Earlier this month I made a point of going to WINDPOWER 2009, the world's largest conference on wind energy. Yes, it was in the Windy City, but the truth is it's not always in Chicago. Next year's conference will be here in Dallas and you need to put it on your calendar.
A decade ago you could have packed everyone who showed up at an event like this in a pint-sized 7-11. Those days are gone. Last year, attendance at this event topped 13,000. This year? More than 23,000. And it wasn't just exhibitors (though there were close to 2,000 of them there as well). The roster of key policymakers who participated at WINDPOWER 2009 was impressive, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghof. All of them echoed the statements made by President Obama that alternative energy and renewables are important elements in this administration's energy plan.
That's not just sound energy policy but it's good for the economy as well. Business is booming in the wind energy sector, and you know who is most keenly aware of that? America's governors. Over the last year as I've been promoting the Pickens Plan, I've met wind state governors such as Brian Schweitzer of Montana, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, and Jon Huntsman of Utah. Back when she was Governor of Kansas, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hosted the very first Pickens Plan Town Hall Meeting in Topeka.
But what really stood out was the governors who attended WINDPOWER in Chicago were not from traditional wind power states. They were from Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and of course, Illinois. If you take a look at the Energy Department's wind map, you'll see that these states are not in the Wind Corridor, which runs the length of the Great Plains from the Texas Panhandle to the Canadian border. Yet, they are profiting from wind energy, thanks to the enormous number of job that are being created to manufacture turbines and other equipment, build infrastructure, and improve efficiency. These states have a vested interest in wind energy.
We all do. Right now there are wind farms and manufacturing facilities in 48 out of 50 states. While our country is fighting its way out of a recession, this industry and others in the burgeoning green economy are bright spots, creating permanent, good-paying jobs, putting people to work, and helping America cement its status as a global leader in the energy industry.
This is one of the basic principles of the Pickens Plan, and it goes straight to the heart of what I've been talking about since I launched the plan last July. Right here in America, we've got plenty of energy waiting to be tapped. The only problem is that for the last four decades we haven't had the leadership to harness it or develop it or drill for it. Instead, we took the easy way out. Cheap imported oil became the crutch that everyone leaned on, only now we know it's not cheap anymore.
Last year, as our economy stalled, we spent $475 billion on imported oil. Can you believe that? I can't. Half a trillion dollars. The greatest transfer of wealth in recorded history. And to make matters worse we still haven't learned our lesson. According to figures just released, our trade deficit on oil imports widened in March for the first time in eight months. We're still importing more than two-thirds of the oil we consume, and that's got to stop.
The purpose of the Pickens Plan was to put a lot of ideas on the table in order to help our country develop the energy plan it so desperately needs and deserves. Wind energy is one of the best, and if you don't believe me come to Dallas next year and see for yourself at WINDPOWER 2010.