• In this on-the-record briefing, David Turk, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, discusses current U.S. energy policy priorities. He discusses multiple topics, including efforts to transition to clean energy and American priorities for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP28). 


MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center’s pre-COP28 Briefing on U.S. Energy Policy Priorities.  My name is Jake Goshert.  I’m the moderator for today’s briefing.  As a reminder, the briefing is the record, and we will post a transcript of the briefing on our website  For journalists joining us on Zoom, take a moment now to rename yourself in the chat window with your name, outlet, and country so we know who you are.  And our briefer today is David Turk, Deputy Secretary of Energy.  Following his opening remarks, I will open the floor to questions.  But with that, I’m going to turn it over to the Secretary.

DEPUTY SECRETARY TURK:  Well, thank you very much, Jake, and great to be with you all in person and those online as well.  I thought I’d just do three things by way of brief opening and then happy to answer any questions that folks have.  First, is just to describe a little bit about what we’re doing domestically.  

Every country should be going to the COP reflecting on what they’re doing.  And I’m heading there on Saturday and will be there for a few days, joining Secretary Kerry and other members of the U.S. delegation.  Every country should be going.  This is the global stocktake year.  

What are we all doing, right?  This is a global challenge; these are global emissions.  We’re seeing impacts of climate change around the world.  We’re certainly seeing extreme impacts of collimate change in the U.S. over the last year.  I know your countries are seeing it as well.  There’s not a country around the world that’s not being harmed and impacted in one way already, and emissions impacts will get even worse, especially if we don’t get our acts together. 

So during this global stocktake year, it’s incumbent upon all of us to look at what we’re doing.  Important to focus on pledges – and they’ll be a focus on the nationally determined contributions, of course, as there is in every COP – but it may be even more important to focus on what we’re actually doing:  What are the investments?  Where’s the progress?  Where’s the lack of progress?  What more do we need to focus on? 

I’m pleased to be part of this Biden administration in which we’ve made historic progress, unprecedented progress on our own climate footprint, reducing our GHG emissions and investing in a clean energy transition and into the clean energy future.  I’m not sure it can be overstated just how impactful these last few years have been, and maybe even more importantly the kinds of investments, the scaled investment, that we’re making in our own clean energy transition and what means in years to come, and frankly decades to come, given the volume and scale of what we’re doing.

A lot has been talked about the Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.  These are historic pieces of legislation that were passed in a previous Congress.  Just to give you a few numbers by way of scale, it’s an estimated – just at the tax incentive part of that – and these are 10-year tax incentives literally across the board in terms of encouraging, many of them 30 percent, some even bigger than that – encouraging our buildout of solar, of wind, of geothermal, of nuclear, you name it on the clean energy front, green hydrogen, clean hydrogen – we’re incenting it, we’re encouraging it, and we’re using a tax incentives lever about it. 

Important that these are 10-year tax incentives.  There’s been estimates of this being as – the original estimate was about $369 billion.  There’s been some other estimates that had it maybe even a trillion dollars of incentives going in the U.S. to build out our clean energy infrastructure as quickly as we possibly can.  That’s just one part of what we’ve done, one part of this historic legislation.

Just in our department, the Department of Energy alone, we’ve been given $100 billion to work mostly in grants that go out to private sector to build out hydrogen, to build out geothermal, again to build out – in a complementary way to all these tax incentives, to build out our clean energy infrastructure.  We’ve recently announced $7 billion, just to give you one example, to build out clean hydrogen hubs across our country.  That is a big investment; that is a historic investment.  That’s not the kind of investment that we make on a regular basis, even in U.S. Government, as we big as we are and as much funding as we have.  These are really historic levels of funding that we’re working on here in the U.S. side. 

One other data – just in our department alone, in order to administer this $100 billion of grant program, it ends up being about 70 new program – seven, zero new programs – just to give you a sense of the diversity of what we’re talking about, in addition to the volume of funding.  We’ve hired up 800 new people to come and run these programs.  Again, that’s just one data point showing the scale of what we’re doing and we’re starting to see the real impacts of that — $150 billion worth of battery manufacturing investment, which is supporting our EV transition in our country going forward along those lines.  

And we’re starting to see some real impacts on our own emissions as well.  Of course, that’s what we’re after, is we’re after emission reductions.  The latest estimates that we have is that our emissions in 2023 across the U.S. will go down 3 percent, even in the face of quite robust GDP growth that we’ve seen.  

So we need to do more.  All countries need to do more.  We need to do more to make sure that we are achieving our climate reduction targets that we put on the table, that the President has put on the table, rightfully ambitious in our country.  And of course, other countries need to not only again set targets, set ambitious targets, but it’s actually how we’re achieving those targets. And I’m happy to get into any of those particulars if folks would want to, in terms of how we’re actually implementing our domestic strategy.

Second point I’d like to just share is how does this dovetail with our international strategy and what we’re working on with partners across the world.  I’d like to highlight in particular what our department, our Department of Energy, is working on.  And this is very complementary to all the things that Secretary Kerry’s working on, that other departments across our government are working on.  I wanted to give a few examples. 

One, we have very robust bilateral partners with key countries around the world from the Department of Energy with our counterpart.  For instance, in Japan, we have a very robust partnership with METI.  We have a very robust partnership with the UK.  We have a very robust partnership with Nigeria.  We have a very robust partnership with Chile.  Literally countries around the world in a bipartisan or a bilateral basis trying to help each other, trying to share information, trying to work jointly where it’s appropriate on particular projects.  

I mentioned the fact that we are building out a clean energy infrastructure in an unprecedented scale.  That has huge economic opportunities for our partners around the world.  And I’ve had a chance to travel in Latin America and Africa over the last year, and what I hear from countries is they not only want to take advantage of their natural resources, whether it’s lithium or other critical minerals that we’re going to need at scales unprecedented because of this clean energy transition, but they want to move up that value chain.  They want to make sure that they’re getting as much economic opportunity from those natural resources that they have.  That is very complementary and supportive by the United States to make sure that countries who have natural resources, the people in those countries, benefit from those resources, they move up that value chain.  

From our end, from our perspective, the more diverse the supply chains, the more there are countries out there in this space, the better off in terms of the security of supply, the economic benefits from this clean energy transition being widely felt, including and especially for the most vulnerable countries, the least financially endowed countries around the world.  So that’s another area that we’re working on is global clean energy supply chains and making sure those benefits are felt around the world.  

The other effort I wanted to highlight in particular is something we call Net Zero World.  We have phenomenal resources here – technical resources, expertise here in our country, including 17 national labs across our country.  The Department of Energy administers those national labs.  We call upon that expertise.  I think it’s about 70, 80 thousand people that are employed in these labs all across the country – phenomenal expertise in any and all clean energy technologies.  Many of these labs were involved in early development, solar PV that we’ve now taken to sail around the world, and so many people around the world have been benefiting from that.  

We came in, in this administration, very consciously wanting to not only have that expertise tapped for our own domestic purposes, accelerating our clean energy transition, but through Net Zero World, we’re working with a select number of partners around the world – if other countries are interested, and we’d be happy to have discussions – to make that national lab expertise available to help countries achieve their own clean energy targets but to do it quicker – to do it with modeling expertise, to do it with technological expertise, whether countries want to invest in hydrogen or their EV transition, or geothermal, or solar, or offshore wind.  This technical expertise is helping countries around the world that the U.S. is making available in a way that’s very mutually beneficial and supportive of our overall diplomacy as well.  

And then the last point I wanted to make is specific to the oil and gas industry.  This climate conference in particular is getting a lot of attention, a lot of focus on the oil and gas industry.  The oil and gas industry is a major supplier of energy around the world, but it’s also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions around the world as well.  

The two points I wanted to make on that front – and we’re working on this as the U.S. Government not only domestically but working internationally, and there’ll be some announcements that are made on this front – first of all is methane emissions, methane emissions throughout the oil and gas sector.  There are other sectors that have methane emissions – landfills, agriculture.  But there’s been a particular focus over the last several years, including the Methane Partnership that the U.S., working with the EU and countries around the world, have been really championing on that front.  This climate conference has an opportunity to really deal with methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.  

To me this is the biggest no-brainer opportunity to reduce emissions, to reduce emissions quickly, to reduce emissions at scale.  It requires companies, not only the independent oil companies around the world but national oil companies around the world being serious, being transparent, allowing third-party verification so that we all can reduce our methane emissions and do it as quickly as we possibly can.  And again, there’ll be some announcements that are made in our continuing effort on that front.  

Second point on oil and gas I wanted to make is focused on scope 3 emissions.  For those who follow these issues, there’s scope 1 emissions, scope 2 emissions, scope 3 emissions.  Scope 3 emissions for the oil and gas sector by far are the largest.  These are the emissions that are caused when people drive and get oil, spend gasoline in their cars, or diesel in their cars – the emissions that are put out by the products of oil and gas companies, so oil and natural gas whether it’s in a car or in a powerplant.  Scope 3 emissions for oil and gas companies are ten times or more higher than their scope 1 and scope 2 combined.  

And so there’ll be some discussion at the COP of progress needing to be made on scope 1 and scope 2 in particular.  I just wanted to make the point that scope 3 is so much larger than scope 1 and scope 2.  Our hope is that there is an awful lot of focus on the Scope 3 emissions in oil and gas companies – again, whether they’re private companies, international companies, or the national oil companies are also constructive, aggressive, ambitious on Scope 3 emissions because they’re so much larger than Scope 1, Scope 2.  We’ve got to deal with all of those emissions if we’re going to be successful on our shared objectives.

So let me leave it there, and again, happy to take any and all questions.  

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  I’ll open it up to questions now.  Again, if called on, please make sure to introduce yourself with your name, country, and outlet.  We’ll start here with Ukraine.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Dmitry Anopchenko, U.S. correspondent for Ukrainian television.  Mr. Turk, thank you for doing this, and my thanks to Foreign Press Center.  You always got the best speakers we need here and now for all our stories.  

If I may stray of the topic of the discussion a little bit.  Two questions on Ukraine.  Firstly, I was told by Ukraine and also American officials that we are on the eve of the most difficult winter during the war.  So what’s your assessment of the challenges for Ukraine?  And on which step the America aid is?  And secondly, if I may:  Could you update on the policy of providing the price cap for the Russian oil?  And have you seen any significant attempts of market to avoid those price cap and to find the different ways to sell oil?  Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY TURK:  Yeah, thanks for the question, Dmitry.  And first of all, my heart certainly goes out to your friends and colleagues, our friends and colleagues in Ukraine.  What’s happening in Ukraine, what continues to happen in Ukraine, is just barbaric.  It’s just inhumane in terms of these attacks.  And we’re seeing a new wave of attacks, including during winter.  I know there’s a big storm going on right now in really challenging weather circumstances in Ukraine, and the Russians are trying to take advantage of that.  They tried to do it last winter with their concerted bombardment of electrical infrastructure in particular, and they’re starting to do similar things this year as well.  

And so last winter I was incredibly proud that the U.S. Government, working with allies, and again, just supporting the bravery, supporting the resourcefulness of the Ukrainian people and the government officials.  I spend a lot of my time personally – and our team spent a lot of time – trying to do what we can to help support our Ukrainian friends and colleagues in this challenging time.

My hope is that we all continue our focus, we all continue our support – not only in the U.S. Government, but around the world.  Last winter was challenging.  We made it through, first and foremost because of the bravery and the resourcefulness of the Ukrainian people, but an awful lot of support and help from partners, as it should be when one country illegally invades another country.  We all need to rally to that country’s support.  

This winter we all need to double our attention, redouble our attention and our focus.  And we’re certainly trying to do whatever we can from the U.S. Department of Energy side of things.  We’re very much involved in all the White House discussions with our USAID colleagues, with our State colleagues.  And again, we’re trying to make whatever we can with our National Labs.  Last year we worked with private industry in the U.S. to ship over electrical equipment in very short notice when it was needed in those first days of the bombardment of the electrical grid.  We’re doing everything we can again this year.

I’ll certainly leave it to our State Department colleagues, our White House colleagues to talk about the broader dynamics with Congress in terms of funding and support.  But I think this president has been incredibly clear on what he thinks we need to have going forward in terms of our support for the Ukrainian people first and foremost.  And I fully support that, and we’ll do everything we can from the U.S. Department of Energy to help on that front.

You also mentioned the price cap.  I won’t go into a full explanation for those who don’t follow the price cap issue, but this is an attempt to do two things.  This was work by the U.S. with key allies around the world to try to make sure that we reduce profits that Russia is getting from its oil resources which it depends on – and natural gas resources but the price cap is more oil-focused – and at the same time, not cost huge distress by supply disruptions around the world.  

One thing that had not gotten as much attention as I think deserves is when Russia upset global energy markets, we felt it in the U.S, countries around the world felt it, but the least prosperous countries around the world, the least developed countries around the world felt it even worse.  It was a significant part of the inflation pressure that we all felt, that countries and people around the world felt along those lines.  So the price cap is a tool, a mechanism to try to keep prices affordable for countries and peoples around the world, and reduce those (inaudible).

We’ve had a lot of discussions, including recently, to make sure that the price cap is enforced, to make sure that we live true to the potential of what the price cap has out there.  So we’re working with our Treasury Department colleagues in particular, but State Department colleagues and White House colleagues.  You all have seen, those who follow this, an enforcement mechanism with folks who are evading price cap right now.  And we will certainly continue on those efforts going forward.  

But thanks for the questions.

MODERATOR:  I think we’ll move then to – and to Leah.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you for doing this briefing today.  My name is Leah Griffith, from the Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun.  Shifting to nuclear power again, Bloomberg reported that at COP28 the U.S. and UK will lead a pledge to triple the global nuclear power capacity by 2050.  They’re expected, along with the Japanese Government, to announce this pledge tomorrow.  Can you tell us any more about how many countries are planning to pledge this, and can you give us any more details?

DEPUTY SECRETARY TURK:  Yeah.  So I can’t scoop our announcement on this, and that will be coming shortly, just as you mentioned.  But this is a big deal.  We think nuclear power – nuclear power right now in the U.S. is about 20 percent of our electricity generation, and a significant part, a quite large part of our existing clean energy generation.  And it’s 24/7 generating power as well.  

Japan has an even higher percentage; France has an even higher percentage.  Other countries have different policies and approaches to nuclear, but within the U.S. we view it is a key part of our current clean energy generation, but also an expanding opportunity and an expanding part of our future mix and future mixes around the world.  That’s why we’re proud to be part of this effort to get countries signed up to triple the capacity for nuclear by 2050 period of time.  And this applies not only to existing nuclear, the bigger nuclear plants that folks are most familiar with, but this also applies to what’s called small modular reactors and other advanced nuclear technology that we’ve invested a lot of money in, Japan has, others have as well to have a diversity and array of nuclear options going forward.  

There’s also a lot of exciting efforts and focus – and we’re doing this certainly at the Department of Energy and in the U.S. Government more generally – on fusion as well, which is getting new attention, including from the private sector investing $6 billion in fusion development, so that we have fission, we have fusion, we have a diversity of efforts going forward.  But this, I think, will be – the pledge you’re referring to will be one of the biggest announcements that’s made at the COP, and we’ll hopefully get a further momentum behind really building out and taking advantage of this terrific resource.  

MODERATOR:  Let’s move on to Italy.  

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you.  (Inaudible) Alberto Simoni from Italian La Stampa.  Thank you for this briefing.  I will now switch to China and the U.S., because a couple of weeks ago or maybe three, Kerry met with Chinese counterpart and with Chinese Government, came back on the dialogue of climate change after one year of poor dialogue.  But the pledges on cutting emissions and the path to a green transition are still not clear and neither set.  So I would like to know:  What do you expect concretely from China on Dubai, on the meeting that is unfolding?  And what would you – bring you to say, okay, what we achieved with China is good right now?

And if I may, the second quick question you answered on the price cap, but I would like to know how do political crisis and conflict in Middle East, and also in Ukraine, have been affecting the international coalitions in trying to have a real green deal in – on next two weeks.  

DEPUTY SECRETARY TURK:  Yeah, thanks for the question.  So let me take the China question first and then talk about the Middle East dynamics and at least how I see that playing out going forward.  First, on the China front, I want to really give a genuine and deserve a shout out to our leader on our international climate effort, Secretary Kerry.  His diligence – and I’ve known Secretary Kerry for years; I’ve had the privilege of working with him in trying to support what he’s doing – his diligence in working with and on all things climate, but especially working on the bilateral relationship with China, has just been extraordinary.  And a lot of the progress that was made at Sunnylands – in fact, a very large amount of that progress is really due to his doggedness, his determination, his leadership to go above and beyond.  

We did have some challenges in getting China to come to the table, have discussions, and get this working group set up and really do the kinds of things that we did at Sunnylands.  Frankly, we would have loved to have had that kind of announcement a year or two years ago, and we’ve been working on it.  But you make the progress where you can find the progress on that front.  

I think the important thing I’m watching for China coming out of this COP and then the weeks and months after that – important for them to self-reflect, just like I said every country needs to self-reflect, on the global stocktake.  And are they doing enough?  Is their NDC, their 2030 NDC – nationally determined contribution – as ambitious as it needs to be and should be as part of an overall global solution?  When I look at this, putting on my energy and climate analyst hat, is the answer is no, it’s not as ambitious as it needs to be.  (Inaudible) by 2030 for China is just not good enough.  They can do it earlier, they will do it earlier, and they should update their NDC accordingly – again, wearing my energy analyst, climate analyst – just trying to make the numbers kind of add up on that front.  

To me, a lot of this is following the money, following the investment, and following the policy.  And China is expanding their solar and their wind at huge, unprecedented numbers.  That’s great.  But there’s also a lot of investment and investment decisions going into coal right now.  And so I think there needs to be an awful lot of focus on what is actually happening not only within China but what they do with their BRI, the Belt and Road Initiative, as well working with other countries.  And so I think every country needs to take a look at what they’re doing and make changes accordingly on that end.  

On the Middle East dynamic, I think it’s really interesting if you take a step back and view the world – not only the government but the private sector’s focus on climate change over the last few years.  We’ve had COVID; we’ve had a Russian invasion of Ukraine and all that that has wrought.  We’ve got now the situation in the Middle East.  We’ve had some bumps on the road, but I think what’s interesting is the support – the public support, the government support, the private sector support – to deal with climate change as an existential challenge and to deal with it urgently – has had some fluctuation.  Different countries have had different elections, but it’s remarkable how durable that is and how much momentum there is behind clean energy transition.  

One data point for you there:  We’re now up to 10 percent of our vehicles sold here in the U.S. being electric vehicles.  That’s up from 3.4 percent two years ago and 6.7 percent a year ago, so the trajectory of what we’re doing – Europe’s already over 20 percent, China’s well over 20 percent, and I saw a statistic that they’re at a third of their vehicles sold being electric vehicles.  

So we’re starting to see some real momentum, and a lot of that is just driven by the fact that these clean energy technologies are cheaper in many cases and certainly getting more cheaply by the day.  And the economics of it, the jobs of it, the industrial strategy of it is a very powerful momentum, powerful motivation for countries around the world.  So I think it’s remarkable how much progress, how much momentum we’ve had even in a very challenging few years geopolitically.

MODERATOR:  I think we have time for one last question.  I saw a hand over here.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Two short points.  The first one is that most of the people in Middle East and anywhere, I guess, in Africa – they look to the U.S. leadership on this issue, the energy and the climate.  Do we expect a very high representation in the conference in Dubai on the United States (inaudible)?  Because this would be very supportive of the efforts in general.

But the second point:  Do we expect any type of initiatives in general from the U.S.?  And particularly, there is an area of an interest to my country, Egypt, which is the – what do you call – climate-smart agriculture.  What extent do you have any ideas about that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY TURK:  Yeah, thanks for the questions.  So I feel incredibly proud to be part of this administration.  One of my big motivations for joining this administration – I’ve been working on climate issues, clean energy issues for quite a few years in my own career, and to be part of an administration, a historic administration that has seen the most progress ever – not only by any government in the U.S. but, I would argue, by any government in the world – over the last several years with this historic legislation, the volume of what we’re doing with the tax incentives, all of the things that I talked about.  So I feel incredibly proud of what we’re doing domestically.

I think there’ll be a lot of – the key deliverables at the COP will be ones that the U.S., I’m proud to say, will be very much part of championing.  It was mentioned already, the tripling of nuclear capacity by 2050.  There’s also a tripling of renewables by 2030, and that’s something that we’re very supportive of.  There’s a doubling of energy efficiency rates by 2030 as well.  I feel like our NDC of reducing our emissions over 50 percent by 2030 is a very ambitious initiative and very much in line with a 1.5-degree scenario.  

So I feel like we are not only putting the pledges on the table and working on the deliverables side, but the most important part – and I would ask everybody focus on this – is where are the investments, where are you actually achieving progress on the ground in reducing emissions, in reducing costs for technologies that benefit not only citizens and folks here in the U.S. but countries around the world.  And I feel like our record is a very strong one and feel very proud.

I’d also say – I mentioned Secretary Kerry earlier – I think his record going back decades in terms of his commitment to climate is incredible.  I had a chance to work for Senator Biden when he worked – President Biden when he was a senator, and I know that climate is something that he is personally very passionate about.  Secretary Granholm, who I get the privilege of working with on a daily basis as our Secretary of Energy, is incredibly passionate about climate, as I am as well.  So the personal commitment – again, not just to show up in meeting and make a speech, but the commitment to actually walk the talk and to deliver – is incredibly impressive.  I think that is more important than, again, delivering a speech here or there.  It’s really the personal commitment to actually change the real world for the better and all the benefits that come from it.

The issue – sorry, you mentioned one – oh, climate-smart agriculture.  I think climate-smart agriculture should get an awful lot more attention.  Secretary Vilsack and his team over at the Department of Agriculture is doing some remarkable work.  They got a lot more money from these historic pieces of legislation to work with farmers, ranchers across our country to do climate-smart agriculture.  I know there’s some efforts that they’re doing internationally as well, but I think this is a huge opportunity space.  It can be a win-win for farmers and ranchers but a win-win for our clean energy and climate transition going forward.

One area I’m particularly excited about is something called agrivoltaics, which is working on the agriculture but the clean energy side and thinking about how to do clean energy, whether it’s solar or wind or others, as you’re doing farming and having another revenue stream for farmers and ranchers but also being part of the clean energy transition as well.  And I think (inaudible) a really exciting area.

MODERATOR:  Okay, I’m going to have to end the Q&A there, sir.  I don’t know if you have any last thoughts you wanted to share with everyone.

DEPUTY SECRETARY TURK:  Well, just a thanks.  Thanks again for the time.  Thanks for your reporting, what you’re focused on.  And again, as you look at the COP or look at climate issues or look at clean energy issues, focus on the numbers, focus on the investment and what we all need to do to really step up.  And again, proud to be part of a government that’s transparent.  We’re not doing everything we need to do.  We’ve said that.  There are areas that we need to focus on even more, but hopefully everyone self-reflects and asks tough questions of ourselves of what we’re doing to help, not only with our own emissions but what we could be doing even more as a good international partner as well.  So just wanted to leave you with that – the intention is there.  It’s all about execution, and we’re trying to execute in the U.S. Government.  Thanks, everybody.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, Deputy Secretary Turk, and thank you to the journalists joining us in person and on Zoom.  This ends today’s briefing.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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