The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

US Working Towards Energy Independence but Big Challenges Remain, Says Salazar

The United States is in a good place in terms of energy, explained former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar during a keynote session at the MIT Energy Conference in Cambridge, Mass. Oil imports are the lowest since 1991 at 40 percent, carbon emissions are slowly dwindling, Salazar said, and the U.S. is making these positive improvements due to four cornerstones of progress.

“First, the All of the Above Energy Strategy is working,” he said, ”we’ve embraced energy independence.” He cited several statistics to solidify his point: since 2008, the U.S. has quadrupled its amount of solar, developed an enormous amount of wind capacity, and is moving forward with a wide array of biofuels technologies.

The second cornerstone is the passage of important energy policy in 2005 and 2007, “days when things seemed to be able to get done,” lamented Salazar, which allowed for a legal framework that still reigns.  Today, the Obama administration has encouraged important research and development opportunities, which correlates with the third cornerstone: technological breakthroughs. Organizations such as MIT, Sandia National Laboratory, and many others have “brought us marvelous technological breakthroughs that were unimaginable 10 years ago,” said Salazar.

The final cornerstone is investments in the diversification of the energy portfolio. The U.S. is slowly learning how to use energy wisely. A prime example is the growing transition from gas-guzzlers to energy efficient vehicles, spurred by President Obama’s changes to Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Said Salazar, “we’ve moved from driving Hummers to shooting for a 55 mile-per-gallon standard.”

Though we’ve made huge strides in such a short period of time, Salazar reminded the audience that we still have plenty of challenges ahead of us, such as land use impacts. In order to avoid this, Salazar highlighted the Smart from the Start program. The government worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to highlight solar hotspots in the southwestern U.S. Once they mapped these areas, they identified ecological areas where solar projects are not ideal. From there, they worked with industry leaders and the environmental community to craft a viable southwestern plan for the development of clean energy. 

But beyond land use issues, Salazar highlighted climate change as the real danger — and it is no longer a debate. “It is important to recognize that we are navigating through a time where climate change is no longer being debated among scientists,” he explained. “It may still be debated among some politicians, but scientists, like those here at MIT, will say it is true and CO2 is a major factor.”

He expressed the need to figure out a viable climate policy framework not only in the U.S., but internationally. “How do you reign in developing countries like Brazil that need to be a part of equation even though they don't consume or contribute as much to emission as the U.S?” he asked. “It is very much a challenge that hopefully you here at MIT will help us solve.” 

When asked how to change the public attitude about energy and climate change, Salazar said it all comes down to economics. We need to get the technology to a point where people realize that they can keep money in their pockets.

“When people complain about natural gas or solar energy,” he said, “I remind them that they, too, are a significant user of energy and they need to get on the bandwagon to be part of the energy solution.” 

Lead image: Lilac Mountain via Shutterstock


Intersolar Europe 2015: Spirits Up, Stats Down

William P. Hirshman, Contributor Intersolar Europe, billed at the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry, is indeed big. But Intersolar Europe 2015, one of five Intersolar-branded gatherings around the globe each year, was not as large as the an...
US Capitol

Republicans and Democrats Back Bill to Level the Playing Field for Renewable Energy

Vince Font, Contributing Editor U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Jerry Moran are leading a bipartisan effort to reintroduce tax code legislation aimed at leveling the playing field for renewable energy investment. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act w...
Solar thermal desalination

Solar Thermal Desalination Now Underway in Water-hungry California

Susan Kraemer, Correspondent Regional droughts are being exacerbated by climate change, which is mostly caused by what is tasked with bailing them out — fossil fuels. Israel, Australia, and now southern California have all turned to expensive energy-gu...
Memo pad on table

IRS Issues Solar Tax Equity Memo Stating the Obvious

David Burton and Richard Page, Akin Gump On Friday, the IRS issued a heavily redacted Chief Counsel Advice (“CCA”) memorandum, that addresses the intersection of solar investment tax credit partnership flip transactions and the wind production tax credit part...
As associate editor of, I coordinate and edit feature stories, contributed articles, news stories, opinion pieces and blogs. I also research and write content for and REW magazine. I manage


Volume 18, Issue 3


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon



Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

CanWEA Annual Conference and Exhibition

The annual CanWEA Conference & Exhibition has helped companies marke...

CanWEA Winter Solstice Fundraising Dinner

CanWEA Winter Solstice Fundraising Dinner December 1, 2015 Toronto, Ontario


More Middle-Class Massachusetts Residents Are Going Solar

Massachusetts is known for the Pilgrims, Boston cream pie and its excell...

Harnessing Emotions

Think about how you interact with your prospects. Are you going from the...

Before Going Solar: Five Tips for Surviving Your HOA

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are an inevitable part of living in plann...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now