Transcript: Terry Tamminen: Man Who Met w/ Leonardo DiCaprio & Trump On Climate Change - 20 December '16

Thom Hartmann:You need to know this... Earlier today President Obama added to his environmental legacy by banning offshore drilling in the US Arctic and along the East Coast. That move, which will protect marine wildlife and stop oil spills, is significant in large part because it's effectively permanent. An obscure 1953 law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives the president the power to permanently protect wide swathes of federal land from oil production, and - as the Washington Post reports - "withdrawals under Section 12-A of the 1953 act... cannot be undone by an incoming president."

Unfortunately, this is probably the last piece of good news environmentalists will get for a while. That's because the incoming Trump administration is shaping up to be the biggest disaster for the environment in a generation - maybe even ever.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt - a recipient of Big Oil campaign donations and opponent of president Obama's clean power plan - is set to serve as head of the EPA. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson meanwhile is on track to be the next Secretary of State, and former Texas Governor and current Dakota Access Pipeline board member Rick Perry will in all likelihood serve as Secretary of Energy.

Oh yeah, and as if that wasn't bad enough, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke - the guy who Trump wants in charge of the Interior Department and thus our national parks and fossil fuel reserves - thinks climate change is still up for debate.

If what Elizabeth Warren says is true -if personnel is policy - the Donald Trump administration is going to turn America into an appendage of the fossil fuel industry and the petro-billionaires who fund the GOP.

But what if Donald Trump surprises us all - defies expectations - and actually stands up for the climate? Let's ask somebody who's actually discussed climate change with Trump. Joining me now is Terry Tamminen - CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Terry, welcome

Terry Tamminen: Thank you, Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Great to have you with us. First of all, your reaction to President Obama's decision today to ban drilling in the Arctic and along the eastern seaboard. How significant was this move both for the environment itself and as a symbol to activists not to give up hope?

Terry Tamminen: Well, I think you're right. It is that symbol to all of us to remember what's important and to protect our natural resources. I think that obviously the Trump administration may take a different view, may try to overturn this, but that doesn't mean that all of us shouldn't be trying, which was of course the spirit in which Leonardo DiCaprio and I met with the president-elect recently to try to persuade him that there are better policies for America that will put more people to work and make the country cleaner and safer and more prosperous with the green economy than with the, let's call it the black economy.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. So how concerned are you about the future of the climate under his administration? What sort of reception did you receive, did you get?

Terry Tamminen: Well, I will say, and just to be clear up front, I'm a democrat who campaigned for Al Gore but then went to work for Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Republican administration in California. I was the secretary of the California EPA and we did amazing things in that administration because Governor Schwarzenegger was willing to work across party lines for the good of the people of California. And now, of course, we're a leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency and alternative fuels. I drove to the studio today in my electric hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity all because of work that we did in the Schwarzenegger administration. And it helped us withstand the worst of the economic downturn after 2008 and actually prosper much faster since then.

So we tried to make that case to Ivanka Trump and the president-elect. I think we made our case. We brought in statistics and examples of things that can be done in an infrastructure package which he seems to be interested in, and things like, for example, replacing the 26 million street lights in American cities that are still old and inefficient with LEDs that could save sixty or seventy percent of the energy, obviously cut that amount of pollution from power plants and which could be paid for within three to five years from the savings. And so those are jobs that could be implemented in every city right away that, like I said, pay for themselves and have multiple co-benefits. So we tried to show him that there are these programs that we can, we would help the administration to try to put into their infrastructure plans and that are much more sustainable for the country than the kinds of things that are being discussed.

Thom Hartmann: Donald Trump is now, I guess, the leader of a party that by and large presents climate change as either a hoax or an open question. What's your sense of how he thinks of it?

Terry Tamminen: Well, I was encouraged that Al Gore met with him and then the next day Leo and I met with him and then the day following he met with the New York Times editorial board and said that he had changed his mind, in essence, he was going to have an open mind about climate and climate policy and even about the Paris agreement. And I think one of the things we presented to him was that the Paris agreement represents the biggest economic opportunity in the history of the world. And I mean that very sincerely because never have 195 countries come together and laid out their business plans for something - in this case for how they're going to use clean energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction, alternative fuels, even a price on carbon - and laid them out in business plans, in essence, so that companies like let's say General Electric that sells wind turbines can look at those business plans and say ah here are the countries that are going to be depending on X amount of wind power by certain dates, I'm going to go sell wind turbines to them

And so if Mr. Trump were to tear up the Paris Agreement as he at one point said, it would only be symbolic because much of what the US is committed to will happen anyway because states like California and 33 others that have renewable energy targets, because of our cleaner car standards, and a variety of other things that are baked in that won't be undone, it would only be symbolic to tear up the agreement and in fact those 195 countries might decide not to buy American goods to meet their goals for reducing greenhouse gases, so we'd be missing out on the biggest job creating for manufacturing in the United States of truly I believe in the history of the planet.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. How in your opinion should environmental activists be focused and thinking right now, do you think? How do people stay optimistic when Rex Tillerson is going to be the Secretary of State and a climate denier's going to be in charge of the EPA?

Terry Tamminen: Well, I'd say two ways. One is, you know, look, let's be realistic and I am cautiously optimistic based on what we heard and the fact that we're working with members of the incoming administration to put our ideas forward into policy that can be implemented along with the other policies. So we'll see if that gets traction, not just with the president, but with the Congress which obviously you've got a lot of people there that are hostile to environmental protection and regulation. But, you know, I think we've got to be cautiously optimistic while at the same time going back to the playbook from 2002-2006 when we had a hostile Republican-dominated Congress and a Republican president who was at least at that time arguably the worst president we've ever had for Environmental Protection and policy.

So we can play defense, but there's one other opportunity for offence. Rex Tillerson as the CEO of Exxon, this will shock many people, he has called for a global price on carbon and has been actively engaged in trying to get countries to do that, to put at least a $25 a ton price on carbon because of the uncertainty that today his business faces by facing these 195 countries that want some kind of change that have a mix of cap-and-trade systems, carbon taxes, of various other kinds of penalties, or decisions not to use oil. He thinks it's actually good business to admit to climate change and put a price on carbon. So if your new Secretary of State thinks that, maybe the administration will.

Thom Hartmann: So it's sort of like if, you know, back 80 years ago the pharmaceutical business was the Wild West, it was completely unregulated. Now it's well regulated so people can actually make predictable money in that space. Is that the sort of thing that he's talking about?

Terry Tamminen: I think that's right. I think, you know, look, as a global business Exxon realizes that the rest of the world has already moved in this direction of cleaner fuels, of lower carbon fuels and at a minimum as long as we're using these fuels putting a price so that the carbon industry pays the true costs instead of just offloading those costs on the rest of us in terms of a warming planet, 24, 12 months a year fire season in the United States, health consequences, obviously, you know, flooding and all kinds of other consequences. So the world has already made this decision and it's time for American business to persuade our elected leaders, who are often our elected followers, to follow suit and to deal with this issue in a practical way and that's apparently what Tillerson is proposing.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, well, let's hope that they'll be followers. Now that the price, one of the big stories of the last month has been that the price of solar is now cheaper than any other form of energy. Isn't that, I mean, isn't there a certain amount of absolute inevitability right now baked into this?

Terry Tamminen: There is and that's other graphs and charts we showed Ivanka and Mr. Trump, that the change, especially in jobs here in the United States, from the fossil fuel industry to the renewable industry happened over the last 20 or 30 years where the price of solar and wind has dropped over 90 percent. And that you can now even, of course, get baseload power in other words power that even operates when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine, whether it's with storage or with solar thermal or various other technologies. So it can easily replace fossil fuels and the DiCaprio Foundation has funded the Solutions Project which has shown in all 50 states how you would get to a hundred percent renewable energy in a cost-efficient way by 2050.

We showed him that as well. So you're right, this is a train that's left the station and today there is, as we showed Mr. Trump, 465,000 total jobs in the United States in coal, oil and gas combined and declining one percent a year, and in the renewable energy sector it's 700,000 jobs and increasing 20 percent a year. So if you really care about American jobs you obviously would support more renewables.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. It's a great meme to get out there. We just, we have about 30 seconds. How can people support the work?

Terry Tamminen: Well, I think, you know, obviously, look, it's the old-fashioned let's demonstrate, let's get our voices heard, let's make sure that whether it's letters to our Congress people because like I said, I think we put too much focus perhaps on the president-elect and not enough on the fact that Congress will ultimately pass many of these laws and decide to regulate or deregulate some of these industries, so let's make sure every Congress person knows there's going to be a political price to pay if they don't pay attention to what's best for the country and not just best for themselves and their campaign donors.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Very, very well said. Terry Tamminen thanks, thanks so much for being with us tonight. Great to see you

Terry Tamminen: My pleasure, Thom.

Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.

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