Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Says Government Can Help Clean Energy Innovation As he prepares for a conference on implementing clean energy to combat climate change, energy secretary Ernest Moniz says he's confident the Obama administration's commitments will remain in place.
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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Says Government Can Help Clean Energy Innovation

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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Says Government Can Help Clean Energy Innovation

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Says Government Can Help Clean Energy Innovation

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now it's time for our regular segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand stories we'll be hearing more about by parsing some of the words associated with them. This week, our word is ministerial. That's in reference to a conference happening this week in San Francisco. Energy ministers from 23 countries and the European Union are gathering for the Clean Energy Ministerial. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will be there for the ministerial, or as he calls it, the CEM, for its initials - C-E-M.

ERNEST MONIZ: C-E-M - Clean Energy Ministerial, right.

MARTIN: Yeah, that's not that catchy, I have to be honest.

ERNEST MONIZ: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I spoke to Secretary Moniz in advance of the week's meetings. He says the meeting is a way to follow up on last year's Paris climate accords. The idea is to encourage the global use of technologies that will save energy and reduce pollution.

ERNEST MONIZ: The CEM is promoting the expansive use of LED lighting across the world.

MARTIN: And, Secretary Moniz says, the meeting is also looking for ways to encourage businesses to adopt energy efficiency guidelines.

ERNEST MONIZ: What's called the ISO 50001 standard for energy efficiency in industry.

MARTIN: The secretary also told me that governments still have an important role to play in developing new environmentally friendly technologies.

ERNEST MONIZ: Absolutely, the - I think the government role is often undersold. For one thing, the basic science that underpins just about any technology development typically is developed through federal funding of research performed by universities, laboratories and our companies.

MARTIN: You know, on the consumer end what you hear people say - it's the cost, even with LED lighting. I mean, the upfront cost for consumers is still high. So I'm just wondering if there's some thought about or if part of this conference is making clean energy affordable enough to compete in the marketplace, especially for people who aren't just invested in the idea or who aren't rich.

ERNEST MONIZ: Well, I think we do have to recognize that in some of the technologies - like LEDs, like solar, like onshore wind - we have seen pretty remarkable cost reductions in the last six, seven years. And we have seen as well very substantial upticks in their deployment. LED costs have dropped probably 90 percent in the last six or seven years. And in solar, we have between 10 and 20 times as much deployment because costs have come down between 50 and 60 percent. So we're making a lot of progress. But I think that we still must focus on continuing deployment in the near term and continuing innovation for the longer term.

MARTIN: You know, I do have to ask because on Thursday, Donald Trump made his first policy address on energy and the environment, very much in the news. And this is what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of the United States' tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.

MARTIN: So Mr. Secretary, I understand you wouldn't want to get into partisan politics. But I do have a factual question to ask you, which is that - does the president actually have that authority at this point?

ERNEST MONIZ: While, first of all, let me reinforce the point that I will not comment on any candidate's position. But the Paris Agreement is not binding on targets. However, all the steps that have been taken are based upon existing authorities and following many-year processes spelled out in law to establish rules.

If any president wants to change those, they will have to go through the same multi-year process to alter those. And so those will go forward unless, again, a new president and a new Congress decide to redo the entire processes of rulemaking. And I do not believe that there would be a lot of success in that attempt. So I believe what President Obama has put in place will keep us on our trajectory to meeting our Paris commitments.

MARTIN: I understand that the meeting has not yet commenced, but I assume that you've been talking to your fellow ministers sort of all along. And I was just wondering what reaction - that you are getting as a representative of the United States in these talks to this kind of dialogue about canceling the United States' participation in it. Have you gotten any reaction to this so far?

ERNEST MONIZ: In this arena - the climate talks - and in other areas that the Department of Energy is engaged in very heavily - like nuclear security, for example - I would say the current dialogue in the United States is causing some concern and some queries, shall we say, of my fellow ministers across the world. But again, I think the important response is as we just discussed. Here's what we are doing. Here is what is in place. Here is what is going to stay in place going forward into the next administration.

MARTIN: That's Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. He joined us from his offices at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. just days before he embarks on the Clean Energy Ministerial, a conference happening in San Francisco this coming week. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for speaking with us.

ERNEST MONIZ: Well, thank you Michel. I'm pleased to be here.

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