Hearings and Business Meetings
March 9, 2006
SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 10:00 AM
The Honorable Alexander Karsner
Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
Statement of Alexander A. Karsner,
Nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, March 9, 2006
Mr. Chairman, Senator Bingaman, and members of the Committee, it is a great honor to appear before you today as the President’s nominee for the position of Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. I appreciate very much the support of Secretary Bodman and Deputy Secretary Sell and I am particularly grateful to President Bush for his confidence in me, coming at a time that he has resolutely called upon us to address an addiction to oil and transform the way we power our economy and lead our lives.
My parents, David and Blanche, have been together more than 51 years and raised four children, born on separate Air Force bases across three continents. They instilled in us an appreciation of service above self. Unlike my grandfather, my father, my brother, and every male Karsner since our family first immigrated, I have not known the privilege and honor of wearing the uniform of our country. So, the opportunity to serve this nation at a critical juncture is especially meaningful to my family.
My wife Maria is my partner, best friend, soul mate and is a rock of stability for me. Our children, Caroline Hope (who is 3) and Jenny Faith (who is 1), are named for their grandmothers and the timeless aspirations of our values. If confirmed, nothing would be more meaningful to me, than to contribute to the great cause of America’s energy independence and see all children inherit a healthier, cleaner, and freer world. Along with my siblings Danielle, Diana, and Fred, I want to thank all of my family for their unending love and support I commenced my studies in Political Science and Religious Studies at Rice University more than two decades ago. At that time, if you wanted a job in Houston, then chances were it would be in the energy industry. I became part of a dynamic entrepreneurial company developing, financing, owning and operating Michigan’s first coal and wood
waste cogeneration independent power plant. As a very young man, I was fortunate to gain experience in coal, biomass, oil and gas projects and exposure to most aspects of project development, project management, and project finance, including contract negotiation, economic and financial analyses, permitting and construction. As infrastructure opportunities grew and my own experience deepened, I discovered an untapped and unlimited enthusiasm for the creativity and imagination, risks and results that free enterprise affords.
An opportunity to take part in the promise of a "new world order" came when the Rotary Foundation awarded me a graduate fellowship and deemed me a "Goodwill Ambassador." I arrived in China’s booming Pearl River Delta to live, learn and work amongst the Chinese in the autumn of 1991. These were historic and interesting times, arriving only weeks before Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the region during which he declared China’s new economic openness to the West. During this period, I was drawn to participate intimately in the emergence of Hong Kong’s increasingly democratic processes and elections. My departure came only hours after witnessing the lowering of the Union Jack over Hong Kong harbor and, the columns of the Red Army entering the city for the first time, and what many consider the end of the imperial era. In the interceding years, as the Senior Development Manager and a Project Director for Wartsila Power Development, I traveled extensively and frequently in China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and the Subcontinent working to develop new generation facilities to power the region’s unprecedented economic growth. Essential to the task was maximizing the value of international collaboration, asserting leadership in an environment of multicultural management, and recognizing the fundamental character of the formidable forces of global competition.
Having survived and succeeded in developing from concept to commercial operations Karachi’s first independent power facility, I came also to experience and understand the nature and tactics of our present enemy and the threat posed to the progress of civilized society.
My efforts were substantially motivated by the promise of introducing reliable electricity to developing nations, thereby providing access to light to read or study, (enabling women to pursue literacy which had been previously forbidden),as well as creating the ability to refrigerate vaccines and food, and to access even a fraction of the conveniences we often take for granted. The sum of my experiences has led me to resolve that energy efficiency is more than intelligent economics; it is a moral imperative.
Much of Karachi and parts of Sindh province were in open insurrection in those days, under martial occupation, with terror attacks occurring almost nightly. We had erratic electric supply, no email, no internet, no cell phones and no assurances of our safety. In spite of the enormity of the challenge—or perhaps because of it-- I was able to manage dedicated people of so many nationalities and perspectives to focus on objectives of measurable progress. We synthesized our different points of view to realize a greater vision and achieved with private risk capital what few believed was achievable at all.
Philosophically, I learned to constantly question conventional wisdom about what is in fact possible and to embrace timetables some might consider too distant and speculative. Pragmatically, I learned to guide market forces to reasonable risks and overcome market imperfections and impediments to the free flow of capital, goods, services, people, and ideas. I am hopeful that if confirmed, my perspective will add value in the Department and the Administration and my experience will be applicable to President Bush’s determination that our nation must continue to achieve vital gains towards international competitiveness, a better global environment, and greater energy security.
As I focused my life and founded my business exclusively on the development of new energy technologies, I dedicated myself to contribute to a safer, cleaner, freer and sustainable future for my children, their generation, and the generations to follow. I believe that success will be defined by enabling commercial frameworks and free enterprise to accelerate the development and deployment of new energy technologies to address these challenges head on. If confirmed, I will seek to expand the efforts to more
rapidly commercialize and deploy the under-harvested yield of decades of public sector investment in applied research and development.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, in concluding my remarks, I am drawn back once again to my father’s example. He served this government all his life, including nearly 25 years in the armed services. When Strategic Air Command deployed him for a year away from our family to a distant land amidst a foreign people, I was too young to understand what compelled him to go. But, as we grew older, he made sure that my siblings and I understood the meaning of his service. He said "We owe everything to America;everything, for the right to worship God in peace, without fear of persecution and for the opportunity to pursue our dreams, whatever they may be." But, he would always add "our liberty comes with responsibilities and our opportunities imply an obligation."
I am honored to be before you today and for the opportunity, if confirmed, to extend my family’s legacy of public service, to take on the great challenges before us and fulfill the responsibilities for which I have been nominated.
Thank you and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.