Transcript: Bernie Sanders: environment, alternative energy & jobs, Oct 13 2006

The environment, alternative energy, and the jobs it would create.

Thom Hartmann "Brunch" with Bernie Sanders 13 October 2006

Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont is on Thom's show for the first hour nearly every Friday. He's currently running for the senate. This transcript is of a portion of such an hour when the environment, alternative energy, and the jobs it would create were discussed. Bernie's web site is bernie.house.gov.

[Thom Hartmann] So, what's on your radar screen today, Bernie? What are you trying to… .

[Bernie Sanders] Well, I've just had a wonderful experience. I just a few minutes ago came back from a political rally at the University of Vermont where we had Robert F. Kennedy. Thom, I don't know if you know Robert Kennedy.

[Thom Hartmann] I've talked with him a few times. I don't know him personally well.

[Bernie Sanders] He's really a very impressive guy.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.

[Bernie Sanders] And what I like about him is not only his knowledge, very strong about what's going on in terms of environmental issues with this country. He ties it together in a way that very few environmentalists do. And that is, he ties the environmental issues with corporate contributions to the Republican Party. He ties it to corporate control over the media, and he takes a very broad prospective about what's happening in this country.

And when you hear him, you really start shuddering about the number of kids in this country who get sick because of asthma as a direct result of the air pollution that exists, the fact that in 19 states in America today people can't eat the fish that they catch in fresh water lakes, and just the terrible toll that is taking place in our country because of the irresponsibility of the Bush Administration and people who have gone before them in terms of allowing the so much environmental degradation.

This is, you know, when people, the right wing, suggest that we are worried about the trees. We're not worried about the trees. We're worried about the future of humanity. We're worried about the health of our kids. We're worried about the fact that so many kids in this country have levels of mercury which is just dangerous for their health and that we have really got to get a handle on global warming, on environmental degradation or else the future is going to be pretty bleak.

[Thom Hartmann] Indeed. And how do we do that, Bernie?

[Bernie Sanders] Well, here's the good news. And I'm very excited about it. You know, during World War 2, the early days of the war when Roosevelt was sitting there trying to figure out how you defeat Nazism and Japanese imperialism, he brought together the best minds in the country to develop the Manhattan Project, to develop an atomic bomb. John F. Kennedy, Robert's uncle, decided that it was important for our national interest to send a man to the moon, did the same thing. Got government resources with the best people in the private sector and in fact we were successful in sending a man to the moon.

I think the immediate challenge that we face right now, that is so important from a geopolitical point of view, hugely important from an environmental point of view, important from an economic point of view, is to develop what might be called, I think some call, a new Apollo-type project. But a massive program that has the goal of breaking our dependency on mid East oil, which is important from a political perspective so we don't have to get into wars like the war in Iraq. And break our dependence not only on mid East oil, but break our dependence on fossil fuel as well.

And the really, really good news is that, as you know, Thom, the technology's out there in terms of wind turbines, in terms of solar energy, in terms of hydrogen, in terms of biofuels, in terms of other technologies. They have been exploding; becoming more cost effective in recent years. What is lacking now in this country is the political will to combine the resources of government with the private sector to make this kind of transition. We can move to sustainable energy, and one of the very exciting aspects of this, and this is a point that Kennedy made this morning, is when our opponents tell us, 'Well it's either jobs and the economy or the environment', that's really not true. In fact, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that when we move to energy efficiency, when we move to renewable energies, we not only reverse global warming, we not only clean up our air, our land, our water, our food, but you know what we also do? We create millions of good paying jobs through a green revolution.

So I would argue that at this moment, for so many reasons, one of the great challenges that we as a nation have got to grasp and go forward on is breaking our dependence on mid East oil and fossil fuel, moving us to sustainable energy. And think about what happens when we do it. Think about major cities in America where kids can breathe clean air. Think about lakes in America where kids once again can go fishing and eat the fish that they catch. Think about reversing the terrible toll that asthma is taking upon our young kids as well as so many other illnesses.

You know, one of the areas that I've often thought that we haven't researched these questions as much as we should because of corporate interests, there is just a whole lot of evidence out there that so many illnesses are tied up to environmental degradation and the air that we're breathing and the food that we're eating and the water that we're drinking. And think about what a day it will be when we can create a healthy climate, a healthy environment, and what it will mean on human health and human wellbeing. So, it is a huge, huge challenge but its consequences are so enormous for our country and the planet that it is just the challenge that I believe we must undertake.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, well said… This sounds like really great. I've been saying for a long time, this could be the dotcom boom of this generation.

[Bernie Sanders] The breaking of our dependency on… Absolutely. I am so excited about this.

[Thom Hartmann] Alternative energy. I mean, it could make the dotcom boom look like nothing.

[Bernie Sanders] And you know what? This is not any longer, you know, kind of off the wall thinking. You know, 20, 30, 40 years ago people were talking about this stuff but the technology was not there. But what has happened in recent years is technology has developed so that we can move forward in this direction. But really, what is absolutely incredible is that for example right now in the U.S. Senate, you know a guy named Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Environmental Committee in the Senate, you know what he believes? He believes that global warming is a hoax.

[Thom Hartmann] I know, I know. It's tragic.

[Bernie Sanders] And our president is not too far behind that. So what is clearly lacking is the political will; the desire to stand up to the fossil fuel industry; the oil companies and coal companies and so forth, and say, 'Sorry, we can't continue to destroy our planet. There are alternatives out there. We're going to grasp those alternatives. We're going to create a cleaner environment and in the process we're going to create a lot of good paying jobs. I am just very excited about this prospect. I think it could be just very profound for our country and the world.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah. Indeed. I absolutely agree with you. And this is the sort of thing where there's such a difference between the Republicans and the Democrats - not to turn this into an entirely partisan thing because I realize you are neither. But the Republicans are so wedded to the oil industry and to the way things have always been, and the Democrats historically have been the forward-looking party.

[Bernie Sanders] They're better. I mean, and I've got to tell you though; we've got problems with some Democrats as well.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.

[Bernie Sanders] Let's not kid ourselves. But right now, what's going on, this president and the Republican leadership have accepted huge amounts of campaign contributions from some of the worst polluters in the world and they are doing their duty. I mean, you have people at the head of agencies who are supposed to protect us who in fact have formerly worked for polluting industries.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah. Not a good thing.

Bernie Sanders is on Thom's program every Friday

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