Energy ministers and officials from 32 Western Hemisphere countries are in Washington for a two-day meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. U.S. President Barack Obama proposed this partnership as a forum for sharing ideas and solutions in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuels, energy poverty and infrastructure.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Western Hemisphere is at a point of great promise in terms of energy innovation. In her keynote address at a ministerial meeting at the Inter-American Development Bank Thursday, she said more needs to be done, but innovation is happening across the hemisphere.
"Millions of people in Brazil travel to work and school today in vehicles fueled by ethanol," said Hillary Clinton. "In Costa Rica, a country working to become the world's first carbon-neutral country, shops, households, hospitals are running on electricity generated from renewable sources. In Mexico, a cement corporation is powered by Latin America's largest wind farm. In Chile, the construction of a solar farm is under way in the desert."
People at the State Department have likened the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to the "Facebook of international diplomacy," explaining that it provides a platform for countries to deliver initiatives and allow other countries to join in, if they choose.
Clinton praised one joint-initiative - a clean-energy technology network that is being developed across Latin America, that will link centers in Peru, El Salvador, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.
She highlighted the benefits of embracing clean and green energy.
"And by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, governments, particularly in the Caribbean, that now depend on imported oil can spend that money on social and economic development, while decreasing their carbon emissions and protecting the natural environment that is one of the real treasures of our hemisphere," said U.S. scretary of state.
The secretary singled out the Caribbean, saying it is the area of the world most dependent on imported fossil fuels and also dealing with the world's highest electricity rates.
Clinton announced that the U.S. will provide a grant to the Organization of American States to provide expertise to Caribbean countries that want help starting clean energy projects.
She also said that the U.S. will offer scientists as consultants, and the U.S. will help Central American governments attain energy and environmental security. The U.S. will also work to advance sustainable biomass energy, such as Brazil derives from crushing sugar cane stalks, and also promote the use of shale gas, as Canada does.
The U.S. will also utilize hands on the ground throughout the western hemisphere.
"The United States will work through the Peace Corps to advance renewable-energy efforts," she said. "More than 2,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve in this hemisphere. From now on, many of them will be trained in renewable energy and energy efficiency and will share their training with communities and help implement those practices."
The Secretary of State further proposed focusing on sustainable forestry and land use, and adaptation efforts to assist developing countries hardest hit by climate change.