A Vision For California And America: Green Technology Is The Next Big Thing

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 00:00

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business on October 29, 2009. The full text of the speech may be seen at http://gov.ca.gov/speech/13766/.

One thing that I have been trying to do ever since I've gotten into government is the same thing that businesses do, which corporate CEOs must address all the time, and that is to create a vision, a vision for where you want to take your organization. And the same is true when you run a state. You have to create a vision of where you're going to take the state, because decisions have to be made that are short-term decisions, but then other decisions have to be long-term decisions. What kind of - how do we create safe and reliable water, for instance, in California for 30, 40, 50 years from now?

So it was very important, and this is to create a vision that is important for the future of the state. And my vision, of course, always was, how do we pump up the economy and pump up the environment at the same time? And this is something I want to talk to you about here today.

As you know, in the 20th century wealth and prosperity were fueled by what today would be considered dirty oil, dirty steel, dirty cars, dirty factories. Now, we had millions of workers and investors that were supporting those industries and they prospered. But that century is gone, and what we have learned is that it took a tremendous toll on our environment.

But now we face a moment in history where we can begin to reverse actually the damage and to create a new economic foundation for the 21st century, a foundation that is built on clean fuel, on clean cars, on clean factories and on clean energy. And of course this is not going to happen from one year to the next. It will take maybe a decade, maybe it takes two decades.

We have before us an incredible economic opportunity. What many people don't recognize is that climate change is not just about climate, but it is also about business opportunities. It is about who will be the economic leaders in the years ahead. The technology writer of the Associated Press recently wrote an article entitled "The Next Big Thing Could Be Green." He compared clean technology to the railroads, to the automobiles and the Internet, the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and men's fortunes. The dateline of the article was San Francisco. This is, of course, no coincidence, because Silicon Valley is just south of San Francisco, and Silicon Valley believes that green tech is the next big thing.

We are going full speed ahead on green technology in our state, in California. We already lead the nation in the number of clean energy businesses, with a number of more than 10,000. Nearly half of all venture capital in America flows to California, and that is why we hold also more than 40 percent of the nation's patents, the new patents in solar and wind technology.

I've seen solar power making snack chips at the Frito-Lay factory in the Central Valley. I've seen solar panels on top of warehouses and business buildings in Fontana, California, part of Southern California Edison's plan to install 65 million square feet of solar on rooftops of businesses and of warehouses all around the state. That is enough to cover 1,100 football fields and power 165,000 homes. So this is a huge, huge progress we're making in California. They also signed a contract for a solar plant in the Mojave Desert that will supply slightly more energy than a modern nuclear power plant. Companies are standing in line right now to put solar installations in the Mojave. We just reached an agreement with the Department of the Interior in Washington to speed up the permitting process.

Leaders from around the world are coming now to California to see what's going on and what we are doing there. I took the French foreign trade minister just recently to a business in San Francisco called Solazyme. They've come up with a way to convert algae into fuel that is 90 percent cleaner than petroleum-based fuel. As a matter of fact, the United States Navy has just signed a contract with them to power their vessels. And also, because that has been successful, they now are going to use that fuel also for jets - 90 percent cleaner with CO2.

In California we are trying to lead the way, which is good for our state, good for our economic future, good for our country and good also for our environment. The country needs leadership in the environment, there are no two ways about it, and I know that President Obama is marching in the right direction. A recent survey asked people in various different nations, how high a priority do you think government should place on addressing climate change? Now, in America, the American people came in lower than the people in Iraq and the people in the Palestinian territories. Think about that. Now, of course, the survey was not taken in California, because I can guarantee you, in California it would be amongst the top three of importance, because we believe in the environment.

As I have said many times before, people don't want to live like Buddhist monks, to give up their big-screen plasma TVs or their Jacuzzis. The only thing is that you can also power the big-screen TVs and the Jacuzzis with renewable energy. It is shameful that our nation now gets less than 3 percent of its energy from renewable fuels - less than 3 percent. We in California now get 15 percent from renewables, and by the end of next year we will have 20 percent. And we just signed into law that we will have by the year 2020 33 percent of renewables. Now, if you add hydropower to that, then we'll have 45 percent by the year 2020. So this is the kind of progress we are making in our state, and that's the kind of leadership we would need also nationwide.

In Denmark, for instance, they get 20 percent of their power from wind, just because they stayed with it for more than 20 years, even when it wasn't popular or appealing, and even when the oil prices were down. And now one in three wind turbines worldwide is from Denmark. Germany leads the world when it comes to solar power. It should be the United States that should lead in that area. France gets nearly 80 percent of their energy from nuclear; too bad that America doesn't. Brazil is big on biofuel.

And they all got to where they are by making a commitment to clean energy and not wavering. In the United States our domestic energy policy and our environmental policy is all over the place. More and more businesses are realizing the importance of going green and they have put pressure on government to come up with legislation to pave the way for America's environmental future. Now, this is very rare that you see businesses putting the pressure on government to go and come up with environmental laws. And I hope that the chamber of commerce in the United States also listens to that. It's very important that they work with the White House and with our federal government.

Now, here's the way I look at it. Some people say, why should the United States go first? China pumps out more greenhouse gases than we do and they didn't sign the Kyoto Treaty or commit itself to anything. Why should we? Did we ever have that mentality before, where we say to someone else, you go first? I mean, think about human rights. Did we go to China and say you go first, then we'll go? When it comes to landing a man on the moon, did we go and say to Russia, you go first to see if it's safe, and then we'll go? When it comes to developing the computer did we say to Japan, you go first to see if it is profitable? No, we didn't. We always went first.

There's a value of going first and to being first. America has always gone first. That is why we are the greatest county in the world. This country has always led and inspired people to look ahead, over the next mountain range, over the next prairie, over the next desert, all the way to the ocean. We didn't wait; we went. We didn't hold back; we held forth.

So, ladies and gentlemen, Henry Luce, the founding publisher of Time-Life said, "Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight." This business school here in Georgetown and this new building are a testament to looking to the future. And that is what the United States must do. We must look to the future, we must welcome the future and we must reach the future first.

Thank you very much.