Transcript: Thom Hartmann & John Podesta - National Clean Energy Summit 4.0. August 30, 2011

Thom Hartmann: John Podesta just dropped by. One of the guys that I have tremendous respect for. John, great to see you.

John Podesta: Good to see you Thom.

Thom Hartmann: John, I don't have your whole bio here…

John Podesta: You don't need it.

Thom Hartmann: But what I remember is you know the Clinton White House, helping put together the Obama White House, running the Center for American Progress, we use a lot of your people and a lot of your resources. Your blog, ThinkProgress is incredible, among, there's not a person in your organization that I don't have incredible respect for. Lee Fang at the very top of that list. Anyhow, you're here helping, you put this thing together, didn't you?

John Podesta: We love your work too, Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Thank you.

John Podesta: Yeah, we have cosponsored this event, the National Clean Energy Summit. This is the 4th one we've done in Las Vegas. We began in 2008, a bunch of ideas that were first discussed then, as we're speaking Secretary Chu is finishing his remarks here. He was then at Berkeley, a Nobel prize winning scientist, he came and talked about the future of energy then and some of the ideas that were discussed at that first summit have made their way into law, in the recovery act and this push for clean tech jobs, and of course then he was nominated and confirmed to be the Secretary of Energy, doing a great job there.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah.

John Podesta: So, you know we continue this conversation. And I think that it's important to kind of get both business, the public sector and the great leaders from our government together so that they can cross fertilize, think about ways that they can keep this revolution going in clean energy.

Thom Hartmann: And get the American people woken, awakened about this.

John Podesta: Absolutely.

Thom Hartmann: The thing that astounds me is that you've got members of congress, if I can get political for a moment, and, if you don't mind. You've got these people coming back into congress saying we're not going to spend any money on anything when we're sending a billion dollars a day to Saudi Arabia you know, etc. for oil. I mean…

John Podesta: well it's crazy, absolutely crazy. More than half of our trade deficit comes from importing oil. Mostly from people who don't like us all that much.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

John Podesta: And I think that we have got to kind of push forward with new technological solutions that are going to be cleaner for the environment, better for the health of our people and are going to reduce that dependency which people keep talking about. But we really got to do something about it. We're sitting in a room and surrounded, surrounding us, are a bunch of new vehicles that are being produced by some new companies, some old companies, from Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and others…

Thom Hartmann: Yep. I see a Chevy Volt right behind you.

John Podesta: … along with CODA and Nissan, etc. These are technologies that are you know because of the push towards increasing fuel economy and partly just because of the high price of oil, are getting market acceptance, they're coming on the market, and that you know they're really the future. And I think they're going to be what puts people back to work in this country. Same thing is true in energy efficiency, in renewable energy, this is a, you know we're in a state where the potential for renewable energy is, has the potential to kind of lift up an economy that was just completely clobbered by the collapse in housing prices and the financial crisis.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Setting aside my personal conspiracy theory that the republicans want to crash the economy before November 2012 so they won't do anything, looking to the 2013 congress, if we can get president Obama reelected and we can get more democrats in congress, isn't it time for Americans to start looking at what Denmark did for example, now they're putting five billion dollars into electric cars so the cars will actually be the battery system for those windmills that are running during the winter. People will charge their cars at night and then sell the electricity back when they get to work. You know, what Germany did with their 100 thousand solar roof tops. You know, basic infrastructure investments in energy here in the United States.

John Podesta: Look you go all over the world, you…

Thom Hartmann: China is doing it.

John Podesta: China is, has done, now they have aggressive feeding tariff. They've got a 50 billion dollar loan program, they're investing in these technologies because they know that's where the future lies, that's where manufacturing is moving towards, that's where innovation and efficiency comes from and our European competitors, our Asian competitors are all moving in that direction. And if we sit back and decide that we're not going to make the right kind of investments for this country we're going to be left out and left behind.

Thom Hartmann: And in some cases it's really a small thing. Half of all the cars in Brazil are flex fuel cars and the modification is 122 dollars.

John Podesta: Right.

Thom Hartmann: And they're rolling off the assembly line that way with the extra 122 dollars and we're hearing the same kind of stuff that we heard back when Ralph Nader was talking about seatbelts, or air bags, you know, oh it's going to cost, it's going to kill the industry because it's going to cost an extra 122 dollars. How do we break through this?

John Podesta: Well I have to say, you know, one place that I think the administration has been successful is working with car companies and the truck companies to spur a real boost in efficiency of the auto fleet. They started in 2009 when we had the first increase in CAFE standards for cars and light duty trucks and the president just announced last month that by 2025 model year they're going to boost the efficiency of fleet wide auto efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon. That will save the consumers by that year 1.7 trillion dollars. That's going back in their pockets that they're not spending on oil that's going to the Saudis. They're spending in, you know, productive ways in the overall U.S. economy. And obviously it reduces that oil import fee, it reduces pollution by a very substantial amount. And the car companies have agreed to that now and they're moving forward with these new kinds of vehicles that we're looking at.

Thom Hartmann: I'm curious your thoughts on T-Boon Pickens plan that we basically move our entire truck fleet to natural gas and then electrify our cars because more than half of all car trips are less than 50 miles in a day and you could instantly electrify half your car fleet.

John Podesta: Well you know I think that there is a future for natural gas in the transportation sector and I think that Boon sort of got on to this early which is that you could substitute natural gas for oil particularly in heavy duty trucks which need more power. There are in fact, we looked at yesterday, for fleet vans and trucks there are electric applications for those as well. So I think even, you know, not for…

Thom Hartmann: So the storage technology is getting better.

John Podesta: The storage technology is getting better, the capacity to produce a vehicle for, for example urban delivery, urban delivery vehicles for FedEx or Frito Lay or Wal-Mart, that's moving goods around in a relatively compact area, you could already move those onto electricity at a good price point in terms of what the truck costs at the front end and with tremendous fuel savings at the back end. And you see corporations across the country gravitating towards those solutions, a lot of investment coming. Natural gas I think has some potential to displace our oil imports, both in the transportation sector and obviously to displace coal.

Thom Hartmann: But it's again, it's a fossil fuel. It's a fossil fuel though so ultimately we want to move away from that too.

John Podesta: It is a fossil fuel so, you know I think of it as a bridge fuel. We have an abundant supply in the United States. The energy department just released a report of an outside expert committee that said that we need to do some things to insure that the, you know particularly with this hydraulic fracking method of getting at natural gas supplies, that there needs to be more transparency, better environmental…

Thom Hartmann: More safety. No more flaming water?

John Podesta: I think, no more flaming water. That actually comes from traditional exploration of natural gas.

Thom Hartmann: I see, I see.

John Podesta: But this, there are environmental issues associated with that, methane leakage etc. We need to do a better job of using the best practices and being environmentally sensitive, but there's tremendous opportunity to exploit those resources that are home grown domestically produced.

Thom Hartmann: Right. And especially those that don't produce carbon emissions.

John Podesta: Exactly.

Thom Hartmann: We just had the fellow on about hydro. John Podesta, thanks so much John for dropping by, it's always good to see you.

John Podesta: Thanks Thom. Great to see you.

Thom Hartmann: Keep up the great work. Thank you. We're live at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0. The future of energy. Put on by the Center for American Progress , John's organization. And we'll be back with more right after this.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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