Obama wants America to lead in green energy
President Obama, in a much anticipated speech on clean technology, praised the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and state officials for advancing technologies and policies that will yield big benefits for the environment.
Speaking for about 20 minutes today at MIT's Kresge Audtiorium, Obama described the school as a leader in the development of alternative energy technologies, and he spoke of "the extraordinary energy research being conducted at this institute: windows that generate electricity by directing light to solar cells; lightweight high-power batteries that aren't built but are grown - that was neat stuff. Engineering viruses to create batteries; more efficient lighting systems that rely on nanotechnology; innovative engineering that will make it possible for offshore wind power plants to deliver electricity even when the air is still."
According to the White House, Obama's speech was designed to challenge Americans to lead the global economy in green energy.
"Even in the darkest of times this nation has seen, it has always sought a brighter horizon," said Obama, adding that countries around the world are "engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century."
"The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy," he said. "I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation. Itís that simple."
Obama, who was also in town to campaign for Governor Deval L. Patrick, named the governor, US Senator John F. Kerry, and US Representative Edward J. Markey as leaders in the pursuit of clean energy.
Patrick has made green issues a priority, and many Massachusetts academic institutions and businesses are pursuing so-called clean energy technologies. MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are among 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers established earlier this year with federal stimulus funding. MIT is "the epicenter of the technological renewable revolution that will be deployed around the country and around the world in the years ahead," Markey said in an interview before Obama's speech.
Markey, a Malden Democrat, is a cosponsor of the proposed Waxman-Markey bill to set emission standards to help combat global climate change. He credited Patrick for making so-called "green issues" a priority in Massachusetts.
Shortly after coming into office, Patrick made Massachusetts part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state coalition that seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by making power plants pay for pollution they emit above a certain cap. Last year, Patrick signed five pieces of environmental legislation. State officials said Massachusetts is on track to be able to produce roughly 70 megawatts of power from wind and solar energy by the end of Patrick's first term, 10 times more than when he came into office.
The Patrick Administration has touted a number of companies in the state that are working on alternative energy technologies. One is A123 Systems of Watertown, which received a $249.1 million grant from the federal energy department to build a factory in Michigan to make lithium ion batteries for use in electric vehicles.
Cyril Opeil, a Jesuit priest and a Boston College physicist who is working on a solar project with one of the centers at MIT, said he feels Obama's speech at MIT signals the president's understanding of how important scientific research is to fixing the nation's environmental problems.
"He knows that in the past great things have come out of MIT, and I think what he is doing is called upon people who know the challenges, who know the possibilities," Opeil said.