Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke this morning at the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee’s Green Jobs Summit in the Russell Caucus Room, where he introduced Vice President Biden. The audience included CEOs of renewable and clean energy businesses from around the country that have been nominated by Democratic Senate offices, several Fortune 500 company leaders, labor union representatives, environmental leaders, renewable energy trade association representatives, and community college presidents. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“It is significant that we are here this morning to talk about creating jobs by investing in clean energy, because just moments ago we learned that the Nevada unemployment rate hit a record high of 11.3 percent.
“This summit, your ideas and your commitment represent America’s willingness to confront the enormous challenges that test us today and those that await us in the days to come. The energy you bring to Washington will help fuel our future and put our nation on the path to prosperity, and I thank you for your hard work.
“This is not the first time Americans have gathered on June 17 to declare our dedication to securing our future. More than 230 years ago today, the Battle of Bunker Hill began. The first major battle of the Revolutionary War, it was not only one of the defining episodes of that critical contest, but also a defining moment for the American spirit.
“The Americans’ makeshift militia was outnumbered by Europe’s mightiest army – and by the end of that day, June 17, the colonials had conceded ground to the Redcoats. But the Americans had put up a fierce and a fearless fight, and they had inflicted almost three times as many casualties as they suffered.
“Though the British came away from that battle with Bunker Hill, the Americans came away with the confidence that their enemy was not invincible. They learned that they possessed the power to put a dent in a daunting foe – the power to effect change. Throughout the Revolution, they drew inspiration from that battle.
“Today we are firing the first shots of a clean energy revolution. Today we are besieged by a century’s worth of energy policies that have endangered our environment and a decade’s worth of economic policies that have endangered the middle class. We find before us the intimidating inheritance of the past few years, and are just beginning to fight back.
“You know as well as I do that victory in that fight will hinge on how we confront the climate and energy crises in our country and around the world.
“Every day, more Americans learn that they can no longer count on the paycheck they need every week. They learn not just that they have lost the income that helps them feed their family or fight off foreclosure, but that they have been denied a principal part of the American dream.
“The good news is that we already have the tools at our fingertips to create new jobs. We already have the cutting-edge technology and American-made ingenuity and innovation we need to tap the enormous potential right in our own backyard.
“Renewable energy is everywhere you look – from the bright sun that beats down on the West, to the wind that blows over the Rockies, through the Great Plains and around the Great Lakes. From the water that powers electricity in Northwest and off our coasts, to the biomass that grows in the Southeast. Capturing just one week of the sunshine in my state of Nevada could provide enough energy to power every car and every truck in the United States for one year.
“Harnessing that energy through green jobs can help our economy bloom once again. The work you so diligently do plants the seeds of that growth.
“But just as this crisis was not created in a day, recovery will not happen overnight. As the Patriots learned at Bunker Hill, victory may not come at the end of a single battle. But like them, we are encouraged by how far we have come – and we reaffirm our commitment to see this revolution through until we achieve energy independence.
“We have made unprecedented investments in clean, renewable energy and new, green jobs that can never be outsourced.
“In 2007 we passed a landmark energy bill that led to the development of clean, renewable fuels here at home, and the creation of critical American manufacturing jobs. We raised fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in a generation, and set new energy-efficiency standards for lighting, appliances, and federal office buildings and vehicles.
“In the economic recovery plan we passed this year, we invested $67 billion to develop clean energy, and $500 million more to train a new “green-collar” workforce – Americans who each day will make our nation more energy efficient and energy independent.
“Along the parallel paths to prosperity and energy independence, we remain far closer to the starting line than the finish. We have much more road to travel, but a strong plan to guide us.
“Our budget outlines our priorities for the next year, including creating even more green jobs; further reducing our dependence on oil; and encouraging investments in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.
“We will create a new, clean-energy economy from coast to coast, in rural and urban areas alike. I have written an energy transmission bill that will create jobs by developing clean energy in the remote areas where it is most readily available and sending it to the major population centers around the country where it is most needed. Some of its most important components are now in the Senate Committee bill.
“As we reduce the pollution that poisons our cities, we will create jobs for local workers to install solar panels, upgrade utilities, and make homes and buildings more energy efficient. With the teamwork of federal, state, local and labor leaders, we will revive and revise the manufacturing base in our cities to build the supply chain for renewable energy technology.
“This year we will renew our fight for a national Renewable Energy Standard, one that will create new industries, new technologies and new jobs – and save consumers money in the process.
“And I look forward to working with President Obama, Vice President Biden and my colleagues in Congress to pass a bill this year that will reduce our dependence on oil, curb global warming, and give families and businesses tax incentives to be more energy efficient.
“It may be the most difficult issue we tackle this year, but it also may be the most important legislation we will ever pass.
“We no longer have the luxury of leaving these problems for tomorrow. John F. Kennedy – who announced his candidacy for the presidency in this very room and whose courageous vision helped America corral the great challenges of his time – warned against putting off the difficult decisions of change. ‘We would like to live as we once lived,’ he said, ‘but history will not permit it.’
“If we do not start today to create the jobs of tomorrow, those jobs will surface on others’ shores. Though we innovate, invest and invent, we already trail competing countries in the global economy.
“Only a handful of the world’s top solar, wind and advanced battery manufacturers call the United States home. China’s investment in clean energy is twice our own. And though my state of Nevada has the potential to be the Saudi Arabia of solar energy, countries like China, Japan and Germany dominate that market today.
“Our nation’s founders did not wait around when their time for revolution came, and in today’s clean energy revolution, neither can we.
“The day after Bunker Hill, Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John, from their home just miles south of that battlefield. It was one of the many letters the couple would exchange as they recorded our nation’s earliest hours. Mrs. Adams said of the previous day, June 17: ‘Perhaps the decisive day is come on which the fate of America depends.’
“Today is another decisive day. Will we recapture the American spirit and unleash it to put families back to work, reduce global warming and make us safer? Will we see this budding clean energy revolution all the way through? Or will we continue to ignore the warning signs, repeat the mistakes of the past, and leave to our children an even more dangerous economy and environment?
“In the 21st century, it is that decision on which the fate of America depends.
“The Senate is fortunate to have a strong partner and a good friend down the street as we make the hard decisions at this time in our history.
“Vice President Biden’s record in the Senate will stand the test of time. He chaired some of our most powerful committees and served longer in the chamber than all but 13 men in America’s history.
“He was a model Senator, and every important law that passed through the Senate over the past three and a half decades bears his fingerprints. But he was also a model citizen when it came to reducing his carbon footprint. Taking the train every night from Washington to his beloved Wilmington, and then back again the next morning, he did more than just talk about energy efficiency – he lived it.
“No one did more than Vice President Biden to support and improve the passenger rail system that creates jobs and keeps our air cleaner – from the Amtrak route along the East Coast on which he has spent countless hours to the high-speed rail projects being developed today that will connect Las Vegas and Southern California.
“In this clean-energy revolution, there is no one we would rather have on our side as we create green jobs and revive our economy than Vice President Biden. It is my honor to introduce the Vice President of the United States of America.”