At Goldman summit, Biden urges investment in infrastructure and renewables

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Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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Addressing a room full of some of the most influential investment bankers in the world, Vice President Joe Biden today urged investment in infrastructure and renewable energy to harness the U.S. energy boom for decades to come.

"You will determine the outcome of this energy transformation more than any other group of people in the world," Biden told hundreds of people gathered at Goldman Sachs North American Energy Summit at the company's headquarters in lower Manhattan. "You can help make sure America continues to be an energy superpower."

Biden was introduced by Goldman C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein before launching into a 30-minute speech that ranged from championing America's global position as an energy superpower to admonishing political inaction on infrastructure upgrades that Biden said would be critical to future success in domestic production and global security.

"We are in the midst of an energy transformation that is literally changing the world," Biden said.

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Aside from being the world's chief exporter of petroleum products and the biggest producer of natural gas, Biden said, "we've done three times the wind and more than ten times the solar development since we came to office in 2009."

He warned that the country's natural-gas infrastructure was in bad of need of repair and needed to triple its current rate of investment. He pointed to recent remarks he made about LaGuardia Airport—Biden compared it to a "third world" country—to illustrate his point.

"The greatest city in the world with the infrastructure that we have? What in the hell are we doing?" Biden said. "Where is the consensus that existed between the Democrats and the Republicans for all the years that I've been in public life?"

Biden said that the U.S. shale boom has relieved energy markets overseas where less U.S. demand has given European and Asian companies more options for fuel outside of OPEC and Russia.

"Our increased energy sufficiency increases our ability to influence events around the world," he said, adding that it "reduces the ability of some countries to use energy as a weapon."

Plugging President Obama's recently announced carbon emissions standards, Biden warned against investment in carbon-heavy energy.

"I wouldn't go long on investments that include carbon pollution," he said. "I'm not making a moral argument. I'm not making a climate-change argument. Reality has intruded."

After a storm like Sandy, Biden said, "It used to be that we would, in the face of a natural disaster, rebuild to the status quo. We can't do that anymore. Lower Manhattan would be underwater."

Biden closed by saying that the U.S. should not squander the energy opportunities it has now, warning against a future in which America imports renewable energy as it once imported oil and gas.

"We should see this as an extraordinary window of opportunity," he said. "We've got a whole heck of a lot to do. This is not chauvinism. I'm not basing this on some American exceptionalism. But the truth is the confluence of assets we have are exceptional right now, if we use them wisely. "

UPDATE: A spokesman for the Republican National Committee emailed a response to Biden's speech, saying "it is nothing short of head scratching for the Vice President to give an energy speech at Goldman Sachs while the Administration continues to advance job-killing EPA regulations and block thousands of good-paying jobs that would be created by building the Keystone XL pipeline."