Hillary Clinton: ‘We Have a Lot to Learn’ About Energy Policy From Other Nations

By Penny Starr | April 16, 2010 | 7:49 AM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told officials from more than 32 Western Hemisphere nations on Thursday that the United States is looking to those nations to develop better energy policies and practices.
“For our part, we believe the United States has a lot to learn,” Clinton said at the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas in Washington.
She said the U.S. has a “deep respect” for the way nations such as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica are developing clean fuels and adopting sustainable technologies: “We know we have some catching up to do, and we’re committed to doing just that,” Clinton said.
The two-day summit, hosted by the Obama administration, stems from an energy partnership announced a year ago in which nations of the Western Hemisphere collaborate on creating “clean” energy and combating global warming.
The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) is comprised of voluntary initiatives on energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuels, infrastructure, and energy poverty, according to a State Department fact sheet.  The “fundamental purpose of this partnership is to promote sustainable growth that benefits all of our citizens,” Clinton said on Thursday.
In her speech, Clinton said energy innovation is key to combating poverty in the Western Hemisphere:
“We know that in our hemisphere, there is an income gap that has held back millions of people who have the talent, the desire, and yes, the work ethic to lift themselves up, to improve their lot, and to give their families, particularly their children, a different future. But they have lacked the opportunity. I believe that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And it is our job to try to equal that equation,” Clinton told the gathering.
“We can open doors to those who live in remote regions off the grid or in cities growing too quickly for power companies to meet rising demand,” Clinton said. She noted that too many people spend too much time on basic tasks because they lack electricity.
By decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels, governments – particularly those in the Caribbean -- will be able to spend money instead on social and economic development while decreasing their carbon emissions and protecting the environment, Clinton added. “This is not only an opportunity; this is a responsibility, and not just to ourselves and to each other, but to future generations,” she said.
On Thursday, Clinton said the U.S. will pledge money to poor countries in the region to ensure that “clean technologies” are used to meet their energy needs. She announced six energy and climate initiatives that the United States is launching through the partnership, including one to fund energy projects in the Caribbean.
“The United States will provide a grant to the Organization of American States to lend technical and legal expertise to any Caribbean country seeking to help get clean energy projects off the ground,” Clinton said. “We are committed to helping you with energy security. We think clean energy and energy security go hand in hand.”
The other initiatives include U.S. funding for urban planning projects in Western Hemisphere countries and working with certain countries to explore natural gas production from shale – a plan Clinton called “controversial” but necessary.
‘Energy poverty’
Clinton also announced the Peace Corps Renewable Energy and Climate Change Initiative, which will train more than 2,000 volunteers to work on “renewable energy and climate change.”
“Funding provided by the Department of State will support volunteers’ efforts to address energy poverty by using small grants and local training to build the capacity of rural communities,” a fact sheet states. “Volunteers will introduce energy-efficient practices and alternative-energy technologies, including small-scale solar panels, cook stoves, small wind turbines and other energy-efficiency solutions.” 
The final two initiatives involve the U.S. Department of Agriculture working with other countries on biomass energy production and a panel of three U.S. scientists who will act as advisors for EPCA.
“There is no greater energy crisis in our hemisphere than the one happening right now in Haiti,” Clinton said. “And I want to thank Venezuela, who is represented here, for the support that you have given to Haiti, in supplying energy to the people of Haiti.”

The State Department previously has expressed concern about Venezuela’s deepening ties with Iran.
The two-day event in Washington was hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States. President Obama and other leaders in the Western hemisphere announced ECPA at a summit held in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009.