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The City Club of Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio
Remarks prepared for delivery by
Secretary Mel Martinez

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Thank you for that very generous introduction� and thank you all for such a warm welcome. I am pleased to be making my first official visit to the city of Cleveland and glad to pay tribute to the accomplishments of mayor white and the people of this city, who have made a renewed Cleveland such a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Of course, I could not come to Cleveland without saluting the Indians. For 100 years, whether they were playing in League Park, Cleveland Stadium or Jacobs Field, the tribe has brought a lot of joy to Ohio baseball fans. So congratulations to the team during its centennial celebration. And I have to single out Jim Thome for becoming the team's career home run leader two nights ago.

I want to take a moment to recognize one of our many partners at the Department of Housing and Urban Development: the Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority in nearby Canton, Ohio.

In November of last year, the Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority won the Ohio governor's award for excellence in energy efficiency. They undertook an energy conservation program that included replacing 1,700 older refrigerators with models consuming just half the energy. In doing so, they slashed their yearly energy bills by nearly $92,000.

By the way, Maytag produced these new units as part of a HUD-Department of Energy effort to encourage the industry to design and produce more efficient refrigerators.

Congratulations to Executive Director Amanda S. Fletcher and her entire staff on their achievement. It illustrates the good that we can accomplish when we put our ingenuity to work seeking new solutions to old problems - which happens to be the very theme I plan to speak about this afternoon.

And it is important as HUD Secretary to focus on the nation's energy crunch, because when the nation is facing an energy shortage, our urban centers are the first to feel the squeeze.

The fact is, America faces the most serious energy shortage since the oil crisis of the 1970s introduced us to gas lines and fuel rationing.

And anyone who looks at the facts would have to agree - just notice the rolling blackouts in California, the power shortages in Washington State, high natural gas prices on the East Coast, and the rising prices at gasoline pumps most everywhere.

After two decades of falling steadily, the energy bill for an average family has skyrocketed 25 percent since 1998. What is already a hardship for many could become an impossible burden in the future.

Maybe most frustrating is that today's energy crisis could have been avoided. It has been a long time in coming, and the warning signs were obvious to anybody who took the time to look. The problem is not a lack of natural resources, because our nation is blessed with resources in abundance. The problem, very simply, has been a lack of leadership.

For the past decade, Washington stood by and watched as America's energy needs mounted. Decision makers did nothing to help increase the energy supply. They restricted efforts to increase oil exploration and production. They made it harder to meet demand by choking energy producers with regulations. They ignored potential new energy sources and turned their backs on nuclear energy and the clean, affordable power it offers.

The results of those policies are now apparent.

Even as energy demand has risen in this country over the past decade, oil production has not kept pace. Since 1980, the number of American refineries has been cut in half. Not a single new refinery has been built in more than 25 years. The government has reinterpreted regulations in such a way that existing refineries cannot expand their capacity.

Natural gas production is equally constrained. This nation has vast, untapped supplies of natural gas, but some 40 percent of those potential resources are found on federal lands, either closed to exploration or under severe restrictions.

And even if we could access them, we would have trouble transporting them - today's pipeline system is barely adequate for meeting even current demand.

The picture is no better for the electricity we need to keep our homes lit and our office computers running.

The Department of Energy estimates that electricity demand will increase 45 percent over the next 20 years. That will require 1,300 new power plants, or about 65 a year. It has been more than a decade since we added that much power. We also have not upgraded the aging power grid that moves electricity from producers to consumers.

Nuclear power is safe, clean, and inexpensive. But Washington has done nothing to ensure that it remains a viable source of energy. Since 1979, not one nuclear power plant permit has been granted, and many of today's plants are expected to die off once their permits expire over the next 15 years.

My aim in pointing this out is not to be a prophet of doom and gloom, but simply to present the facts. America has a serious energy shortage - one that has been years in the making, predating the Department of Energy itself.

I am proud that just a few months into his term, President Bush has put together a comprehensive, long-term plan to address this serious problem.

As the President said in St. Paul two weeks ago, when he unveiled the administration's new energy strategy, "to protect the environment, to meet our growing energy needs, to improve our quality of life, America needs an energy plan that faces up to our energy challenges and meets them."

The President's energy plan for the 21st century meets these challenges head on.

It is based on the fact that a fundamental imbalance exists between energy supply and energy demand in this country. To meet the demand, we have become too dependent on foreign oil and the whims of Opec and its producer nations, leaving us prone to the wild fluctuations in energy prices such dependence generates.

To be successful, our national energy strategy must address this imbalance and ensure Americans have access to clean, available, and affordable energy. I think the President's plan succeeds.

But first, the President is doing everything that he can - as quickly as he can - to offer relief to consumers feeling the energy crunch at the gas pump and in their utility bills.

Just two days ago, he asked Congress for an additional $150 million to help low-income families in cities like Cleveland, Orlando, and Los Angeles cope with high energy and gas bills. That is in addition to $300 million in energy assistance the President already calls for in his budget.

He is also expediting permits for new power plants in California. And he has pledged to investigate all complaints of price gouging, and take swift and strong action if the complaints are justified.

These short-term measures offer a starting point. The long-term answers are exactly that: long term. The energy shortage we find ourselves battling will not be solved overnight� but we will never solve it if we do not pursue solutions beginning today.

The President's solution comes in three parts:

First, America needs to expand and diversify its energy supply. This includes not only oil and gas, but clean coal, wind, solar, biodiesel, hydropower and nuclear as well.

Second, America needs to modernize its energy infrastructure� to more efficiently bring together producers and consumers.

And third, America needs to become the world's leader in conservation and efficiency. We will do that by promoting technology and innovation that reduces demand for power.

Let me expand on the conservation issue first.

Yes, we encourage everyone to be conscious of their power consumption, but energy conservation means more than simply turning off the lights like I do when my kids leave a room. It means finding new ways to do more with less - using our energy resources more wisely.

We know we can do it, because we have done it before.

Buy a refrigerator today and you will find it uses one-third less electricity than a refrigerator built 30 years ago. Cars need just 60 percent of the gasoline they needed in 1972 and emit 95 percent less pollution. We are continually striving to do more with less - it is time we apply that same ingenuity to achieving our goal of energy conservation.

The University of Cincinnati met the challenge. Following budget cutbacks, university staff was confronted with the task of finding creative ways to save energy in over six million square feet of facilities. They did, by designing an energy efficient lighting system that today saves $1.3 million every year.

The effort is credited with removing tens of millions of pounds of pollutants from the atmosphere. The project was so successful that it, too, was honored with the governor's award for excellence in energy efficiency.

President Bush wants to inspire that same level of creativity on a national scale. His plan underwrites research and development into energy-saving technologies that will strengthen America's commitment to energy efficiency and conservation. He will require manufacturers to build more energy saving appliances.

And he will expect no less of the federal government itself than he asks of America's families and businesses.

To meet tomorrow's energy needs, we need to start replacing yesterday's aging infrastructure. Our national system of refineries, generating facilities, pipelines, and transmission lines is deteriorating and strained to capacity.

The President is proposing that we modernize and expand America's energy infrastructure, to ensure that energy supplies can be safely, reliably, and affordably transported to your homes and businesses.

We have the technology to build factories that consume less and pollute less. We have the ability - and the responsibility - to eliminate the regulatory hurdles that hurt people by denying them access to lower utility bills and more dependable energy. And this administration has the determination to make it happen.

At the same time, we need to ensure that we meet the ever-growing demand for electricity. One major cause of the severe energy shortage in California is that the state has not built a major power plant in more than a decade.

Even a state with an extensive conservation plan - and California has one of the best in the nation - cannot hope to meet increasing demand when saddled with inadequate resources.

Not every state, of course, has such a gloomy outlook.

I am glad to say that many areas of the country are likely to be spared the blackouts and serious power interruptions that are creating problems in California. Pursuing the very sorts of policies the President has proposed, states like Ohio had the foresight to continue building power plants when other states were not. Not only that, your energy officials say that under Ohio's new deregulation plan, utilities here are better protected against short-term market fluctuations.

It is hard to meet the needs of a new century when we are depending on technology that in many cases barely survived the last. Today, we are producing 39 percent less oil than we did in 1970 and making up the difference by depending more and more on foreign suppliers who do not necessarily have America's interests at heart.

Crude oil supply is only half the equation. Turning that oil into useful fuel is the other, and we are falling short there as well. The nation's oil refineries are running at near-maximum capacity and still cannot meet consumer demand. The fact that we are seeing such high fuel prices can be directly attributed to this lack of refining capacity.

Conservation alone cannot begin to close the shortfall between energy supply and energy demand. Even if we significantly improve conservation - and we will - we are consuming more and more energy all the time. We need to find and extract more oil, and process more of it into fuel.

Under the President's leadership, we will diversify and expand our energy supplies. The President's plan helps to reduce the gap between consumption and production by giving refiners increased flexibility in meeting increased demand. It calls for deploying the latest technologies to the exploration and production of domestic energy resources.

It also supports the clean, safe, inexpensive power offered by nuclear generation. In 1979, Three Mile Island put nuclear power on the shelf. Since that time, great advancements in technology make this power source safe and usable. Just think, in 1979 we were first hearing of something called the personal computer.

What the President's plan avoids are price controls.

This nation tried price controls back in the 1970s. They did not work then, and they will not work now. Price caps do nothing to reduce energy demand or increase supply.

As any businessperson knows, the market operates best when economic forces are allowed to do their work. Price controls sound like a quick fix, but if prices are not high enough, production will go down.

There is a very real possibility that by discouraging production, imposing price controls would make the problems in states like California even worse. The President has pledged that he will not let that happen.

Respect for the environment is another critical component of our energy blueprint.

Ensuring America's energy security and safeguarding the environment are not mutually exclusive goals, and to suggest that we can achieve one only at the expense of the other is wrong. This administration's commitment to environmental protection runs deep: we will not sacrifice - for an extra watt of electricity here, or another barrel of oil there - the long-term gains America has made in ensuring that our children and grandchildren enjoy a cleaner future. And that is something on which our President will not compromise.

We can achieve balance. During a recent visit to Pennsylvania, the President saw it himself, along the Susquehanna River. American shad, a fish that served as a food source dating back to the earliest Native Americans, had disappeared entirely from the river by 1921 because of man's careless intervention.

Today, American shad have been restored in the river waters. They swim serenely alongside the hydroelectric dam that is providing emission-free power to the people of Pennsylvania.

The question is, can we come together as a nation and build a positive, new consensus that meets America's energy needs far into the 21st century?

History tells us that we can, because whenever Americans are challenged to put our minds to accomplishing a serious task, the job gets done. We are a nation of unlimited enthusiasm, blessed with the resources of great thinkers, the best technology in the world, and the freedom of imagination.

President Bush has put together an energy plan that is optimistic and that will take us to energy independence into the 21st century.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is committed to working with him as we pursue a comprehensive national energy strategy.

In fact, HUD has a long tradition of supporting energy efficient technologies� and our recent projects provide a strong complement to the conservation goals the President has outlined.

To improve energy efficiency in HUD-assisted housing, we have formed a unique partnership with the private sector. Through what we call "energy performance contracting," private firms finance and install improvements, then they share the savings with the local housing authority. The Minneapolis Housing Authority teamed up with private companies to save $450,000 a year in energy bills.

We are working with the Holyoke housing authority in Massachusetts to construct a model energy-efficient project. The Churchill Homes development is replacing 200 World War II-era public housing units with state-of-the-art homes that feature high-efficiency hot water heaters and controlled ventilation for indoor air quality.

To encourage new homebuyers to install cost-effective conservation measures, FHA offers the energy efficient mortgage. This allows Americans to borrow an additional $8,000 to undertake energy conservation measures. Since the program began in 1993, more than 80,000 homeowners have taken advantage of these mortgages.

HUD also supports cutting-edge research into energy-saving technologies. For example, we are working with Dow Chemical to develop the application of a new type of insulation. It measures just one quarter of an inch thick, yet provides the insulating power of six inches of standard material.

Partnered with private firms and organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders, HUD is actively field-testing energy-efficient construction techniques around the country. One of these demonstration projects can be found in Takoma Village in Washington, D.C. This multifamily development relies on a highly efficient geothermal heating and cooling system to boost energy savings and environmental performance.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, we understand that new partnerships and new technologies are critical to helping us meet the nation's energy challenges.

And with the same spirit of innovation and enthusiasm that HUD is applying to meeting our energy needs, we are working to meet this nation's overall housing needs.

I have to tell you how much I have enjoyed and appreciated my first four months as secretary. To walk into the White House as a member of the President's Cabinet is a humbling and inspiring experience, and I feel richly blessed to have been given this historic opportunity to serve.

Thirty-eight years ago, I entered this country as a teenage refugee, carrying with me nothing but my faith in God and my hope in the goodness of America. I was taught compassion for strangers from the two loving foster families who not only opened their homes to me but more importantly, opened their hearts and made my a part of their family.

Four years later, my mother and father emigrated here and later became homeowners themselves. We finally had our own American dream, and I continue to live that dream today, as the first Cuban-American cabinet secretary. I have enjoyed no greater honor - and no greater responsibility.

As I have traveled around the country as Secretary of HUD, I have seen the ways that people and communities are working to meet their housing needs.

In Mount Vernon, New York, I visited the home of Diane Brown. She recently bought her first house with the help of a community-based organization and HUD dollars, when she could not afford a downpayment on her own.

I toured Capitol Market in Charleston, West Virginia, a former rail depot that was converted into a thriving farmer's market with the help of city, county, and HUD funding.

I pounded nails alongside a family in Maryland, as they worked with Habitat for Humanity in helping to build - board by board - their new home.

In what was once a run-down and neglected area of Philadelphia, I walked through the city's largest neighborhood job creation effort, and saw for myself the rebirth of a community.

In southwest Detroit, I visited St. Anne's Cooperative Apartments and the Ser Casa Academy, the work of a successful faith-based housing program that is funded in part by the community development block grant program.

And I got a big thrill in Miami, when I had the opportunity to take 40 children who live in public housing to a Florida Marlins game. I don't know who was having more fun - them or me!

These are the people HUD serves. I am proud of what they have accomplished - often with limited means and few opportunities. I am proud that we are able to serve them as well as we do. And I am enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development faces great challenges as we work to improve the nation's housing for America's families. President Bush and I are committed to restoring the confidence of the Congress and the American people in the operation of this agency.

And we will measure our success not by calculating the numbers of dollars we spend, because that era is past. We will count instead the numbers of families who get the chance to buy their first home, the numbers of communities in which hope has been restored, and the numbers of children who grow up in the kinds of neighborhoods we all want our children to grow up in.

If you have ever driven through Washington, D.C. - and you have earned my sympathy if you have - you know that it is a city built on the concept of the "traffic circle." This creation is intended to keep traffic moving in a steady flow, while allowing the merging of the many cars and taxis that regularly choke Washington's streets.

But more often than not, especially for the uninitiated, the traffic circle becomes an exercise in frustration - because without a doubt, you will leave the circle traveling in a direction completely different from the one you intended.

Maybe the traffic circle serves as an apt metaphor for the city itself, because official Washington has a tendency to go around and around in circles as well, and where one begins when dealing with the federal government is rarely where one ends up.

That was a frequent frustration of HUD in the past. But I have great dreams for our Department, respect for the men and women who serve it, and compassion for those who turn to us in times of need. I want HUD to be more than just another circle in what has too often been this city's traffic pattern of delay and disappointment.

As a newcomer to Washington, I do not expect to have much luck in eliminating the traffic circle. It is, after all, the Washington way. But at the very least, my goal as secretary of HUD is to improve the signage - to keep the traffic moving the right way, even when we are being pulled in directions we do not necessarily want to travel.

If I can accomplish that, then I will consider my time at HUD a success.

I look forward to working under the leadership of President Bush to put his vision of better housing for all, and energy security for all, to work for you. He is offering us a responsive, responsible road map for the future, and even though we have some traveling ahead of us, I am certain the destination will be well worth the trip.

Thank you again.

Content Archived: March 12, 2010

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