washington post live's Energy Is Urgent conference

From panelists, many calls to action

President Obama has pledged to end America┬┐s dependence on foreign oil and his administration is spending billions on greener energy initiatives. Few issues are considered more urgent by the White House and average Americans than securing affordable and more environmentally friendly energy sources.
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

"If you want more clean, reliable and cheap electricity in large amounts, you build nuclear power plants. . . . I mean, China is building a new nuclear power plant every three months. . . . If we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the single best way to do that is to electrify half our cars and trucks. . . .

"In 10 years, I think it will be that the utilities and the electric distributors have found a way to put to use the single greatest untapped resource we have in the country, which is all the unused electricity at night. And it will be used by, one, electric cars that are plugged in at night; and two, water heaters that are plugged at night."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

"When President Nixon was president, only 36 percent of the oil that we used was imported oil. Today, under President Obama, it's 63 percent.

"I think everyone knows it has gone up, but to go up from 36 percent to 63 percent is alarming, to say the least. . . . We are in danger of losing the race to develop alternative energy sources and technology. In the year 2001, China contributed just 1 percent of the global solar panels. Today, China has 46 percent of the market for solar panels. . . .

"The president needed to inspire the country with a long-term goal of becoming energy independent 10 years from now and then setting out a specific plan. . . . What happened instead is the president did convene a couple of bipartisan meetings at the White House -- I attended both of them -- but there was no follow-up."

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D)

"I think we ought to have a 20 percent renewable energy standard, drive our country -- as others are -- towards more wind and more solar energy production. It just makes sense. That ought to be the minimum we do by the end of this year. We understand how unbelievably vulnerable this country is with 60 or 65 percent of our oil coming from outside of our country. That's why we have to produce more here. Conservation is critically important, efficiency is very important, and it's why we come back to these issues of moving towards electric cars, moving towards a renewable electricity standard. . . . Every garage in America with a plug-in is a filling station, and if we can move in that direction aggressively, we will have done something important for our country."

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)

"I think (the Senate) agenda over there is held hostage by Kentucky coal and Oklahoma oil. I just think it's a small number of senators representing coal and oil that do not want us to reach comprehensive legislation because their industries feel threatened by new technologies moving forward. . . .

"China is eating our breakfast and moving on to our lunch and dinner in the renewable energy field. They produced 45 percent of all the solar panels last year, and they exported 95 percent of them. That's their target. America does not have a plan. If America has a plan, we win. . . .

"Can I just say there already is a tax on carbon; the tax is imposed by OPEC. And when it does go back up to $144 a barrel, which it will when the global recession is over, we will, as American taxpayers, at the pump, be sending that money as a tax to countries all around the world. . . ."

Ian Somerhalder Actor ("Lost" and "The Vampire Diaries") and environmental activist with nearly 350,000 followers on Twitter

"The youth of this country are listening. They're aware. They're educating themselves. . . . This article goes out, and say there's even three-quarters of a million kids on their way to school and they read this thing, and it might have little or no effect, or it might have a profound effect on them throughout the day. . . . Whether you're reading Foreign Affairs and then watching Fox News, whether you're reading The Economist and then reading the Huffington Post . . . taking that information and being inspired by it or moved by it or angered by it . . . and making it cool to share with people who the worst part of their day is that Jackie kissed Kevin in second period. "

David J. Hayes Deputy secretary of the Department of Interior

"We had three days a week in the situation room, the deputy secretaries from all affected agencies working on this. . . . The intensity of the effort is hard to explain and convey, but that is the one point I want to leave as we continue on the discussion. I think that's going to be an important legacy as we look ahead: that when these small-probability, big-impact events occur, we have got to be ready for them. . . .

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