Bingaman Statement - Tech Transfer Hearing

September 18, 2002
12:00 AM
The purpose of this hearing is to consider technology transfer. More specifically, the role the U.S. government can and should play to support private sector efforts to achieve sustainable energy policies in developing countries. Given the positions taken by the Bush Administration at the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the Committee invited the State Department to testify here today. Unfortunately, the State Department declined. Technology transfer and deployment is one of the most critical issues for the health of the world environment and economy. Commitments made today to energy technologies and related infrastructure will influence the world energy system for most of the next century. The right public policies can significantly reduce inefficiencies in the system from the source to the end use. For the most part, governments do not make the direct investments, the private sector does. One striking example, that I find especially disturbing, is how poor natural resource development policy is resulting in the complete loss of valuable resources such as natural gas. In the absence of modern technology and sound resource policy, developing nations are building in excessive costs, locking out environmental protection, and diminishing their own development potential. Cooperation at the international level promotes outcomes favorable to U.S. interests including the sharing of the costs and risks of developing new energy technologies. We need to do a better job of focusing on the long-term when it comes to energy policies and greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to do so means pushing the consequences of global climate change onto future generations. We need to focus on near-term incentives for individuals, government, and the private sector that can be taken today. U.S. participation in the Global Environmental Facility and the many energy initiatives discussed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg has been paltry at best. The U.S. is behind by $210 million in its funding of the Global Environmental Facility. The U.S. declined several leadership opportunities on clean energy issues at the World Summit on Sustainability and Development in August --- key issues on which the U.S. was curiously absent included renewable energy and the World Bank Group’s Global Initiative on Gas Flaring Reduction. The World Bank Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative seeks to support the joint efforts of the oil industry and national governments to reduce the wasteful venting and flaring of gas by identifying areas where common approaches and collective action can strengthen existing efforts. The immediate need for oil export revenues often leads governments of oil producing countries to disregard the importance of developing the associated natural gas resources. This neglect has a high cost for individuals and local communities. In many African countries, where biomass accounts for as much as two-thirds of total energy consumption, 86% of sub-Saharan (minus South Africa), the missed opportunity for economic development is most evident in the wasted human productivity spent in the daily search for firewood. Reducing deforestation --- one of the most pressing environmental problems faced by African nations --- and the acceleration of greenhouse gas concentrations from the wasteful venting and flaring of natural gas are two obvious environmental benefits of a concerted global program. Key to making this happen is the development of public-private partnerships to build local infrastructure. In Johannesburg, the World Bank launched its Global Gas Flaring Reduction Public-Private Partnership to address this. Recognizing the World Bank initiative as a good business proposition, the oil and gas industry is an active participant. Regrettably, the U.S. government has not been. The Bush Administration has chosen to sit on the sidelines and watch other countries take the lead. As the world’s largest user and importer of crude oil and oil products, the U.S. should join with industry and the world community to take a leadership role in reducing gas flaring. I hope that we can hear some comments and suggestions from some of today’s witnesses that will help to move us forward in our design of national energy policy that is consistent with the need to develop a consensus on how to improve our government’s management of greenhouse gas-related technology programs, allowing us to truly affect global climate change. I would like to thank everyone for their participation in today’s hearing. # # #