President Obama at the University of Miami

February 23, 2012 | 23:14 | Public Domain

President Obama talks about his blueprint for a new era of American energy.

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Remarks by the President on Energy

University of Miami
Miami, Florida

2:26 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  The U!   (Applause.)  It is good to see all of you here today.  (Applause.)  

I want to thank Erica for that outstanding introduction.  She said her parents were tweeting.  (Laughter.)  We’re so proud of you, Erica. 

I also want to thank your president, this country’s former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala.  (Applause.)  Senator Bill Nelson is here.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Former astronaut -- that’s too cool.  (Laughter.)  And my outstanding friend, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is in the house.  (Applause.)
It is good to be back in sunny Florida.  (Applause.)  I must say I don’t know how you guys go to class.  (Laughter.)  I’m assuming you do go to class.  (Laughter.)  It’s just too nice outside.  But in another life, I would be staying for the Knicks-Heat game tonight -- (applause) -- then go up to Orlando for NBA All-Star Weekend.  (Applause.)  But these days, I’ve got a few other things on my plate.  (Laughter.)  Just a few.
I just got a fascinating demonstration of the work that some of you are doing at the College of Engineering.  (Applause.)  And let me say at the outset, we need more engineers.  So I could not be prouder of those of you who are studying engineering. 

It was fascinating stuff.  I understood about 10 percent of what they told me.  (Laughter.)  But it was very impressive.  (Laughter.)  And the work couldn’t be more important, because what they were doing was figuring out how our buildings, our manufacturers, our businesses can waste less energy.  And that’s one of the fastest, easiest ways to reduce our dependence on oil, and save a lot of money in the process and make our economy stronger.

So some cutting-edge stuff is being done right here at the U.  (Applause.)  Now, that’s what I’m here to talk about today.  In the State of the Union, I laid out three areas where we need to focus if we want to build an economy that lasts and is good for the next generation, all of you.  (Applause.)  We need new American manufacturing.  We’ve got to have new skills and education for America’s workers, and we need new sources of American-made energy.

Now, right now we are experiencing just another painful reminder of why developing new energy is so critical to our future.  Just like last year, gas prices are climbing across the country.  This time, it’s happening even earlier.  And when gas prices go up, it hurts everybody -- everybody who owns a car, everybody who owns a business.  It means you’ve got to stretch a paycheck even further.  It means you’ve got to find even more room in a budget that was already really tight.  And some folks have no choice but to drive a long way to work, and high gas prices are like a tax straight out of your paycheck.

I got a letter last night -- I get these letters, 10 letters every night that I read out of the 40,000 that are sent to me.  And at least two of them said, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to keep my job if gas prices keep on going up so high, because it’s just hard to manage the budget and fill up the tank.  A lot of folks are going through tough times as a consequence.
Now, some politicians they see this as a political opportunity.  I know you’re shocked by that.  (Laughter.)  Last week, the lead story in one newspaper said, “Gasoline prices are on the rise and Republicans are licking their chops.”  (Laughter.)  That’s a quote.  That was the lead.  "Licking their chops."  Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news so enthusiastically.  You pay more; they’re licking their chops. 

You can bet that since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their 3-point plan for $2 gas.  And I’ll save you the suspense.  Step one is to drill and step two is to drill. And then step three is to keep drilling.  (Laughter.)  We heard the same line in 2007 when I was running for President.  We hear the same thing every year.  We’ve heard the same thing for 30 years. 

Well, the American people aren’t stupid.  They know that’s not a plan, especially since we’re already drilling.  That’s a bumper sticker.  It’s not a strategy to solve our energy challenge.  (Applause.)  That’s a strategy to get politicians through an election.

You know there are no quick fixes to this problem.  You know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.  If we’re going to take control of our energy future and can start avoiding these annual gas price spikes that happen every year -- when the economy starts getting better, world demand starts increasing, turmoil in the Middle East or some other parts of the world -- if we’re going to avoid being at the mercy of these world events, we’ve got to have a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.  Yes, oil and gas, but also wind and solar and nuclear and biofuels, and more. (Applause.)

We need to keep developing the technology that allows us to use less oil in our cars and trucks, less energy for our buildings and our plants and our factories -- that’s the strategy we’re pursuing.  And that’s the only real solution to this challenge.

Now, it starts with the need for safe, responsible oil production here in America.  We’re not going to transition out of oil anytime soon.  And that’s why under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.  That’s why we have a record number of oilrigs operating right now -- more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined. 

Over the last three years my administration has approved dozens of new pipelines, including from Canada.  And we’ve opened millions of acres for oil and gas exploration.  All told we plan to make available more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, we announced the next steps towards further energy exploration in the Arctic.  Earlier this week, we joined Mexico in an agreement that will make more than 1.5 million acres in the Gulf available for exploration and production, which contains an estimated 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

So we’re focused on production.  That's not the issue.  And we’ll keep on producing more homegrown energy.  But here’s the thing -- it’s not enough.  The amount of oil that we drill at home doesn’t set the price of gas by itself.  The oil market is global; oil is bought and sold in a world market.  And just like last year, the single biggest thing that’s causing the price of oil to spike right now is instability in the Middle East -– this time around Iran.  When uncertainty increases, speculative trading on Wall Street increases, and that drives prices up even more. 

So those are the biggest short-term factors at work here. 
Over the long term, the biggest reason oil prices will probably keep going up is growing demand in countries like China and India and Brazil.  I want you to all think about this.  In five years, the number of cars on the road in China more than tripled -- just in the last five years.  Nearly 10 million cars were added in China in 2010 alone -- 10 million cars in one year in one country.  Think about how much oil that requires.  And as folks in China and India and Brazil, they aspire to buy a car just like Americans do, those numbers are only going to get bigger. 

So what does this mean for us?  It means that anybody who tells you that we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or just isn’t telling you the truth.  (Applause.) 

And young people especially understand this, because I think -- it's interesting, when I talk to Malia and Sasha -- you guys are so much more aware than I was of conserving our natural resources and thinking about the planet.  The United States consumes more than a fifth of the world’s oil -- more than 20 percent of the world's oil -- just us.  We only have 2 percent of the world's oil reserves.  We consume 20; we've got 2. 

And that means we can’t just rely on fossil fuels from the last century.  We can’t just allow ourselves to be held hostage to the ups and downs of the world oil market.  We've got to keep developing new sources of energy.  We've got to develop new technology that helps us use less energy, and use energy smarter. We've got to rely on American know-how and young engineers right here at the U who are focused on energy.  (Applause.)  That is our future.  And that’s exactly the path that my administration has been trying to take these past three years. 

And we’re making progress.  That's the good news.  In 2010, our dependence on foreign oil was under 50 percent for the first time in over a decade.  We were less reliant on foreign oil than we had been.  In 2011, the United States relied less on foreign oil than in any of the last 16 years.  That's the good news.  And because of the investments we’ve made, the use of clean, renewable energy in this country has nearly doubled -– and thousands of American jobs have been created as a consequence. 

We’re taking every possible action to develop, safely, a near hundred-year supply of natural gas in this country -- something that experts believe will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.  We supported the first new nuclear power plant in three decades.  Our cooperation with the private sector has positioned this country to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries that will power the next generation of American cars -- that use less oil; maybe don't use any oil at all. 

And after three decades of inaction, we put in place the toughest fuel economy standards in history for our cars and pickup trucks -– and the first standards ever for heavy-duty trucks.  And because we did this, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade.  That's nearly double what they get today.  (Applause.) 

Now, I remember what it was like being a student.  You guys probably have one of those old beaters.  Who knows what kind of mileage you guys get.  (Laughter.)  I can tell you some stories about the cars I had.  I bought one for $500.  (Applause.)  But by the middle of the next decade, you guys are going to be buying some new cars -- hopefully sooner than that.  And that means you’ll be able to fill up your car every two weeks instead of every week -– something that, over time, will save the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump. 

And it means this country will reduce our oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day.  That's not only good for your pocketbook, that's good for the environment.  (Applause.)

All right, but here's the thing -- we've got to do more.  We've got to act even faster.  We have to keep investing in the development of every available source of American-made energy.  And this is a question of where our priorities are.  This is a choice that we face.

First of all, while there are no silver bullets short term when it comes to gas prices -- and anybody who says otherwise isn't telling the truth -- I have directed my administration to look for every single area where we can make an impact and help consumers in the months ahead, from permitting to delivery bottlenecks to what’s going on in the oil markets.  We're going to look at every single aspect of gas prices, because we know the burden that it's putting on consumers.  And we will keep taking as many steps as we can in the coming weeks. 

That's short term.  But over the long term, an all-of-the-above energy strategy requires us having the right priorities.  We've got to have the right incentives in place.  I'll give you an example.  Right now, $4 billion of your tax dollars subsidize the oil industry every year -- $4 billion.  They don't need a subsidy.  They're making near-record profits.  These are the same oil companies that have been making record profits off the money you spend at the pump for several years now.  How do they deserve another $4 billion from taxpayers and subsidies? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Preach it, Mr. President!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s outrageous.  It’s inexcusable.  (Applause.)  And every politician who’s been fighting to keep those subsidies in place should explain to the American people why the oil industry needs more of their money -- especially at a time like this.  (Applause.)  

I said this at the State of the Union -- a century of subsidies to the oil companies is long enough.  (Applause.)  It’s time to end taxpayer giveaways to an industry that has never been more profitable; double down on clean energy industries that have never been more promising -- that's what we need to do.  (Applause.)  This Congress needs to renew the clean energy tax credits that will lead to more jobs and less dependence on foreign oil. 

The potential of a sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy is all around us.  Here in Miami, 2008, Miami became the first major American city to power its city hall entirely with solar and renewable energy.  Right here in Miami.  (Applause.)  The modernization of your power grid so that it wastes less energy is one of the largest projects of its kind in the country. On a typical day, the wind turbine at the Miami-Dade Museum can meet about 10 percent of the energy needs in a South Florida home, and the largest wind producer in the country is over at Juno Beach.  Right here at this university, your work is helping manufacturers save millions of dollars in energy bills by making their facilities more energy efficient.  (Applause.)

So a lot of work is already being done right here, just in this area.  And the role of the federal government isn’t to supplant this work, take over this work, direct this research.  It is to support these discoveries.  Our job is to help outstanding work that’s being done in universities, in labs, and to help businesses get new energy ideas off the ground -- because it was public dollars, public research dollars, that over the years helped develop the technologies that companies are right now using to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock. 

The payoff on these public investments, they don’t always come right away, and some technologies don’t pan out, and some companies will fail.  But as long as I’m President, I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.  Your future is too important.  I will not -- (applause) -- I will not cede, I will not give up, I will not cede the wind or the solar or the battery industry to China or Germany because some politicians in Washington have refused to make the same commitment here in America. 

With or without this Congress, I will continue to do whatever I can to develop every source of American energy so our future isn’t controlled by events on the other side of the world. (Applause.)

Today we’re taking a step that will make it easier for companies to save money by investing in energy solutions that have been proven here in the University of Miami -- new lighting systems, advanced heating and cooling systems that can lower a company's energy bills and make them more competitive. 

We’re launching a program that will bring together the nation’s best scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs to figure out how more cars can be powered by natural gas, a fuel that’s cleaner and cheaper and more abundant than oil.  We’ve got more of that.  We don’t have to import it.  We may be exporting it soon. 

We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance -- algae.  You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? (Laughter.)  If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right. 

Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States.  And that means greater energy security.  That means lower costs.  It means more jobs.  It means a stronger economy. 

Now, none of the steps that I’ve talked about today is going to be a silver bullet.  It’s not going to bring down gas prices tomorrow.  Remember, if anybody says they got a plan for that -- what?

AUDIENCE:  They're lying. 

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just saying.  (Applause.)  We’re not going to, overnight, solve the problem of world oil markets.  There is no silver bullet.  There never has been. 

And part of the problem is, is when politicians pretend that there is, then we put off making the tough choices to develop new energy sources and become more energy efficient.  We got to stop doing that.  We don't have the luxury of pretending.  We got to look at the facts, look at the science, figure out what we need to do.

We may not have a silver bullet, but we do have in this country limitless sources of energy, a boundless supply of ingenuity, huge imagination, amazing young people like you -- (applause) -- all of which can put -- all of which we can put to work to develop this new energy source. 

Now, it’s the easiest thing in the world to make phony election-year promises about lower gas prices.  What’s harder is to make a serious, sustained commitment to tackle a problem.  (Applause.)  And it won’t be solved in one year; it won’t be solved in one term; it may not be completely solved in one decade.  But that’s the kind of commitment we need right now.  That’s what this moment requires. 

So I need all of you to keep at it.  I need you guys to work hard.  I need you guys to dream big.  I need those of you who are a lot smarter than me to figure out how we’re going to be able to tap into new energy sources.  We’ve got to summon the spirit of optimism and that willingness to tackle tough problems that led previous generations to meet the challenges of their times -– to power a nation from coast to coast, to send a man to the moon, to connect an entire world with our own science and our own imagination. 

That’s what America is capable of.  That's what this country is about.  And that history teaches us that whatever our challenges -– all of them -– whatever, whatever we face, we always have the power to solve them. 

This is going to be one of the major challenges for your generation.  Solving it is going to take time; it’s going to take effort.  It’s going to require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies.  But it’s going to also require all of us as citizens -- Democrats, Republicans, everybody in between –- all of us are going to have to do our part.

If we do, the solution is within our reach.  And I know we can do it.  We have done it before.  And when we do, we will remind the world once again just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth.  (Applause.)  

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.   (Applause.)

2:49 P.M. EST

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