The St. Regis Washington, D.C.
11:20 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey. Good after- — good morning. Morning. Good morning. Good morning. Please have a seat, everyone.
Thank you, Sheldon. I think we’re going to get into a conversation later about why, in addition to it being — and making good business sense — that the work that we are doing together is truly about our children and the future of our country in so many ways. So, thank you for — for your introduction and your leadership.
I want to thank Abby. I want to thank — thank Tom for all that you all have been doing. I was talking briefly with them before I came out.
And this organization and what you are doing, in terms of the Solar Energy Industries Association — and thank you — it really is a very important, if you will, Venn diagram in understanding that we cannot afford to just exist in silos that are about the industry or about policy or about elections and politics — that there is a profound intersection between the three if we’re actually to see this good work through.
And so, I appreciate all the leaders who are here who understand the connections between them and the importance of then focusing on all of them if we are to actually make real the vision that we have for the future of our country.
Before I get too detailed on the topic, I do want to address another issue, which is what has been happening in Texas with a young woman by the name of Kate Cox. So, she is a mother of two. She and her husband have two children, and she is pregnant. And she has been diagnosed by her physician with having a pregnancy that could result in harm to herself and to the fetus.
And she has unfortunately been living in a state that has criminalized access to healthcare for women and criminalized it in such a way that they literally provide for prison time for life for physicians and punish women who should have the right to make a decision about their own bodies.
And so, she has had to travel to a state that is not her home state to receive the healthcare that she needs and has actually been prescribed by a physician.
And I think it is important that when we are talking about foundational freedoms in our country, that we speak out when such an injustice is happening that would deny an individual to be able to make such important decisions about her own body and her life.
And so, the stakes could not be higher on that issue. And, therefore, I think we should all feel compelled to talk about it and think about it in terms of how it affects real people every day.
And with that, I will get to the subject at hand, which is the issue and the importance of the work that we are all doing together to build the clean energy economy and a future which will be about the most important and fundamental priorities for us as a species, which is the need to have clean water and clean air and to protect this beautiful planet upon which we live.
And — and with that, I want to thank all of the leaders who are here, because this is truly a room of innovators and those who have the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been.
And I will tell you: Yes, I am so excited about this work.
Back from the time that I was actually district attorney of San Francisco — I was elected in 2003, started my term in 2004 — I created one of the first environmental justice units of any prosecutor’s office in the country.
And then, later, I would serve for two terms as attorney general of California, where we did a lot of work that was about thinking about what we must do in terms of regulation.
But in terms of creating incentives for good behaviors that are about understanding, again, the connection between the policies, which are about a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; the policies which should be about paying attention to poor air quality and how it is created; and then doing the work of aspiring to do better and create incentives to do better.
And we fast forward almost 20 years now, and I think about — back to 2004 and where we are next year and where we have come as a country and as a society on these issues. Those days, we were really battling some folks who just were confirmed and sure that it was not an issue — the climate deniers. Thank God we don’t have to deal with that as much — not completely — (laughter) — but as much anymore.
What we have to deal with now is those who would attempt to delay what we know is possible and can be done. We have to deal with the greenwashing. We have to deal with those who, in some sectors, are obstructionist around what makes for smart and good policy with a sense of urgency, which we must all have.
In fact, I just got back from Dubai a couple of weeks ago at COP28. And when we think about who we are as Americans, who the United States is on this issue: We have self-appointed and, I think, have earned a standing globally, which is that we are a leader on so many of these issues.
And our leadership on these issues, then, is not only about what we are doing to invest in research and development and innovation in a way it can be used by our allies and partners and even adversaries around the world, but what we are doing to also role model what governments and leaders in whichever sector must take on with priority and a sense of urgency.
We are earning the right to look at our friends around the world, literally, and challenge them. And where they have not had the ability to perhaps imagine what is possible, the work this industry is doing is demonstrating it. Sometimes we have to just show people what we know is possible.
And, thankfully, in the cycle of this movement, we are now at that stage where we are shovels in ground, where the work is actually happening.
Dalton, Georgia, where are you? There you are. I was so happy to come and visit, and what you guys are doing at Qcells, and — and to show people this is what it looks like. And this is what it looks like in terms of a physical structure, but, hey, this is what it also looks like in terms of investing in the skills of an important workforce.
This is what IBEW apprenticeship programs look like, which are four-year apprenticeship programs where the students are paid while they’re going to school because everyone needs to be able to actually have the ability to pay rent and study a new profession.
And we’re showing how — the intersection between investing in workforce, investing in a new economy, and investing in what we must do for our children for generations to come.
It’s a very exciting time. And the work your industry is doing is pivotal and is a real model for those who may be policy leaders, those who may be industry leaders, those who are global leaders. And dare I say that it also is a demonstration, then, of the fact that this approach works. It works. And it actually makes a difference.
We’re not just testing out a hypothesis. We’re actually proving the premise.
And in that way, then, your industry is so important. And on this point, then, and back to my point about — I love Venn diagrams. This is where the geek in me just comes out. (Laughter.)
So — but on the point about the Venn diagram and, most importantly, the point about the intersection, that is where also your leadership, as a group of leaders and an industry, is important in recognizing the connection between policy, between growing our economy — because it is about a pro-growth economy approach — and the intersection between that and elections. Elections matter.
When we were running for office, Joe Biden was very clear: We’re going to put America back on the map — globally, in terms of reentering the Paris Agreement. And we’re going to put America on the map as being a global leader in investing in our economy in many ways, including this one.
And it is because of the support that you all gave in 2020 — to believe that that was possible — that we were able to make an historic investment of over $1 trillion in this economy — putting the resources over the next 10 years — by my equation, over the next 10 years into the jobs, into the industry, into R&D.
We’ve already seen over $600 billion of private sector investment that has been spurred because of the investment that we are making based on what we know to be good policy and good practice. Elections matter.
I’ll remind you, sadly, not one Republican in Congress voted for the Inflation Reduction Act — although in Dalton, Georgia, that member of Congress, I believe, is taking a lot of credit for the work that’s happening — (laughter) — despite voting against it. So, maybe that should be further evidence of the fact that it makes for good politics and good policy. (Laughter.)
But there is a connection. And as many of you know — and we have to be clear-eyed about the challenges in this upcoming election cycle — there have been those who have said if they are elected, they will get rid of the IRA. So, it’s no small matter. It’s no small matter.
And I will also acknowledge that you, as leaders — it is not only about leaders in business, leaders in innovation, and leaders in industry, you also have a lot of courage to put your money where your mouth is.
You guys are investing your resources into this. You are encouraging investment in your ideas and your plans. You are having meetings with folks to say, “Believe in this, and I’m going to show you how it can be done. And, actually, you’ll get a return on the investment.”
That takes a lot of courage to believe in it and then do the details that actually make it work.
And so, all of that to say, there’s more that can be done, but who sits in the White House matters on this.
You know, there’s so many issues that, right now in our world, are so complex, but where the environment is — the only appetite in the environment is for binary, when in fact these issues are anything but.
However, November ‘24: binary. Binary for so many reasons and in — on this issue.
So, with that, again, I say thank you to all of you for your leadership, for your — just your vision for the future of our country, and for making it real every day.
And with that, I’ll take some questions.
Okay. Thank you all. (Applause.)
END 11:32 A.M. EST