages States to Help Lead New Industrial Revolution

The opening general session kicks off at NCSL's Spring Forum

WASHINGTON -- United States Secretary of Energy and Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu spoke to state legislators and legislative staff about the important role that states can play in the new industrial revolution, energy.

Secretary Chu began his presentation by making two predictions to lawmakers: That the cost of gasoline will increase in the coming decades and that we are going to live in a carbon-constrained world. Chu is charged with leading the administration's agenda to invest in alternative and renewable energy sources and reduce the country's use of foreign oil. He also spoke with legislators about the issues of climate change and brought his views of the energy challenges facing the United States.

"We're going to need a new industrial revolution to mitigate this climate change and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. This new industrial revolution will create a demand of high-techonology solutions that we, in the United States, can lead," Secretary Chu said.

Chu said he believes other countries, such as China and Brazil, are seeing this new industrial revolution as an economic opportunity. Chu said America still can still lead this revolution and secure the nation's future prosperity with help from the states. 

The secretary said state legislatures can lead the way with innovative policies and ideas. He highlighted programs at the Michigan Brueau of Energy Assistance and the Maryland Energy Administration, which Chu said are helping to boost state economies using green technologies and incentives.

Chu acknowledged that not every state is on board. Whether you believe in climate change or not, this is about prosperity, Chu said.

The secretary said the United States has the best research and development system, the best universities and the best entrepreneurial spirit in the world to lead this new revolution, but time is running out. Chu said if states don't lead the way, the nation will continue to rely on foreign countries for energy.

"The train is leaving the station and I hope we can get on it," Chu said.

Chu was not the only official discussing energy with state legislators. Presiding Office Alex Fergusson of the Scottish Parliament took the opportunity to bring state legislators up to date on Scotland's climate change agenda.

This is "an area with which we face common challenges," Fergusson said, "but which we can best combat by working together."

Fergusson said in its first decade, the Parliament passed numerous pieces of important legislation, one of which was the climate change act that passed in June of last year. Fergusson said it was one of the first pieces of significant climate change legislation passed anywhere in the world. The act is aimed at reducing green house gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 in Scotland. It also included a framework for setting annual targets and for regular reporting to Parliament on these reductions.

"My hope is that we can build relationships as an affiliate member of NCSL with some of your institutions to facilitate a learning exchange to consider how we address the shared agenda that we have of ensuring that our legislators play their part in combating the effects of climate change," Fergusson said. He plans to attend some of the NCSL Agriculture and Energy Committee meetings on Friday.

Fergusson and Secretary Chu addressed lawmakers as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Spring Forum in Washington, D.C. The forum features some of the nation’s leading experts on energy, health care and transportation. The meeting, April 8-10, includes an exchange of ideas and innovations from both sides of the aisle in an effort to find the best possible solution.

NCSL's Spring Forum allows lawmakers and legislative staff to work with fellow colleagues to examine how federal issues affect the states and develop states' advocacy positions before Congress and the administration.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.