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Diplomacy in Action

Secretary of Transportation LaHood's Remarks at APEC USA 2011

September 13, 2011


Remarks as Prepared--

APEC USA 2011

Joint Transportation and Energy Ministerial Conference

San Francisco, California

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Thank you, all, for joining us. Welcome to APEC USA 2011. And on a personal note, I’m very glad to be here with my good friend and America’s outstanding Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.

Let me start by saying, on behalf of President Obama, the United States is honored to host APEC for the first time in nearly two decades. I bring the president’s gratitude for APEC’s commitment to building an energy-efficient, sustainable, low-carbon transportation future. As we get going, I want to share a little about the Obama Administration’s vision of a 21st century economy in which we create jobs, strengthen our communities, and protect our environment and climate at the same time.

As you heard directly from President Obama last Thursday night, investments in transportation are a crucial part of our plan to make this vision a reality. They’re a crucial part of our plan to get our workers back on the job-site. And they’re a crucial part of the American Jobs Act, the president’s number one domestic priority.

Now, for too long, we’ve let the cynics and naysayers tell us that we have to choose either economic growth or environmental stewardship – that we can’t pursue and accomplish both simultaneously. Well, we’re here because we’ve rejected that false choice – because we know that each of our economies has to move greater numbers of people and products while leaving a smaller environmental footprint.

For the United States, nowhere is the possibility for progress greater than in the transportation sector, which accounts for two-thirds of our oil use and contributes one-third of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. That means we in transportation have the obligation and the opportunity to take action – to change both the types and the amounts of energy that America’s transportation systems use while creating good, high-paying jobs.

Needless to say, many of you are tackling these challenges in your own ways – and we know we have a lot to learn from you. But here’s how we’re seizing the moment for our citizens.

First, we raised fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. This alone will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil, or an average of $3,000 during the lifetime of every family vehicle. And we recently announced further increases that will nearly double the average fuel economy of vehicles to almost 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

Second, we’re making historic investments in high-speed rail, transit, and walkable, bikeable streets so that people can choose to drive less, which is good for their health, their wallets, and the environment.

Third, we’re accelerating aviation's transition from the radar-based navigation system of the last century to the satellite-based system of the next century – commonly known as NextGen. This will dramatically boost fuel efficiency by allowing planes to fly more directly from origin to destination.

Fourth, we’re encouraging freight carriers to shift products from less to more fuel efficient systems — from air to trucks, from trucks to rail, or from rail to maritime.

And, all across America, we’re seeing that these investments are paying off in dollars saved, jobs created, and economic development spurred.

Now, each of these topics is ripe for further discussion today.

In our first roundtable, we’ll focus on defining transportation’s role in a clean energy future; developing fuel efficiency measures; and shaping strategies to reduce the APEC region’s carbon footprint.

In our second roundtable, we’ll exchange ideas about building transportation systems for livable, low-carbon communities. Here, we’ll discuss transportation-related aspects of livability, including transit-oriented development, expansion of mass transit corridors, and construction of bike paths and sidewalks.

In our third roundtable, “powering low-carbon transport,” we’ll identify opportunities to develop and promote environmentally sustainable biofuels and electric-drive vehicles to reduce dependence on petroleum.

And in our final roundtable, we’ll look at ways to make the supply-chain – the way we move goods within the APEC region – “greener.” We’ve been especially impressed with the aviation industry’s work on this front. We believe that your innovation in engine efficiency and alternative fuels holds enormous promise for the future.

So, let me reiterate that, as we conduct these roundtables, we will do so in the spirit of friendship and cooperation. And our goal must be a clear blueprint for action.

Just as President Obama is doing in the United States, we – the members of APEC – will look for ways to build new partnerships, whether between nations, across agencies, or between the public and private sectors. And our discussions this week, of course, are just one part of an ongoing dialogue. The work will continue during the upcoming Leaders’ Week in Honolulu. Beyond that, we’ll continue interacting – sharing our best practices and joining our efforts – in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Thank you, again, for participating in this crucial exchange, this week. I look forward to an interesting and productive day.

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