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

Thom Hartmann: Kate Gordon is with us from the Center for American Progress. She is the vice president of Energy Policy at American Progress and most recently the co-director of the National Apollo Alliance where she serves still as the senior policy advisor. Kate, we just have one minute in this commercial, but I want to bring you back afterwards if you'd like.

Kate Gordon: Great.

Thom Hartmann: Tell us what you're up to.

Kate Gordon: I do a whole bunch of stuff, mostly just trying to get the national government to take this clean energy stuff seriously, and take a little bit of a message from the states like Nevada that have moved forward on clean energy.

Thom Hartmann: What has Nevada done? Why, Harry Reid is like the hero of this meeting.

Kate Gordon: Well, Nevada's done a number of things that a bunch of other countries that are ahead of us have done too, which is, they've passed renewable energy standards that said x% of their energy has to come from renewable sources, they've done a number of mandates and investment strategies around solar, really made it easier for businesses to put stuff up on their buildings. So they've basically said, look, we're committed as a state to using less energy. We understand we're going to not have enough water, we're going to not have enough stuff from the ground and we need to take really advantage of the sun and move forward in this state. We need to make those kind of commitments nationally.

Thom Hartmann: We absolutely do. Kate, stick around. We're going to take a break here, we'll be right back. Thom Hartmann with you live from the Energy Summit, the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 being put on by the Center for American Progress.

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Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you, live from the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 in Las Vegas put on by the Center for American Progress. and with me is Kate Gordon. She is the vice president for energy policy at the Center for American Progress, an attorney, a former planner, city planner?

Kate Gordon: That's right.

Thom Hartmann: You know I lived in Portland for five years, one of the best planned cities in America.

Kate Gordon:Oh yeah, it is.

Thom Hartmann: I tell you, it is so important.

Kate Gordon: Yes it is.

Thom Hartmann: And we were talking just briefly in the, during the break there about law, environmental law coming out, city planning and you made the comment, this is kind of an emerging edge, I forget the exact phrase you used. But can you revisit that, where are we?

Kate Gordon: Sure. I mean I think, you know energy has become increasingly something that touches every part of, you know, our economy, our environment, our cities, how we plan our cities. I really see this as the new frontier of sort of looking at how we use land, looking at how we use resources. We're really looking at public lands, private lands, individual business decisions, economic decisions, all of those are impacted by our energy use, all of those we have to start thinking about differently as resources are constrained, as climate change becomes a bigger threat. You know this is just touching every area of life. This is sort of why I find it difficult when people just talk about green jobs in a vacuum as if they are some kind of job that doesn't have anything to do with anything we've seen before.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Kate Gordon: We're really talking about an economic transformation that affects every segment of the economy and every part of the United States and the world. And it's not like one segment of jobs, it's really a whole set of industries, a whole set of new ideas, a whole set of new policies that are affecting us across the board.

Thom Hartmann: At the same time, and if this is an area that you're not involved in or you feel uncomfortable talking about just say so and I won't push it, but at the same time there are some substantial forces on the other side. The Center for American Progress, particular Lee Fang, one of my favorite human beings on this earth…

Kate Gordon: Fantastic blogger.

Thom Hartmann: …a brilliant researcher, blogger, reporter, have been exposing for example the activities of the Koch brothers who I would say are America's oil oligarchs. You know, we love to talk about Russia's oligarchs but we have oligarchs. And their father, Fred, tried to transform America with the John Birch Society and had some significant impact on the Republican party.

Kate Gordon: Yeah.

Thom Hartmann: I was a little kid at the time, my dad took me to a John Birch Society meeting back in '63 and '64, you know, I was 13 years old and I remember it.

Kate Gordon: Wow.

Thom Hartmann: And now it's like I see the tea party as JBS 2. but the main focus seems to be, and one of the things we're hearing now in these memos that are coming out of the Republican party about what they're going to be doing when they come back to congress, is let's stop unnecessary regulations. And an awful lot of those “unnecessary regulations" have to do with oil refineries, oil pipelines, the production of oil based products, toxics, cancer alleys in Louisiana and Texas, blah de blah de blah. All these things that have to do, basically, with the oil industry and the fossil fuel industry.

Kate Gordon: Yep.

Thom Hartmann: How do we push back against an industry that arguably has more money, or just you know in aggregate certainly has enough money to elect or unelect virtually every member of congress and the president.

Kate Gordon: Huge huge issue. You're absolutely right, I actually just saw numbers recently showing that oil and gas together, their donations to the house, 85% of that went to Republican house members, the coal industry, 92% of the donations went to Republican house members.

Thom Hartmann: Surprise. I'm shocked, I'm shocked.

Kate Gordon: No, it's shocking! And so you're looking at all of these many new members, at least in the house, who are very beholden to those industries.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Well in fact 100% of the freshman Republicans in the house do not believe in climate change.

Kate Gordon: Oh I know, I know. It's terrifying. And we get visitors all the time at CAP from Germany and from China and from other countries who are just completely, their minds boggle at what's going on in this country in terms of the lack of commitment to dealing with global warming and to the just insistence on returning to the status quo even in the face of huge evidence that we're running out of resources, worldwide, that climate change is real. I mean Saudi Arabia, of all countries, is moving ahead with a very aggressive solar program in order to conserve its resources on oil.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Kate Gordon: Saudi Arabia is doing that and we haven't committed.

Thom Hartmann:Well, they've probably hit peak oil there.

Kate Gordon: Exactly. I mean my big fear is, of course, that we, we know we're going to wake up to this reality at some point, despite the politics. My big fear is that we wake up and we're suddenly the world's buyers of all clean energy technology and buyers of all of this stuff that we could have invented or made and invented.

Thom Hartmann: Well we're increasingly moving in that direction.

Kate Gordon: We are, we are. I think the way we push back, honestly really is on this competition and this competitiveness frame. I mean we are used to being the world leader, in innovation and in technology and in advanced manufacturing. As Secretary Chu just said at this summit, China is now ahead of us on advanced manufacturing. And we're, Chairman Hu came to visit this country, brought with him 150 people, most of whom went around to our national labs to find new technologies to then commercialize in China. We are losing that edge. That edge is something that people in this country want us to maintain, people want things to be made in America, they want us to be the world innovators, they want us to be ahead. I think that's the way to push back. Because in a lot of these districts, a lot of the constituents of these same house members are business owners, care about the economy, have jobs, are trying to create jobs here. I think that's where we go.

Thom Hartmann: We have just a minute here until the actual end of the segment. And you know in 1935 Franklin Roosevelt passed the Buy American Act that said that any expenditures by government had to go to American companies. It's still on the books. Reagan basically stopped enforcing it. Nobody has enforced it in 30 years.

Kate Gordon: Except the Department of Transportation, as Shandra Brown here pointed out.

Thom Hartmann:Does the DOT do it?

Kate Gordon: They do, they're actually quite good on transportation vehicles and other.

Thom Hartmann: Okay. How do we encourage the administration, and not just the administration but politicians in general, to return to that. It's not like we even have to pass legislation.

Kate Gordon: Well I think there's a couple things about Buy America. The first thing I would say, the first thing we need to do is actually enforce it and close the loopholes where it is on the books.

Thom Hartmann: Right, it's 20% of the economy.

Kate Gordon: I mean we already, Buy America, does apply to most of the things under the Recovery Act from transportation vehicles to a number of other areas, federal expenditures. We need to close loopholes there so that if a company comes back and says to the government hey we can't find anyone in America who makes this, give us a waiver, we need the government to be putting that up on the website, asking the rest of the companies in the United States whether there really is no one making this thing, getting people to stand up as they will do and say no no no, I make it I'm in Wichita Kansas and you know let me have the contract.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Kate Gordon: So we need to close the loopholes.

Thom Hartmann: Or help them out in making it.

Kate Gordon: Exactly. Make it much more transparent, close the loopholes. But then as well I think we really need to capitalize on what we do well here. On our skilled workforce, on our advanced manufacturing, on our existing supply chains and get places like the auto industry really up to speed.

Thom Hartmann: I'm with you. Kate, we're out of time. Thanks so much for being with us.

Kate Gordon: No problem, thank you.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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