Presidents Obama, Clinton Speak With One Voice on Global Warming, Energy

Issue: 
President Obama

 

Reprinted below are remarks by President Clinton on September 11, 2002, and President Obama on Earth Day, April 22, 2009. Their common focus: the need and opportunity for new U.S. environmental policies and an alternative U.S. energy economy. Each leader shares a common environmental vision regarding the threat of global warming and the promise of a trillion dollar U.S. alternative energy economy built on clean & green technology and conservation. VerdeXchange News is pleased to share these two excerpts with our readers; the views of both leaders now truly dominate federal policy formulations.

David Letterman: If we didn’t use, need, and require so much foreign oil, would that ease the problem of terrorism for us?

President Clinton: The short answer to that question is “no,” but it would uncomplicate our policy making. One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that the problem of global warming is real. We have to do more about it.

There is nothing more dangerous in the world than a big idea that is not true, that people cannot let go of. And there is a big idea people can’t let go of and that isn’t true anymore, which is that we cannot get rich or stay rich without burning more coal and oil, and putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. When we had a primarily industrial economy that was true. It is not true anymore and America needs to do much more to develop energy conservation and alternative energy technologies. We would actually create more jobs, have more wealth and save the planet. And we would make ourselves more independent of foreign oil.

There is right now, today, a $1 trillion untapped market for existing alternative energy and energy conservation technologies. Never mind these cars that are about to be developed and will get 100 miles to the gallon, or run on electricity and be efficient. There are all of these other things that are going to be done. It’s just crazy. We are in the grip of this. If we don’t set a better example, within 30 years the Chinese and the Indians will both be putting more greenhouse gases into the air, and we will be suffering from what they do instead of the other way around.

Letterman: I’ve talked about this before to almost anyone that will listen to me, so that’s a pretty short list. But we were talking about this in 2002. Doesn’t that just seem preposterous to you? Why weren’t we talking about this in ’82? Why weren’t we talking about this in ’72? And I know we were, but why hasn’t something happened? When John Kennedy said, “Let’s put a man on the moon,” by God, we put a man on the moon.

President Clinton: I’ll tell you exactly why. The old energy economy is highly centralized. It’s centralized in oil companies, utilities and coal companies, with a lot of good people who work for them. There is a lot of money and political influence. The new energy economy—solar power and wind power—is highly de-centralized. It is hard to get it from here to there unless the government puts a huge amount of money into it, or somebody else decides to do it. I gave a speech in Saudi Arabia, in January, to 400 business people in the Gulf. I said, “All of you are going to think that I’m nuts.” Maybe they did already. I said, “If I were you, I would stop trying to make Saudi Arabia the oil capital of the world, but make it the energy capital of the world. You should take your cash, right now, and buy half the solar capacity of the world. You should start at the equator and go North and South until you have put solar power everywhere that the weather will tolerate it. You will save the planet, get richer and because you already have your oil wells built, it will be cheap.” They could still get their oil out and sell it.

Letterman: This doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. I understand that the economy, capitalism, jobs, stock prices, and so on. But, as you say, why couldn’t someone—the Dave Letterman Oil Company—why couldn’t we?

President Clinton: I’d invest in that.

Letterman: Why couldn’t we start diversifying and exploring? We could still make huge sums of money without killing the planet.

President Clinton: We should do it. John Bryson ran a very progressive electric utility in California. They began to finance energy conservation. With the energy department, HUD and the International Homebuilders Association—which is a conservative group—we built a housing unit out in the Inland Empire, east of L.A. It was for lower-income working people. We promised, if they moved into these houses, they would save 40 percent on their electrical bill through efficient lighting, good insulation and solar panels on their roofs. They look now like little shingles. After two years they were saving an average of 65 percent. It’s out there but it’s not organized. We have to put some money behind it and build competing, entrepreneurial organizations. I’m telling you, there is more money in this. It is better for the economy; it’s good for the planet; and its good politics.

Letterman: I want to understand this. People like Standard Oil—they would pursue this, or they would not pursue this?

President Clinton: They won’t because the nature of it is to be de-centralized. They have a centralized return and delivery network and guaranteed earnings. It’s a lot of trouble (to change). All that the government would have to do is provide adequate tax credits for people to be able to do this, and fund the research and development. That’s what we have done (in America) any time we have moved into a new era, whether it was the space program or new defense technologies. You name it. Look at what we do now with biomedical research. We synchronized the human genome in 2000, for example. Everyone supports this kind of research and development in other areas. We have to do this with energy and energy conservation. It’s important politically, but the environmental (threats) could hardly be greater.

Remarks by President Obama on Earth Day 2009

President Obama“It is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America. That’s why I’m here.
Now, the choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects. We can hand over the jobs of the 21st century to our competitors, or we can confront what countries in Europe and Asia have already recognized as both a challenge and an opportunity: The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy.

America can be that nation. America must be that nation. And while we seek new forms of fuel to power our homes and cars and businesses, we will rely on the same ingenuity—the same American spirit —that has always been a part of our American story.

Now, this will not be easy. There aren’t any silver bullets. There’s no magic energy source right now. Maybe some kid in a lab somewhere is figuring it out. Twenty years from now, there may be an entirely new energy source that we don’t yet know about. But right now, there’s no silver bullet. It’s going to take a variety of energy sources, pursued through a variety of policies, to drastically reduce our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. As I’ve often said, in the short term, as we transition to renewable energy, we can and should increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas. We’re not going to transform our economy overnight. We still need more oil, we still need more gas. If we’ve got some here in the United States that we can use, we should find it and do so in an environmentally sustainable way. We also need to find safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste.

But the bulk of our efforts must focus on unleashing a new, clean-energy economy that will begin to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, will cut our carbon pollution by about 80 percent by 2050, and create millions of new jobs right here in America—right here in Newton.

My administration has already taken unprecedented action towards this goal. It’s work that begins with the simplest, fastest, most effective way we have to make our economy cleaner, and that is to make our economy more energy efficient. California has shown that it can be done; while electricity consumption grew 50 percent in this country over the last three decades, in California, it remained flat.”

Press Coverage on Earth Day of President Obama

“With his energy secretary, his transportation secretary and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency all on Capitol Hill testifying on the energy bill moving through the House, Mr. Obama toured Trinity Structural Towers, which builds massive towers for wind turbines in the old Maytag plant, which closed two years ago. In a 35-minute speech, he laid out his vision for an energy-efficient future.

He renewed his call for Congress to close the “carbon loophole” by adopting a cap-and-trade system for reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. And he promoted wind and other renewable forms of power, saying that for the first time the Interior Department would begin leasing federal waters for offshore production of electricity from the movement of wind, waves and tides.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, the United States market for wind power is growing rapidly, and nearly doubled in 2008. The American wind power industry directly employs about 85,000 people today, a 70 percent increase from a year ago, the group reported. But the economic downturn has slowed demand.

Alternative sources of energy currently account for less than 3 percent of the energy consumed in the United States, but Mr. Obama said that by 2030, that figure for wind power alone could jump to 20 percent.” •••

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