Washington — It is “misleading to suggest that there’s somehow a contradiction between clean energy and economic growth,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) small- and medium-sized business forum.
“In every one of our economies, we have entrepreneurs and inventors bristling with new ideas to solve our energy challenges to put us on a path to clean growth,” Locke said in remarks prepared for delivery May 18 in Big Sky, Montana. “We’ve got to give them the tools to succeed no matter where they live.”
The secretary addressed representatives of APEC member economies about enhancing clean growth to increase economic cooperation and competitiveness. The 21-member economic forum’s goal, according to its website, is to “support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Locke emphasized the importance of growing renewable energy industries, such as wind, solar and biofuels, as a “critical part of catalyzing clean economic growth.” But, he said, businesses around the globe will have to do even more to remain competitive in the 21st century.
“In the next few decades, world economies will need to rebuild and reinvent virtually every industrial activity — from power generation and transportation to manufacturing and construction — to succeed in an energy environment that looks drastically different than the one we’ve grown used to,” Locke said.
For the last century, he said, much of the world “enjoyed two luxuries that helped propel the greatest burst of sustained economic growth in human history.” The first was cheap and abundant fossil fuels. The second was a lack of knowledge about greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning those fuels.
But the commerce secretary said those days are over.
“Fuel is no longer cheap. And the cost of those emissions is high,” Locke said, adding that if the international community does not cooperate to curb its dependence on fossil fuels, “we imperil the planet.”
He said the potential job creation arising from clean energy investments “is astounding,” and opens the door for an “entirely new way of economic growth” that would generate millions of new jobs around the world.
Locke called on APEC economies to pursue policies that “unleash innovation and enable entrepreneurs,” and said the group needs to put the empowerment of small- and medium-sized businesses at the center of its economic agenda.
The United States is hosting APEC in 2011, and the secretary said the U.S. objectives for the year focus on ways to make it easier, cheaper and faster for small- and medium-sized enterprises to do businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. He said that to achieve these goals, the United States will work within APEC to remove barriers to trade and investment, create an open and transparent business environment and establish a regulatory framework to expand opportunities for companies of all sizes.
Locke said hosting APEC meetings in Montana was particularly appropriate because the state was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2010 as the best in the nation for starting and growing a business.
Underscoring the importance of economic cooperation with Asia-Pacific economies, Locke called the region “the most economically dynamic” in the world. Home to nearly 3 billion people, the 21 member economies represent more than half of the world’s gross domestic product and 44 percent of world trade. Seven of America’s top 15 trading partners are APEC members, and in 2010, U.S.-APEC trade was $2 trillion, “a staggering 25 percent increase over 2009,” Locke said.
In addition to the small- and medium-sized business forum, the APEC trade ministers will meet in Montana, with talks scheduled to conclude May 21. The APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting will be held November 10 in Honolulu, Hawaii, followed by the APEC Leaders’ Meeting November 12–13.