CARY, N.C. – By Kendall Jones, NBC17
US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu stopped in Cary Friday to speak to a national group of 150 CEO’s about hurrying the progress on alternative energy production.
Amid economic news that North Carolina’s unemployment rate is still in the double digits, congressional leaders pushed green energy as the answer.
“We have had severe job losses,” Democrat Senator Kay Hagan said. “I see the green energy sector as great job creation.”
As legislators toured the solar farm at Cary based software maker SAS, they saw tremendous opportunity.
“North Carolina has the potential as a state to be the Saudi Arabia of alternative fuels,” District 2 Congressman Bob Etheridge said.
From offshore renewable energy to solar panels, Washington leaders said North Carolina can manufacture green energy products and harvest the clean fuel.
Secretary Salazar said his agency has cleared out bureaucratic confusion holding up potential offshore renewable energy projects.
He said the first exploratory leases were awarded for renewable wind energy production on the outer continental shelf off New Jersey and Delaware.
“We also have opened up a new chapter of energy production with renewable energy on our public lands,” Salazar said.
Secretary Chu said finding cleaner ways to generate electricity is good, but America also needs greener ways to generate its current electricity sources.
“The United States is not going to turn its back on coal,” Chu said. “Fifty percent of our electricity is generated by coal. The industry will not develop that technology, but we have to partner with the industry to develop it.”
A new energy bill advocating alternative fuels is working its way through congress and legislators say if they can pass it, the legislation will be a win for the state.
“North Carolina is well positioned to be a leader in green energy jobs,” Hagan said.