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PR- 322-08
August 19, 2008


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, speaking at the 2008 National Clean Energy Summit hosted by Senator Harry Reid, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, today announced New York City's first steps toward developing new sources of renewable energy, including off-shore windfarms. The New York City Economic Development Corporation, on behalf of the City, today released a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) that will call for innovative ideas to help New York City develop sources of renewable energy. In addition to off-shore windfarms, these ideas could involve wind turbines on top of New York City's bridges and skyscrapers and the generation of tidal power, solar power and geothermal energy. Responses to the RFEI are due September 19.

The text of Mayor Bloomberg's keynote speech as prepared follows. Please check against delivery.

"Thank you, Harry. I want to congratulate you, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and our hosts, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, on this very successful conference. It's an even hotter ticket than Cher at Caesar's Palace, even if our costumes are a bit more modest.

"This is the right meeting - with the right people - and in the right place. This is a city where people really love 'green.'  In fact, they want to leave town with as much of it as possible - in their wallets. Although I should point out that at the roulette tables, betting on green is a risky proposition. In the real world, green is the only safe bet, for America's and indeed the entire planet's future.

"Just five years ago last week - on August 14th, 2003 - this country got an object lesson in how big a gamble we're taking with our future if we don't change course. About four o'clock that afternoon, the power suddenly went off for 50 million people across the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. That included my city, New York. And as New York's mayor, I'll never forget what happened that day. Fortunately, because our first responders were well-trauined and well-equipped, they rescued hundreds of people who were trapped in high-rise elevators all over town without incident. Thousands more were evacuated from stalled subway trains through dark and sweltering tunnels. Hospitals, that were prepared for such an event, hurriedly switched to emergency back-up generators to keep respirators and other life-saving equipment running with, I'm happy to say, virtually no failures.

"That evening, the Great White Way - otherwise known as Broadway - went dark. Flights in and out of our three airports came to a halt, and traffic on our streets came to a standstill. Telephone and cell phone service was seriously disrupted. For roughly 24 hours, the greatest city on earth stopped doing business, educating our youth and entertaining our visitors. I might also point out, during that period, our already low crime rate plummeted. The people of New York, even the so-called 'criminal element,' pulled together and made it work.

"I was proud of the way that New Yorkers pulled through that crisis - by pulling together. Still, as the blackout hit that afternoon, the same thought raced through the minds of many New Yorkers: Had we been struck by terrorists?  It was, after all, less than two years after 9/11. But instead we learned that this time, the enemy was us and our failure to take care of our infrastructure. Let me tell you how the biggest blackout in the history of our nation happened. Power lines in Ohio became overloaded. They sagged. They touched some tree branches. They shorted out, and then they started a power failure that cascaded across thousands of square miles after a matter of minutes. The world's greatest nation was shown to have a power grid that was seriously over-strained and out-of-date.

"Now, fast-forward five years to today. In those five years, the population of the United States has grown by roughly ten million people. Demand for electricity, as you can see outside this building up and down the Strip, has kept climbing, too. And our power grid? Since then, a handful of steps, in all fairness have been taken to improve reliability. But the fact remains that in their last 'report card' on our infrastructure three years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers still gave the nation's electricity grid a 'D.' And we haven't even started do enough since then to prepare the grid for the challenges of transporting the vast new supplies of clean, renewable power that our nation needs.

"Right now, energy is the number one issue in America. Anyone who's filled up a gas tank recently can tell you that. And we ought to be getting a real debate on our energy future from our major Presidential candidates. Instead, sadly, they're treating us to a political silly season, with one candidate calling for opening up the nation's strategic oil reserves and the other for giving the federal gasoline tax the summer off. For shame--the best that can be said about those ideas is that they're pandering. Far worse, they're distractions from the deadly serious business of creating a new national energy policy.

"Recently, I had dinner with a UN ambassador from one of the Persian Gulf states who described in great detail the massive investments his nation is making in developing alternative energy sources so they won't be dependent on 'foreign oil' when theirs runs out. Think about that. Who turns the world upside down? We should be doing that too. That should be what our government is doing and what our candidates are talking about. Not just clean energy planning and production but also conservation, transmission, and every element of our energy needs. In other words, we need a unified vision of our energy future and how to implement it - which, when, what, where. Which industries will win and which will lose? When, how and who will pay for it? What must we give up to get it? Where - whose backyard will provide the space and resources?

To some extent, in New York we've tried to do what we can at a local level. We call what we've created PlaNYC - our 'greenprint' for the city's sustainable future. Because New York - like cities across the nation - is filling the leadership vacuum that Washington has left. And by the way, I'm talking about the real New York - not the one over on The Strip, with the fake skyline, the fake Statue of Liberty and the fake Brooklyn Bridge. (I think I even saw a fake Naked Cowboy.)

"In the real New York, we're keeping it real with a PlaNYC that lays out a comprehensive energy policy to clean our city's air, green our environment, and fuel our economy, too.

"The first key element of that policy is energy conservation. In New York, we're determined to do what no other city has ever even attempted: Keep our energy usage at or near its current level even as our population grows. As an example to the private sector, I hope to embarrass the Federal government - if that's possible - our Administration has mapped out a plan to reduce our own energy consumption by our own City agencies 30 percent by the year 2017.

"We'll do that by investing heavily in making our schools, hospitals, police and fire stations - all of our City facilities - more energy-efficient. We estimate that all the City's conservation investments will take an estimated 220-megawatt bite out of New York's peak power demand. And within five years, they'll have paid for themselves. After that, they'll be money-makers. 

"In fact, the bottom line of all our PlaNYC energy initiatives is that they will put hundreds of dollars a year back into the budgets of households in our city within a matter of a few years. That's not a short-term fix at the gas pump; that's real money over the long haul.

"Then, at the same time, to help private building owners to conserve, we'll soon roll out proposed new City laws and regulations that will require new levels of transparency about energy use in commercial buildings. They will give the market the accurate information it needs to put a real value on energy efficiency. And they'll require cost-effective retrofits of our existing larger buildings.

"We're also joining cities across the nation in working for new building code standards to dramatically increase energy efficiency in new homes and businesses. But no matter how much cities and states do, we need Washington, because conservation is country- and global-wide. This has to be a national priority. It's time for Washington to step up to the plate, too. Congress can take the right first step when it returns to work next month, by funding Federal "energy conservation block grants" for the nation's cities. That way, more cities across the nation can do the kinds of things that we're doing in New York. Senators from both parties, including our host Harry Reid - and mayors from coast to coast - support this idea. Now let's make it happen.

"Conservation alone isn't enough. We also need to dramatically step up the production of clean energy for our growing city and economy. For example, I believe that we've got to be willing to do what some other nations - such as France - have already done, and increase our capacity of safe and clean nuclear-generated power.

"We also have to accept that a lot of alternative power projects now on the drawing boards won't produce their first kilowatts of electricity for many years. But we still have to reach into our own pockets now, or our children won't have the benefits 10 to 15 years in the future. Also, by building new plants using cleaner fuels and state-of-the-art technology, and by modernizing our existing power plants, some of which in New York now burn highly polluting oil, we can begin generating cleaner power right away. Taking both these steps will substantially improve energy efficiency, reduce pollution, and shrink output of greenhouse gases. That's why they are big items on our PlaNYC energy agenda.

"You may find it interesting that generating more renewable power is a real priority for New York, too. And it's on its way. In June, we won a big legislative victory, persuading our State government to let us grant property tax breaks that encourage private building owners to go solar. And the State also okayed a proposal we backed that will permit New Yorkers who generate their own solar power to sell what they don't use to other power customers - a real economic incentive for renewable energy. By this time next year, we'll have more than doubled the amount of solar power produced in New York City, by installing new solar panels at schools and other City government buildings. We're also quickly becoming a national leader in co-generating power at major residential and commercial developments.

"But that's just the beginning. Today, we're taking a step that will really kick alternative energy production into high gear in the Big Apple. It's a 'Request for Expressions of Interest' that's going out to firms with strong track records in producing renewable energy. We want their best ideas for creating both small- and large-scale projects serving New Yorkers.

"Such projects might, for example, be designed to draw power from the tides of the Hudson and East Rivers - something we're already doing on a pilot basis. They might call for dramatically increasing rooftop solar power production, which we've estimated could meet nearly 20 percent of the City's need for electricity. They could tap into geothermal energy. In fact, some private home and building owners have already drilled their own 'heat wells.' Or perhaps companies will want to put windfarms atop our bridges and skyscrapers, or use the enormous potential of powerful off-shore winds miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, where turbines could generate roughly twice the energy that land-based windfarms can. Windfarms located far off our shores, some evidence shows, could meet 10 percent of our city's electricity needs within a decade.

"More than 100 years ago, a new statue standing tall in New York Harbor gave our nation its greatest symbol of freedom. In this century, that freedom is being undermined by dependence on foreign oil. So I think it would be a thing of beauty if, when Lady Liberty looks out on the horizon, she not only welcomes new immigrants, but lights their way with a torch powered by an ocean windfarm.

"Right now, I can't tell you exactly what any such projects might look like. But I can tell you this: In New York, we don't think of alternative power as something that we just import from other parts of the nation.  America's energy efficiency and energy security are our business, too. So when it comes to producing clean power, we're determined to make New York the number one city in the nation.

"When it comes to producing clean power, we can also make America the number one nation in the world. T. Boone Pickens, who spoke here earlier today, has it right. The Great Plains are the potential Saudi Arabia of wind power. Harry Reid has it right, too. If we stepped up production of solar power in the desert Southwest, it could go a long way to meeting the entire nation's demand for electricity. We can make that happen - if we get serious about research and development, and if we upgrade our power infrastructure. Those are both big 'ifs' - but realizing them both is within our reach.

"Now, when it comes to 'R&D,' the first thing we can do is a no-brainer. Along with approving those energy conservation block grants, Congress also needs to immediately extend renewable energy tax credits. That will incentivize alternative power projects and foster investment in renewable energy R&D. It's been estimated that this one action alone will spur $11 billion in investments and create 75,000 green-collar jobs.

"Then there's the proverbial elephant in the room: Putting a price on carbon emissions. Our national policy should be that energy that relies on heavily polluting fuels and out-dated technology should be more expensive than clean and efficient power - to reflect its true health and environmental costs. Such a policy would make alternative fuels more cost-competitive - a major shot in the arm for their future, and ours. And any system that puts a price on carbon emissions should also fund R&D for clean power and energy efficiency. Some want a cap-and-trade system, which is like taking three right turns instead of one left. I favor a carbon tax, which is the only thing that will work corruption-free and do the job we need done. But it is in all fairness hard to see the courage we need to implement it. Nevertheless, we have to do something - and not just the usual cosmetics.

"Finally, there's the issue that I started my remarks with: The need to upgrade our power transmission system - not just to ensure its reliability, but also to carry wind and solar power from out here in the West to markets across the nation. Doing that won't be cheap, or easy. The Department of Energy estimates that generating 20 percent of the nation's electricity with wind power by the year 2030 would require investing $60 billion in our transmission infrastructure.

"Unfortunately, we're having to play catch-up - the result of an all-too-familiar pattern of neglect of our nation's vital infrastructure. The Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and I have put together a group called Building America's Future to urge Congress and the President to face the crisis. You can see that crisis in the deplorable state of many of our airports and rail systems. You can see it in our power grid, too. Because for more than 20 years, from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, even as America's demand for power increased, the amount invested in transmission lines fell by half. The blackout that hit New York and the Northeast five years ago was a wake-up call that it was time to change course and fast. The good news is that investment in transmission lines is up. And it will have to keep going up if we're going to keep pace with a peak demand for power that some have estimated will grow by more than 17 percent over the next ten years.

"There's more to this problem than just dollars and cents. There's the regulatory delay involved in getting new projects approved. There are the perennial cries of 'not in my backyard,' which have stymied efforts to bring new power lines into New York City, which Governor Schwarzenegger is contending with in California, and which hold up transmission projects in every state in between.

"I'm not saying that siting transmission lines is simple. I know that such projects have to be done right. I know that private property interests have to be respected and our environment has to be protected. But I know this, too: The interstate highway system we built 50 years ago improved our national security and prosperity. And today, a new power grid throughout the nation will do the same things.

"If you want renewable energy to power America, then we need more transmission. Or, if you want more nuclear energy, which I believe our nation also should have, we need more transmission. If you want more plug-in hybrid cars, we need more transmission. If you want to stop poisoning the air with coal-burning power plants, then we need more transmission. If, as Boone Pickens has put it, you want to stop financing the war against ourselves, to quit putting money in the hands of people who, if they are not our enemies may well not be our friends, then we need more transmission. If you want our nation to have energy efficiency and energy security, then guess what? We need more transmission.

"Life is about choices. It's about setting priorities, and solving problems. It's about not making the perfect the enemy of the good. And especially in this election year, it's about doing what's right for America's future.

"So in that spirit, let's take the fantastic energy from this summit - and make sure that this time, what has happened in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. Let's unleash the greatest natural resources America has. Not just our sun, our wind, our tides and our untapped geothermal power. But also our optimism, our creativity and our commitment to creating a better world for all our children.

"If we make the right choices now, if we get serious about the comprehensive national energy plan that this conference has done such a great job of pointing America towards, then Boone Pickens's bold plans to generate wind power on our vast Great Plains and the wealth of clean solar power that Harry Reid and others know can be produced here in the sun-washed Southwest will benefit all Americans. They'll bring hundreds of thousands of 'green collar' jobs to our nation's heartland. They'll free utility companies in the Midwest from their reliance on the coal that pollutes our air and clouds our future. They'll give the people of New York and the Northeast the reliable and renewable power we need. They'll make America a leader in preventing global climate disaster and in saving our planet for our children.

"Free enterprise will help us meet those goals because our incomparable free enterprise system is based on the power of the marketplace. For too long, however, the market for energy has been skewed. Because we haven't been honest about the true costs of dirty energy, we've endangered our health, polluted our air, undermined our national security, and, now, threatened the future of our world. If we were honest with ourselves about these ignored but all-too real costs, the price of these dirty fuels would be vastly higher. If we were honest, the marketplace today - not ten years from now, but today - would make solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative fuels cost-effective and economically viable.

"Are we honest enough to see that? Are we committed enough to a true and principled market system? Are we independent enough to change a failed status quo, and create a better future?

"The choice is ours. The time is now.

"Thank you very much, and God bless you all."


Stu Loeser / Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

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