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Remarks at Townhall Meeting, University of Indonesia Depok Campus, Jakarta, Indonesia

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Remarks at Townhall Meeting, University of Indonesia Depok Campus, Jakarta, Indonesia

Related remarks at American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia

Thank you, Tan Tia, for the kind introduction. 

And I want to thank the University of Indonesia for hosting this meeting, and the students and professors for joining us today.

I’m honored to be speaking at this beautiful and prestigious university. 

The University of Indonesia has a rich history of academic excellence. 

It has produced more than 400,000 alumni whose influence has been felt across many disciplines throughout the world.

This university’s influence is truly global, as it has cooperative programs with many foreign universities and a strong commitment to seeking solutions to global challenges. 

Today, I want to talk about the biggest of those challenges.

A few years ago, the late Nobel prize-winning chemist Richard Smalley began giving lectures around the world identifying the top 10 global problems of the next 50 years. 

Dr. Smalley highlighted:

  • Access to water, food and education;
  • The problems of poverty, overpopulation, terrorism and disease; and
  • Issues of education and democracy. 

But there was one issue that he believed trumped all the others: Energy. 

Dr. Smalley said that

If you imagined a world where the energy problem was solved, you would find that at least five of the nine remaining problems on the list now had a path to a reasonable answer. In the absence of solving the energy problem, it’s not clear there is an acceptable answer at all.

So, what exactly is our “energy problem?”

To begin with, we need more of it – a lot more. 

By mid-century, global energy use is likely to double.   

To meet that demand, we’d have to turn on two new 1,000-megawatt power plants every single week for the next 30 years. 

But we’re not looking for any old kind of energy.   

This new energy has to be clean to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

And it has to be cheap to keep our economies growing.

Meanwhile, we’ll need to do more than just find massive quantities of energy.  In the next few decades, we need to rebuild and reinvent virtually every industrial activity, from power generation and transportation to manufacturing and construction. . .

. . . to run efficiently and economically with drastically reduced carbon output.

When you look at it in these terms, it's clear that the rapid deployment of clean energy and efficiency technologies is at once the most important and the most daunting challenge facing the world today.

But it is also one of our biggest opportunities.

I believe the development of the clean energy and energy efficiency technologies that we need to curb greenhouse gas emissions could help put millions of our people to work in high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Worldwide, energy is a $6 trillion market and the fastest-growing sector is of the cleaner, greener kind. 

The potential for new business and new job creation is simply enormous.

That is why this week I have come to Indonesia, along with 10 American companies that represent the best the country has to offer in the areas of clean energy, energy efficiency, and electricity storage, transmission and distribution.

Both Indonesia and the United States can benefit from cooperating on clean energy development.

Currently, renewable energy provides only seven percent of Indonesia’s energy, mostly from hydropower and geothermal.  

But the Indonesian government has pledged to more than double that by 2025.  

The U.S. companies with me already possess cutting-edge technologies that can help Indonesia meet its ambitious energy efficiency goals while also spurring the creation of new jobs here and in the United States.

But it is also important to remember that many of the technologies needed to successfully cope with climate change and carbon reduction simply don’t exist yet.

It could be next-generation biofuels, modular nuclear reactors or electric cars charged by a smart electricity grid that completely changes the way the world uses energy.

It could be all of the above.  Or it could be other innovations that we haven’t even thought of yet.

That’s where the students, researchers and the scientists of the University of Indonesia come in.

The United States, Indonesia and the entire world are counting on bright, motivated people like all of you to discover these new energy technologies. 

And although our energy problems are daunting, they do have solutions.

And many of them can be solved with the science, math and engineering skills that you learn here every day.

The budding blooms in the University of Indonesia symbol are said to be precursors of a new branch of science developed to meet the needs of a new age.

With your talent, your creativity and your ingenuity, you can be a leader in the effort to combat climate change.  And certainly, the University’s green campus initiative – with its focus on global warming – will be an important catalyst for action.

You can be the innovators and entrepreneurs that help us build a 21st century, clean energy economy. 

It is my sincere hope – as I’m sure it is your professors’ – that you will seize that opportunity.

In the meantime, I know you probably have plenty of questions for me, which I will be happy to answer.