"This conference will seem unbelievably outdated within a decade," President George W. Bush today told participants at WIREC 2008, the third global ministerial-level conference on renewable energy, taking place at the Washington Convention Center. "People will marvel about how far technology has helped change our habits and change the world. And I hope you take great pride in being a part of this constructive change," he said.
"Let me start first by telling you that America has got to change its habits," said Bush. "We've got to get off oil. And the reason why is, first, oil is - dependency on oil presents a real challenge to our economy."
"The dependency upon oil also puts us at the mercy of terrorists. If there's tight supply and demand, all it requires is one terrorist disruption of oil and that price goes even higher," he said. "That dependency presents a challenge to our national security."
"And finally, our dependence on fossil fuels like oil presents a challenge to our environment. When we burn fossil fuels we release greenhouse gases. The concentration of greenhouse gases has increased substantially," said Bush. "We recognize all three of these challenges, and we're doing something about it."
The president explained the U.S. efforts on encourage development of biodiesel and ethanol, of solar and wind power, and of nuclear power. "We want our people to understand that this generation of nuclear power plants is safe. We want people to feel comfortable about the expansion of nuclear power," he said.
Bush told the conference audience that he supports an international agreement to limit the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming, but it "must include commitments, solid commitments, by every major economy, and no country should get a free ride."
The president announced no new initiatives today, but what was new in his speech was a strong verbal commitment to "deal with global climate change." On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told WIREC participants that their two agencies will invest up to $18.4 million, over three years, for 21 biomass research and development and demonstration projects.
Other countries have made major renewable energy pledges at WIREC. At the end of Tuesday, over 60 pledges had been submitted for the Washington International Action Program, a compilation of pledges from WIREC participants announcing domestic and international plans to accelerate the global uptake of renewable energy.
The Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, WIREC 2008, opened on March 4 and will continue through March 6. Close to 3,000 participants are registered for the ministerial meeting and 4,000 other participants are in attendance.