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The White House

Remarks by the Vice President at the University of Delaware Highlighting Offshore Wind Power


Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release                         May 4, 2009


The University of Delaware
Newark, Delaware

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Mr. President, I can assure you had I graduated from Rutgers, we'd still be here.  (Laughter.)  If you believe that, then you don't understand politics.  (Laughter.) 

Look, folks, it's great to be home.  It's great to be here at my alma mater.  And it's great to be in a room -- I've spent more serious time in this room today than I did when it was a library -- (laughter) -- which it was here, this room, when I was here as a student.  But it is genuinely good to be home. 

And I've been telling, as Senator Carper has, I've been telling my good friend -- as my colleagues in the state legislature know, you refer to your colleagues as good friends.  But this guy really is a good and loyal friend for a considerable amount of time.  As a matter of fact, I blame him for my son running for attorney general.  I advised him no, and he went to see Ken Salazar, who was attorney general.  And so Ken is totally responsible.

But, look, all kidding aside, the fact of the matter is Ken has heard me and Tom, and probably Mike and others -- I remember -- I remind people, Governor, we had the first solar home here on the university.  I remember when we started off, as you point out, Mr. President, as early as the '70s, the university sort of began to stake its claim on alternative energy.  And so this is not -- this is not new for us.  We have not been recognized for it necessarily, nationally, until recently.  But the truth of the matter is this has been an incredibly environmentally conscious state, as well as university. 

And I would not -- I'd be remiss if I didn't again recognize Governor Peterson, who did what probably I think paved the way for us being able to sustain this state in a way that wouldn't have occurred before with the Coastal Zone Act.  It was a gigantic -- it was such a departure from business as usual back in 1971, that in the '70s, early '70s, that I think it set the stage for so much more.

And I look over here at a man who should have been the director of EPA.  He was the acting director, and through pure politics was held up by our friends in the other party from being able to be confirmed as the director of the EPA, but a guy who has been working in this, Mike McCabe, for longer than many of you and I have been.  He goes back all the way to the days with -- when he was working with Senator Harkin in the establishment of Earth Day and a lot of other things.  Michael, you deserve a great deal of credit.  (Applause.)     

Mr. President, I get energized every time I just come on campus.  The students here at the University of Delaware, they get it.  As some of the students, you pointed out the graduate students, they get that the impact of leading greener lives not only helps us all today, but allows -- it's going to allow their children, their children to live a much better tomorrow than we're living today.  And the good news is we recognize it as well, all of us in here, the state legislators and the university personnel, and the people standing to my left and my right.

Mr. President and Secretary Salazar, the entire administration, the entire administration sees the everlasting benefits of a clean-energy future.  This is a moment.  This is a moment that comes seldom in history.  It's probably occurred five or six times in the history of the United States, when we reach an inflection point that is so consequential for the next generations, not because of the merit or demerit of those in power, but because OF the nature of the change that has taken place in the world and the country.  It's an inflection point. 

And we are determined, Senator Obama -- President Obama.  We were senators when we started planning this, before we got sworn in, in Chicago in late November and December and January.  We are absolutely fundamentally committed to the notion that we're going to lay down a new foundation for the economic, as well as the environmental future of this country.  This is the moment.

We get criticized by many for proposing the Recovery Act.  We get criticized for saying we have to deal with energy education and health care all at once -- we should just worry about getting the economy back.  We cannot, we cannot lead the world in the 21st century -- let me say it again -- we cannot without a fundamental shift in our education, energy, and health care policy.  So it's not a question of doing too much.  There is no option.  It is now.  Now.  Now.   

And for those who say that we could not invest the money in the Recovery Act, let me tell you failure to invest now would put us in a position where we would be behind the curve for the next generation, in my humble opinion.  Because much of what the Secretary was able to do here, much of what we're able to do out of the Department of Energy, and out of the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, all of which have energy impacts, is being funded on a one-time basis, with the boldest initiative any administration has every attempted in the midst of an economic recession -- a $787 billion down payment on the future.

Failure to act would result in 4 to 5 million additional lost jobs.  So it's a process folks.  And in this process, we really genuinely believe, and I know here you at the university you believe, we're in the beginning stages of beginning to change the world.  I know this sounds like hyperbole.  I'm back on campus and I feel as idealistic as I did when I was a 29 year-old kid summing up my campaign here for the United States Senate on campus. 

I am more certain, I am more committed, I am more idealistic about our opportunities than I have been the day I got elected to office as a 29 year-old kid.  I genuinely mean it.  Seldom do we get to a point where we have an option, an opportunity to literally alter the course of human history.  And it's like turning around a super tanker folks.  You change the heading of a super tanker by five degrees; 50 miles out, you're way off in a different direction than you were before you changed it.  And that's where we are right now.

In the most literal sense, that's why we're here today.  That's why we've chosen such a great university.  Now, I'm prejudiced, I know.  I'm not joking about this.  I say to the press and the national press that's here, I went here.  It's a great university, but it's even a greater university by a long shot.

We got a guy now at the helm of this university who has visions for this university that are totally, completely warranted.  And with the help of the legislature, and the help of the people of the state of Delaware, and the help of the philanthropies and the fundraising that go on, we in fact are going to be able to realize President Harker's dream for this university.  This is a premier institution, and no more than in the area of the kind of advancements we're talking about here.

This really is about making the world better.  And I'm not just -- I'm saying this because I'm on the university campus.  It's about the air we breathe.  It's about the water we drink.  It's about the mountains our children are going to be able climb, and it's about the lakes we swim in and the oceans that nourish us and, literally, renew our souls.  That's the world we intend to change, all of us.  And I'm sure you all share my view, Democrats and Republicans.

We've already begun.  It's been just slightly more than a hundred days.  The Recovery Act includes $11 billion to bolster state and local governments on one item alone, energy efficiency, energy-efficiency programs  -- to weatherize low-income homes that are already being put to work, for example.

Jack talked about the state buildings and the federal buildings.  I need not tell experts like you, sir, Professor, that the single biggest bang for the buck we could get is not with these wind turbines -- that's the future, the immediate future -- it's literally just weatherizing, just weatherizing, conservation.  The single biggest bang for the buck we can get.  We've been criticized for spending Recovery Act money to do that.  Today, here in Delaware, we're doing that and we're doing a lot more.

As the President announced on Earth Day, the Department of the Interior is releasing the regulations that will govern the development of renewable energy in the offshore waters.  These final rules are going to enable Delaware, and enable a nation, to tap into our ocean's vast, vast sustainable resources to generate clean energy in an environmentally sound and safe manner.

And with the release of these rules, we can much better, much better harness the wind here in Delaware, but also solar, wave, and ocean current energy along our nation's coast.  Gov, the prospects are unlimited.  The prospects are unlimited.  And it's time for us to dream really big, not small; not just in terms of whether or not we can actually provide the electricity for 50,000 or 100,000 or 200,000 homes in Delaware.  It is so much bigger than that.

And we're trying to do our part to spur investment -- a significant portion.  This is not the first.  This is multiple times that I've dealt with wind energy projects.  Just out of Missouri, John -- and I got to talk to you about what they're doing out there in creating in the steel mills and the turbines they're creating -- but not only that, the transformers that are being built.  Guess what happens.  This ultimately is about jobs.  It's jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. 

I mean, we can't in Delaware -- we're losing jobs where people can, by a single job, live a decent way -- make a decent wage; have a sustainable income that can't be exported -- the job -- that allow people to live in a middle-class neighborhood like you and I grew up in.  Used to work at General Motors or Chrysler.  God willing, we'll be able to save some of it, we hope.  The truth of the matter is there's so many spin-offs here. 

And so the tax system that we wrote into the legislation provides financial incentives to projects like the one here in Delaware.  It's not just the regulations being issued; it's the significant incentives.  Let's not kid ourselves.  You can write the regulations, boss.  It ain't going, no matter what the state does, without these tax incentives. 

Across the country, the Recovery Act invests about $14 billion in renewables by allowing wind producers not only to access the investment tax credit, but also supports production tax credits.  It also -- thanks to the Recovery Act, the Department of Energy is spending $6 billion to underwrite up to $60 billion in loans -- $60 billion in loans for renewable-energy projects in the next 18 months.  And that's for projects just like the one we have here in Delaware.

Basically, between all our efforts, all of our efforts -- I mean everyone in this room, including the citizens of this state, we can finally truly get serious about our commitment to renewable energy of all types.  Not any of these things are enough.  You need to create the synergy to get this thing moving.  And we have the combination, the intellectual horsepower, the ingenuity, the policy changes needed that government had to supply to incentivize businesses to move in ways that they want to move in cooperation with the public sector.

But this is more than just a new source of energy, in my view.  And I go back to the purpose of the Recovery Act, which contains this money, these direct and indirect tax expenditures.  It is a new source of job creation, a new place for America to assert international leadership in climate change.  And most important, it's a way to build a platform -- build a platform for the economy of the future.  John, it's not just the platforms you're going to build for these windmills; it goes much more than that.  It's a fundamentally new approach to creating jobs that are not exportable, that pay a decent living union wage, and allow people to be able to turn to their kids and say, honey, it's going to be okay.  It's going to be okay.

I want to remind you of what -- President Obama and I have a simple proposition we both independently, and when we ran together, jointly talked about:  The measure of whether or not we succeed in economic growth is not whether the GDP increases; it's whether or not we increase the ranks of the middle class; it's whether or not we raise the living standard of middle-class workers.

I remind you, we had great economic growth in the end of the 19th century.  But guess what; they weren't decent-paying jobs.  So if we went out and created another 10 million jobs paying minimum wage, we would view that as a failure, a failure.  The middle class has been left behind.  It will not be left behind on our watch.  And a green economy is the automobile of the future.  It is the technology of the future. 

And so, folks, the economy and the environment, for the first time in my 37 years of holding high public office, they are the same shade of green.  We used to have those arguments, Bob, about whether or not by moving to a green economy we were going to cost ourselves jobs, cost ourselves economic opportunity.  Well, it's the opposite now.  We've reached that point, as I said earlier, that inflection point where jobs, economic growth, and the environment are the same shade of green, Gov.

And so I see firsthand everywhere I go -- a couple of weeks ago, as I said, I was at a transformer plant in Missouri, by the way, run by the UAW, putting people back to work as a consequence of building new wind farm projects out there in the central part of the state.  As a consequence of that order, because of the tax credits made available, they're building another new 100 windmills out there.  Guess what; they had to build these turbines.  I mean, they -- excuse me, had to build these transformers.  And it saved jobs, good-paying jobs.  So this, in a nutshell, is the story of the Recovery Act.

This is a story of how a new economy predicated on innovation, the environment, and efficiency is inspiring the kind of growth we need to build the 21st century to lead the world once again.  This is a story that stretches across Delaware, up and down our state, and throughout the entire country.  And it's a story we're writing together.  We've heard for years that a greener economy is going to benefit our grandkids -- and it will.  It clearly will.  But guess what.  It also will jumpstart our economy today.  That's the whole story. 

The whole story is that building a green economy is for us, as well as our children.  It's going to increase the bottom lines through greater efficiency, lower gas prices, reducing dependence on foreign oil, return America to it's rightful place as the leading edge of progress in the world.  And those of you who travel the world are saddened when you find out we're not viewed that way in so many other countries.  We plan on recapturing that. 

As we do all that, we're leaving men and women with jobs that cannot be exported; jobs that will form the foundation for this new economy; and jobs that they can keep forever.  This right here, right here, is how we're  going to rebuild the economy.  And this right here is how we'll quite literally begin to change the world.

So I want to thank the brilliant professors here, and the students here at the university for your innovative notions, and your willingness to plow into this for so long, for so many years; finally beginning to be rewarded; finally beginning to be listened to.

I want to thank the Governor for his leadership, and it's real; it’s genuine.  I want to thank the private sector for deciding that this is a place where we should be investing.  And I want to thank Ken Salazar and my colleagues in the Senate for being so supportive -- so supportive of this kind of leap. 

But I want to make it clear to you.  If all we do -- if all we do is create one wind farm out there -- if we don't, as a consequence of that, restore our steel plants; if we don't, as a consequence of that, restore jobs -- go through the numbers, and I will not take the time now -- if we do what we have at our disposal to do right here in Delaware, we're going to save tens of millions of dollars; we're going to create hundreds of good, durable, sustaining jobs, and we're going to lead the country in renewing our commitment to innovation and transforming this economy.  And I've always believed that's what this university had the capacity to be on the ground floor doing.  And, once again, you are, Mr. President.

So to all of you I say thank you.  God bless you for what you're doing.  And may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)