Colin Powell
Speaking at the 35th World Energy Engineering Congress, Colin Powell asked: Do we need more fossil fuels? Do we need alternative energy? “The answer is we need it all,” he said.
ATLANTA — “Energy is what keeps the United States, and the world, going,” said Colin Powell, retired four-star general, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state for President George W. Bush. The featured speaker at the 35th World Energy Engineering Congress, held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Powell said, “And what I see is demand for energy is getting greater and greater and greater.”

“What kind of energy do we need?” he asked. Do we need more fossil fuels? Do we need alternative energy? “The answer is we need it all,” he asserted.

“More people are living under democracy now than ever before,” said Powell. As more people move up from poverty into the middle class, more energy is required to sustain their needs. “It means more things being plugged in or driven,” he said.

“There’s a slogan going around, and that’s energy independence.” Five presidents in a row have talked about striving for energy independence, he noted. “But the world is moving too fast. So independence doesn’t mean we don’t need anything from anybody else.” As we work to be more efficient and work to keep energy prices down, we help not only ourselves but the entire world.

Talking about stepping down from the office of secretary of state, Powell related that while in office you’re the No. 1 diplomat in the world and you’re surrounded by a security detail constantly. The next day you leave office and everybody’s gone. “It’s kind of ugly the way they do it,” he joked.

“I keep in touch with politics,” he said. “I keep in touch with foreign affairs.”

Wherever he speaks, Powell said, “I find people are concerned.” However, “I find a level of confidence and optimism.”

He also finds the U.S. more polarized politically than he’s ever seen before. But he noted that the founding fathers dealt with a number of weighty issues and were able to compromise and find common ground.

Powell said we must tell Congress — which, even to keep the lights on, can’t pass a single appropriations bill — “we the people are fed up with it.”

Discussing the latest technological developments, Powell said, “I was born analog and I’m desperately trying to become digital.”

He’s currently working with Bloom Energy, a manufacturer of solid oxide fuel cells. Powell is serving on the company’s board of directors.

Bloom Energy has applications at Walmart, eBay, Caltech, and Washington Gas. Its fuel cells provide clean, reliable power and help “decentralize electrical generation.” The company is working to make the units smaller and more efficient.

We need to develop new technology, Powell said. We need to keep relying on fossil fuels. Conservation should be part of what we’re doing. “But everything should be done.”

Powell said that he is also spending time working on youth programs. He pointed out that 25 percent of Americans do not graduate from high school. “Only 30 percent of American youngsters qualify for military service.” This is due to obesity, drugs, criminal record, and lack of fitness.

He emphasized that we need to improve public education in the United States and we need to educate our children for a 21st century economy. “I tell kids,” he said, “it’s not where you start in life; it’s where you end up.”

Publication date: 12/10/2012