Remarks at Energy Cooperation Event

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Diaoyutai Hotel
Beijing, China
April 13, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. It’s my great pleasure to be here tonight. I didn’t know I was rising; I thought I was descending, but that’s all right. (Laughter.) It’s a great pleasure for me to be here with a promise upfront: This will not be 45 minutes tonight. (Laughter.)

It is really an honor for me to be here today. Everything that we’re talking about here today represents the groundbreaking thinking that we need to embrace if we’re going to be serious about meeting our 21st century energy and environment challenges, and particularly if we are going to be serious about meeting the challenge of global climate change. It is a threat that not only reaches one nation or another; it’s global. And we are seeing the science of climate change come back to us now at a rate that is far faster and with far greater levels of damage than anything that scientists predicted 10, 15, 20 years ago. Every prediction that has been made is coming true, but coming true bigger and more dangerously.

So the responsibility for all of us to try to meet this challenge could not be more imperative than it is today, and I salute every single one of you who are part of this extraordinary U.S.-China energy cooperation and all of the departments you see here that have joined together. This is the best of international and government-to-government cooperation. And we’re going to try and grow that based on the conversations that I have had here today. I will have some announcements later this evening after we have had a chance to have dinner with the State Councilor that will cement our ability to raise this profile of this dialogue to an even higher level with a greater sense of urgency.

So I want to thank Councilor Yang Jiechi. Thank you very, very much for your leadership and for being here tonight to be part of this. I want to thank Vice Commissioner Wu. Thank you so much for your leadership. And Chairman Zhang, thank you so much for all you have done and the warm welcome. I do remember my speech here several years ago, though not well enough to repeat it all here right now, I promise you. (Laughter.)

My friends, why is this so important? China and the United States represent the world’s two biggest economies, we represent the world’s two largest consumers of energy, and we represent the two largest emitters of global greenhouse gasses. So if any two nations come to this table with an imperative for action, it is us. We are more than 50 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. And what the United States and China decide to do with respect to this, whatever energy initiative we embrace together, whatever steps we take hand-in-hand, though the steps may be different, they nevertheless will contribute to our global efforts. But most importantly, the two largest economies in the world will send a signal to the world about how serious we are about this.

Let me say to all of you: The marketplace that created the great wealth of the 1990s, where every single taxpayer of America saw their income go up, was a $1 trillion market with one billion users. The energy market that we are talking about here today, the energy market of the future, is a $6 trillion market with five billion users today and growing to perhaps nine billion users over the next 40 years. This is the largest of all markets every imagined on the face of this planet.

And so those who see this future today and begin to reach for the alternative and renewable and controlled fossil fuel burning are those who are really going to be at the forefront of defining the economy of the future. I want to say that I’m really happy to see so many American and Chinese representatives here from cross disciplines. We have people here form government, we have people here from the private sector, we have people here from civil society. And I know one of the co-sponsors is the Environmental Defense Fund. We also have the Global Environmental Institute, the Nature Conservancy. And all of those partnerships are essential to being able to make this transition.

Let me just say very quickly, the progress that we are making through this partnership really needs to be celebrated here today. And that’s why Minister Yang and I came here together, because we want to make it clear that this is the way we are taking things from the drawing board and putting it out into the marketplace and into the grid. And together, this initiative, the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program, has already taken real steps that have produced a real difference, ideas like the sustainable aviation biofuel project. In 2010, fuel for airplanes made up almost 6 percent of all the total oil consumption of the planet, so bringing down our carbon emissions calls for us to be able to develop fossil fuels and enhance the efficiency of airplanes. The biofuel project took this head on and it put both American and Chinese technology together with the result that by 2011 China successfully conducted its first ever demonstration flight of a jet using biofuel instead of jet fuel. That’s just one example.

Our businesses have successfully partnered to test-drive the smart grid technology that China and the United States will need as we introduce more renewable energy into the electricity mix. For the United States, I can tell you this is an imperative. We have an east coast grid, we have a west coast grid, we have a Texas grid, and then we have a tiny line that goes across the north of the country from Chicago out to the Dakotas. The entire center of the country is hollow. You can’t send clean energy from the wind farms of Minnesota or Iowa to the south, and you can’t send solar thermal energy from Arizona and Colorado to the north and to the cold country. That is absurd in the year 2013. And the building of that, the creation of that kind of a grid, represents an enormous number, literally in the millions, of jobs to be created.

But we also need to recognize that in China they face immediate energy demands. Coal is an important component, but coal is perhaps one of the dirtiest fuels – not perhaps, is – and therefore you need to be able to burn the coal but burn it as cleanly as possible. That’s another technology that because of this initiative has been worked on. There are now efforts to reduce at 10 coal plants in Shandong province, and soon we hope these kinds of solutions can be applied to power plants all across China.

China’s leaders recognize – we’ve seen important statements from the State Councilor, from the President, from the Premier – all of them are embracing the fact that China needs to clean its air for its own citizens. And so this imperative is growing.

The innovations that we have developed through the energy cooperation program are the kind of critical immediate innovations that are going to make us take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity that is staring us in the face. Really, it’s more than an opportunity; it’s an imperative.

So let me just say, in 2001, Chinese companies invested in just one energy-related deal in the United States of America, and that energy deal was a $1 million deal. By last year, China had more than 70 energy deals with investments in the United States valued at almost $9 billion. That is a change that anybody with a simple calculator has an ability to understand the meaning of. It’s vital to our economies and vital to this transformation.

There is a huge plus to building efficiencies, to fleet vehicle efficiencies, to different kinds of efficiencies within government buildings, other things that all can be done by executive decision, they don’t require an international treaty. And those are some of the kinds of things that China and the United States are going to try to decide together we can take to show leadership to the world.

So I’d just close by telling you this. I’ve never forgotten it. In the 1970s when I was a law student and I was spending two hours or three hours in a gas line studying my torts and criminal law while I was waiting to fill up with gas because of the gas crisis, a Saudi Arabian oil minister said something that has always stuck in my mind. He said, “The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones, and the oil age is not going to end because we run out of oil.” It’s going to end because of the innovation that is taking place here and because people come to understand the beauty and the power of a marketplace of $6 trillion today and growing, of all of these billions of people who need to be brought into modernity through modern energy systems. That, my friends, is a goal worth fighting for and it’s something that I look forward to working with China to hopefully set an example for to the rest of the world.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/T03-14