Copenhagen: U.S. Energy Secretary Highlights Power of the Stimulus Funds

Focusing on a few high-profile U.S. positions at Copenhagen, it’s easy to get discouraged about what the U.S. is bringing to the table at the climate change negotiations. State Department special climate envoy Todd Stern is already calling two draft proposals nonstarters, and then there’s Sen. Jim Inhofe and his “truth squads” that plan to arrive next week. But Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave a speech in Copenhagen on Sunday at the Bright Green Expo (and will be making a speech Monday as well) which focused on the large amount of funding that the U.S. has already committed to a clean energy economy through the stimulus package.

While Chu didn’t announce any big news during his speech (though we’re hearing tomorrow he could announce DOE funding for “technology transfer”), he seemed to reassure conference attendees that the U.S. is already committed to the negotiations through its actions. At the Kronborg event on Saturday night business leaders were saying the same thing about China: The country’s actions of investing billions in clean energy speak a lot more loudly than its muddled words on the world stage, said several execs I spoke with.

Still, there’s less than a week left for the COP15 negotiators to come to some sort of agreement for world emission reductions, and the U.S. is once again — like with the Kyoto protocol — looking like it’s going to be the key roadblock. The Copenhagen event has featured many U.S. politicians (most making speeches in the U.S. expo at COP15) but few with any plans or commitments to try to up the emissions targets put forth by the Obama administration this month.

Chu, like the rest of the Obama administration, is sticking to the party line and highlighting what the U.S. has done domestically already. Chu’s speech highlighted the stimulus package investments in home and commercial building energy retrofits, solar power technology, carbon capture and sequestration, wind energy technology, transportation, energy storage and the next generation of technology down the road, or as Chu called that early stage tech, “some of the crazier stuff.” Examples of “high-risk, high-reward,” technology that was funded with the ARPA-E stimulus grants include a liquid battery that could scale to “swimming pool size” and a technology that has been inspired by an enzyme used by the human body to capture carbon, pointed out Chu.