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Transcript: Jay Inslee, "Apollo's Fire". Dec 17th 2007
Thom talked with Congressman Jay Inslee about his new book, "Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy".
Thom Hartmann interviews Congressman Jay Inslee, 17 December 2007
[Thom]: So what is our energy future? Seems like ultimately everything boils down to that. When you turn on a light bulb, when you try and cook food, when you try to get from place to place, it all requires energy. We used to use energy literally from that day's sunlight: the horses would eat the grass that grew as a consequence of the sunlight and we'd ride the horses or have them pull the plows. We'd use oil that we pressed from animals or got from whales and things, but now we're using ancient sunlight; sunlight that was put into the Earth 3 to 4 hundred million years ago in the form of oil, coal, natural gas and it ain't working so well.
Congressman Jay Inslee is on the line with us. He has a new book out, along with Bracken Hendricks, a foreword by President Bill Clinton. It's titled, "Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy". Congressman Inslee, welcome to the program.
[Inslee]: Yeah, thanks for having me, Thom.
[Thom]: Yeah, glad to have you with us. It's, this book is tremendously optimistic. Why?
[Inslee]: Well, because we've got some great science going on, and thank goodness we've got geniuses in America, just like we had in the 1960s. And we believe and the "Apollo's' Fire" book basically tells the story of how we can do for energy what Kennedy did for space. And the reason Kennedy was successful in the space race is he had this inherent understanding of the innovative capability of the American people. We're the most creative, dynamic technologically oriented society, probably on Earth. And when you put us to work, we deliver. And that's going on all around the country.
And I gotta tell you, I was optimistic when I started writing Apollo's Fire and I'm twice as optimistic now because you really can't turn over a rock in this country without finding some inventor or some business person putting together a new plan for clean energy that will not be using up those eons of old sunlight like you described. We've got to start relying on new sunlight that we can get today; the wind that's driven by that sunlight, the bio fuels energy that comes directly in that season from that sunlight, and perhaps some other really ancient forms of thermal energy below our feet in enhanced geothermal power.
And we found that, you know, we believe that we can, we can beat this monster of global warming if, this is a big if, if people in Washington DC will start adopting the policy of the American eagle rather than the ostrich like we're seeing in the White House right now. And that's what we're working on this week.
[Thom]: Yeah, which brings me to the big problem, I mean, that's where we lost this week. I mean, we've got two major defeats. The first, the Energy Bill where the Republicans succeeded in getting, and not just the Republicans; there were a few people on your end of the aisle as well, but this happened in the Senate not the House I realized, and you're in the House of Representatives, but putting back in the I think it's $13 billion in welfare for companies like Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world since the Roman Empire and stripping out the, you know, the handing of that roughly equivalent amount of money over to industries and encouraging industries with things like tax breaks and tax incentives to develop the very kinds of energies that you're talking about in your bill. That's number one.
And number 2, in Bali the president's representative there said, 'no, we're not going to play ball with you guys at all'. He got booed down. As a consequence of that he said, 'ok, fine, we'll go along with something that says that in 2 years, after George Bush is out of office, we'll have a meeting and we'll actually decide what to do, and between now and then we're going to agree that we really should do something'.
[Inslee]: Well, if you want to know what it's like to talk to George Bush about global warming or energy, read this book because I tell the stories of my efforts to drag him into this century, unsuccessfully to date. And this, as far as the Energy Bill this week, this is a perfect definition, whether you're an optimist or pessimist. Because we made, we made real tangible steps forward on 3 of the 6 things we have to do. We did make a success and we broke the back of the opposition on CAFE standards, auto efficiency standards.
[Thom]: Yeah, but that took us to 35 miles per gallon.
[Inslee]: Right, and I agree.
[Thom]: Right now on average in Europe it's 44 miles per gallon and that's without legislation.
[Inslee]: Well, I'm driving a car that gets 45 miles a gallon today. But we did have good efficiency standards. We did have a good renewable fuel standard. What we lack, as you pointed out, and the next go around with the next Congress and the next president, we are going to roll back those taxes for the oil and gas companies. Those are absurd. And we're going to take that money and we're going to put it in the innovative new economy that really Americans deserve.
We're then secondly going to have a renewable electricity standard which gives us 15 percent of our electricity from clean renewable sources. These 2 things are going to become law, and they're going to become law at the latest by the fall of 2009 and then we're going to go on to the real great leap for mankind. Those are sort of 5 small steps for mankind. But the great leap forward is really the cap and trade system. And we are starting to turn our attention to that now and that will become law, I believe, at the latest by the fall of 2009 when we pick up a few more votes in the Senate, people get "Apollo's Fire" into their bones in this country and we get a new president.
And I just think that history's on the march here and the reason is, is because I can now go to my colleagues, as I did to my colleagues from Florida last week and said, 'look, you guys didn't think you could do renewable energy. A company called Ausra solar energy just signed a contract for 300 Megawatts; enough for 250 to 300,000 homes, down in Florida. They just signed a deal in Nevada to start to manufacturing base and they just signed a deal for 177 Megawatts in California.
[Thom]: Is this an American owned company?
[Inslee]: This is. This is American owned companies. The leader, Vinod Khosla, the guy's invested in about 2 dozen clean energy companies.
[Thom]: That's great.
[Inslee]: The Range energy bio fuels advanced cellulosic plant that just opened up, to Ausra, to a company called AltaRock up in Seattle. Let me tell you what I found out when I wrote "Apollo's Fire" with Bracken Hendricks, my co-author. We found these companies were just sprouting like weeds after rain. A company called AltaRock up in Seattle is building a way to do enhanced geothermal where you punch a hole down 3 kilometers, you pipe water down, you heat it up, it comes back up at 300 degrees Fahrenheit and boom, you heat that and you turn a steam turbine. There is enough energy, literally, to light the country up.
[Thom]: Yeah, well they've been doing that in Iceland for 45 years
[Thom]: They've been doing that in Iceland for 45 years.
[Inslee]: Yeah. No, there they're not, there they're using hot water that just comes up naturally., What AltaRock does is you actually fracture rock and you create a fracture zone then you pump water down. So it is a new technology
[Inslee]: And what we're finding in "Apollo's Fire" is that those type of breakthroughs are coming out all across the country and, you know, last week I was at the Anaheim Electric Car Convention, the 23rd electric car convention and as you pointed out, 35 miles a gallon is going to be nothing. We have plug in electric cars that are ready to rock and roll in 5 years. They're on the streets already. I've driven them. These cars, you'll plug them in, you'll get 40 miles, zero CO2, zero gasoline. Plug them in at night and then after you drive 40 miles you run it on a hybrid technology using gas from cellulosic advanced bio fuels. You get somewhere between 100 and 500 miles a gallon. Now that's a technology that fitting for America's can-do spirit and it's the kind of thing we can do if we'll adopt the policies that we advocate in "Apollo's Fire".
[Inslee]: So we've got some good news out there.
[Thom]: Well, let me share with you, let's step into the way back machine for a second and I'd just like to get your thoughts on how we got from there to here, or how we didn't get from there to here. This was July 15th 1979. The president of the United States.
The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them...
What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important. Point one. I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never.
And then he continued to say...
Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.
Doesn't it want to make you cry?
[Inslee]: It does, and I talked to Jimmy Carter when I was writing this book, and he pointed out, that if we had simply continued the policies that he adopted in his presidency, which stopped when Ronald Reagan came into office...
[Inslee]: ... We would be free of Middle Eastern today, Middle Eastern oil today. Now if you can think of a more pathetic indictment of federal policy, I don't know what it would be.
[Thom]: Well it's not just federal policy, it's Republican policy. I mean, that's the bottom line here.
[Inslee]: That has been the case. When Reagan came into office it certainly has been the case in the last, since Newt Gingrich came in to Congress. Now we're reversing that trend; we're turning this ship around, and I want you to leave this discussion with some little piece of optimism.
Those 3 steps we took are a major, major break of the 30 years of studied indifference and resistance to change that the Republicans have put up. And we're starting to get some Republicans to join us. We've got Warner over in the Senate who's co-sponsoring a cap and trade bill. I've had Republicans who read my book come with me on the floor of the House and say, 'look, we've got to start working on this'. So, we are turning this ship around, and none too soon. We had a million square miles of the Arctic melt this summer. Time is not our friend here. We've got to move.
[Thom]: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Congressman Jay Inslee, and hopefully you're having some conversations with a certain Senator from Oklahoma. Congressman Jay Inslee, the book, "Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy", a great book. Get out and pick up a copy of it. 16 minutes past the hour. Congressman Inslee thanks so much for being with us.
[Inslee]: Thanks so much. Thank you.
[Thom]: Good talking with you.