U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday heralded America’s oil and gas boom but urged private investors and government leaders to aim, ultimately, to shift their investments away from carbon-intensive fuels.
“What is the long play? To state the obvious, I’m not an investment banker, but I wouldn’t go long on investments that lead to carbon pollution. I’d bid a little more on clean energy,” Biden said in a keynote speech at Goldman Sachs’ North American Energy Summit in New York City. “There’s a convergence around addressing climate change and carbon emissions, both here and abroad.”
The U.S. is now the world’s biggest producer of natural gas and the top exporter of petroleum products, thanks in large part to advancements in drilling technology and discoveries of “tight” shale resources. Biden credited the fossil fuel growth with expanding the U.S. economy and shrinking its trade deficit. Expanded energy production, he said, gives the White House greater influence in foreign policy as U.S. exports supplant supplies from “bad actors” like Russia. “All of this has made us a world energy superpower,” he said.
But Biden also highlighted the rising risks of investing in carbon-based projects. He noted that major publicly traded companies are accounting for a potential price on carbon when they make their business decisions, and in China, the government is moving aggressively to stem air and carbon pollution to address simmering political tensions. And last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030.
“We should look at this energy boom as a transition not only to greater energy independence, but also renewable energy,” he said.
Biden also cautioned against a future scenario in which the U.S. fails to invest sufficiently in renewables like wind and solar power and ends up importing technology and products from other countries -- just as it did with oil and gas.
"We should see this as an extraordinary window of opportunity before us to secure an economic advantage," he told the summit.
The United States is second to China for the largest share of total clean energy investments, according to a recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts. U.S. investments totaled $36.7 billion in 2013, down 9 percent from the year before. Chinese investments topped $54 billion.
The two-day Goldman Sachs event gathered hundreds of leaders in the public and private sectors, including CEOs, energy officials and experts from the United States, Canada and Mexico. The three nations have "created a trillion dollar trade relationship, and our energy cooperation is growing closer every day -- with a few bumps in there. Speak to our Canadian friends about the bumps," Biden said, hinting at the tensions over the proposed Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline.