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Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at CERAWeek 2014, As Prepared

Thanks so much, Dan. You’ve pulled together a fantastic and much needed exchange of ideas on some of the most critical issues of our time. It’s a privilege to be here.

Almost 53 years ago to the day, a President I share a home state with—and an accent with—created the U.S. Peace Corps to “promote economic and social progress”
around the world. In President Kennedy’s eyes, our destinies were linked. That belief that our futures are woven together is why our dialogue is so important. Nothing proves that more than our energy and climate challenge.

The mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. And we know that energy issues and environmental issues are two sides of the same coin. Case in point—look at our approach to historic fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Fuel efficiency is energy efficiency.

And our new standards will double the distance we go on a gallon of gas. That’s also a huge win for the environment because they slash 6 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2025. That’s as much as the U.S. emitted all together in 2010. And it’s not just a win for the planet; it’s a win for our pocketbooks because American families will save up to $8,000 dollars at the pump over the life of their cars. Go figure—an environmental rule helped fuel a resurgent American auto industry. In 2011, we exported almost 33% more cars than we did in 2009—a clear sign of a healthy industry. Since Chrysler and GM emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry has added nearly 250,000 jobs, the best period of job growth in over a decade.

This proves we don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. And when we look at our challenges holistically—we can shape them into opportunities. And that win-win mentality is the lens we’re using to take on climate change.

President Obama has made his commitment clear through his comprehensive Climate Action Plan. A plan that cuts carbon pollution, builds resilience to climate impacts, and aims to establish the U.S. as a leader in the global climate fight. Energy production is a huge piece of that. That’s why the President directed EPA to develop commonsense carbon pollution standards for the largest source in the U.S.—power plants. And we’ve engaged in unprecedented outreach to states, health groups, industry, and more to make sure these rules are flexible, pragmatic, and achievable.

But let’s be clear about something: we know conventional fuels like coal and natural gas are going to continue to play a critical role in a diverse U.S. energy mix. Just last week I was in North Dakota, touring a gasification plant and speaking to energy companies. I saw cutting edge carbon capture technology in action. New power plants powered by conventional fuels do have a pathway forward in a carbon constrained world. Transforming to cleaner electricity is essential for the U.S. to keep our competitive edge sharp on the global stage.

We need every innovative option on the table. That goes to a point I’m sure Secretary Moniz made yesterday—the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is working in America. We’re producing more oil than ever before—and for the first time in two decades, we’re producing more than we import. And over the last eight years, we’ve managed to reduce more carbon pollution than any other nation on earth.

That’s partly thanks to our clean energy policies, which have doubled our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. According to an industry report yesterday—the U.S. added more than 5 gigawatts of solar power in 2013, a more than a 50% percent increase in new solar installations—that’s a new record. And right here, the state of Texas ranks number one in installed wind capacity in the U.S.

We have to continue clearing a path for a global clean energy future in a carbon constrained world. That’s our challenge, but it’s also our opportunity. And when it comes to clean energy development and deployment—America is open for business.

We have incentives that are spurring innovation, driving investment, and providing certainty and clarity to businesses worldwide. But you don’t have to take my word for it:

The Interior Department just permitted the 50th renewable energy project on public lands since President Obama took office. In total, those 50 projects account for 20,000 jobs, and generate enough electricity to power 4.8 million homes.

The Department of Energy’s Appliance Efficiency Standards have changed the game for consumers and companies. They saved about $40 billion in 2010. By 2030, the standards will slash 6 and a half billion tons of carbon pollution. And we’re not just talking about toasters and TVs here—we’re also talking about commercial appliances. 60% of commercial buildings are covered by the standards.

And it’s our states and cities that are leading the way on this: More than 35 states have renewable energy targets; more than 25 states have set energy efficiency goals; and more than 1,000 mayors across the country have signed agreements to cut carbon pollution.

U.S. governors from both parties are coming together on this, too. Governor Fallin—a Republican from Oklahoma—and governor Hickenlooper—a democrat from Colorado—are leading a bipartisan, 22 state commitment to purchase thousands of natural gas vehicles. To them it’s about saving money while at the same time pushing industry to grow. It just makes sense. States are incubators for innovation. At EPA we’re trying to find the best ways to support and build on those efforts.

When it comes to developing carbon pollution standards—no matter what we do—there are going to be naysayers that claim we go too far. They’ll say the sky is falling, and that climate rules will put the brakes on business. We’ve heard this tired argument again and again before. And every single time, it’s fallen flat on its face.

Just look at the history of the Clean Air Act. Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has cut air pollution by almost 70 percent, while the economy grew by over 200 percent. Every dollar spent to comply returns $4-$8 in economic benefits. The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments alone will pay out 30 to 1 by the year 2020.

And if you’re worried about costs, then worry about the climate costs we are already paying—those come in the form of higher insurance rates, taxes, food prices, lost tourism, and more. 2012 was the second costliest year in U.S. history for disasters, with a price tag of $110 billion dollars. Global re-insurance giants Munich Re and Swiss Re are in the business of managing risk—and they call climate change “one of the greatest risks facing mankind.” So the critical costs we need to worry about are the costs of

We’re all preoccupied with the endless list of challenges facing our own countries and companies. But the reach of our global climate threat shines a light on our
shared challenges—and our shared potential.

President Kennedy knew of the virtue of tapping that potential. In 1962, when he challenged us to go to the moon, he knew it wouldn’t be easy. But he promised the challenge would “serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

Fighting climate change will not be easy. But we must not settle for anything less than a full measure of our energies and skills.

Together, Let’s refuse to allow complacency and inaction to hold us back. And let’s confront our energy and climate challenge and seize the opportunity for a healthy, sustainable, and more prosperous future.

Thanks again for having me.