Bill Clinton and TH's Bonnie H. (who didn't take this low quality photo)
Former President Bill Clinton sat down last night and chatted with a select group of excited bloggers about current affairs, the economy, and last but not least, the Clinton Global Initiative. After some initial minutes of giddy shoe-gazing in a waiting room while Clinton finished up a conversation with the President of Paraguay, the former Prez spent over an hour with TreeHugger, Mydd.com, American Prospect, and writers from a few other political, technological, and philanthropic blogs. The bloggers launched into questions almost immediately which Bill answered candidly and confidently.
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) brings together global leaders from business, government, academia, and NGO's who work together to implement solutions to world problems. CGI attendees are a mostly self-selecting group. The companies included have demonstrated leadership in one of the 4 CGI target areas: global health, education, energy & climate, and poverty alleviation. Being in New York City and with the madness on Wall Street, it didn't take long before the topic of the economy came up. First the questions focused on how the downturn would impact philanthropy, but quickly ensued and expanded to how the whole mess occurred and WJC's thoughts on the bailout. WJC's take on it all- the economy was too focused on housing/real estate as people's only decent option to create wealth. Wall Street and the economy
The fall on Wall Street wasn't driven by greed, in his view, but by the absence of a holistic economic policy. WJC believes that Paulson and Bernanke were right to keep the stock market floating, as 50% or so of Americans have some money in stocks. Clinton reflected that both parties were to blame for the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that he should have done more during his presidency to warn about derivatives. Even if he had failed, he felt, he could have at least sounded the alarm. The former leader of the free world didn't focus on deregulation that occurred on his watch, but suggested that had Congress ratified Kyoto, that might have created economic growth in arenas outside of real estate.
It seemed like Bill could go on for hours, but TH noticed his handlers glancing at their watches, so we atttemped to draw the conversation to the environment. On introducing myself as representing treehugger.com, Bill chuckled, and said he was pleased that progressives are taking back these ridiculed names of the past. I said I was curious to hear his opinion on drilling and on oilman turned clean-energy man T. Boone Pickens.
Referencing the chanting of "Drill, Baby, Drill" on the campaign trail, Clinton feels that public sentiment has already voted to liberalize drilling but that Dems need to fight to ensure maximum environmental protections against potential oil spills that could damage precious seashores and marine life. As Bill sees it, the average Joe is fed up with high gasoline prices, and feels that even if it is only 6 months of oil, Joe wants those 6 months. The former Prez suggests that Democrats need to put Republican on the offense and say, what are you going to give us in return? He suggested that Democrats cannot settle for wind and solar taxes to have credits for three years when there are waiting lists of up to two years for commercial wind mills in the U.S.; Democrats need to demand solar/wind credit for six to ten years in exchange for drilling into our oceans and tundras.
Modernize the grid
Clinton stressed that we also need to modernize the electric grid so that the parts of the country where the sun shines the most and the wind blows the strongest can bring energy to the most populated parts of the country. On one campaign stop for Hillary in Texas, WJC, in his cowboys boots, was nearly knocked on his ass by the 56 mph wind nearly knocked him over and he thought there really needs to be a way to harness this energy.
As for Pickens, Clinton gives him cred and props, "as an oil guy, Pickens is the one guy who hasn't gone along with his industry line". Clinton claims most other oil industry folks warn that clean tech remains too many years away from practical implementation. Clinton agrees with the "Pickens plan" in terms of maximizing wind power, but also believes that if we are to get out of gasoline, we need to go straight to plug in electric and not focus on compressed natural gas, excepting for truck fleets, and in developing nations. Per Clinton, air quality is so bad near the Taj Mahal that using natural gas can help enable visitors to see the Taj Mahal more clearly.
Continuing on this line, Clinton believes there should be subsidies for big vehicles to use natural gas while consumers should get tax credits for electric vehicles. WJC said most car trip are less than 25 miles and are at speeds less than 40mph, and electric vehicles can definitely fill this niche today. Energized, Bill exhorted loudly, "We need to get the show on road right now and use the clean tech that is available to us right now!" Catching his own enthusiasm, Bill smiled impishly and concluded, "well, aside from that I don't have strong feelings".
More on Clinton's Global Initiative:
Clinton Global Initiative Expanding to Universities
Clinton Global Initiative 2007
Clinton Global Initiative 2006
More on Drilling:
House Approves Renewable Energy Offshore Drilling Compromise Legislation
Facts for Offshore Oil Drilling Argument
Offshore Oil Drilling Graph Speaks for Itself
More on T. Boone Pickens:
T. Boone Pickens talks Natural Gas, Energy Independence and Peak Oil
T. Boone Pickens Gets Into Texas Wind Energy
Other Bloggers take on the talk
Jack from Feministe