Terry Tamminen, CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, took to the airwaves on the Thom Hartmann Show following his meeting with the President-elect to talk about how a Trump administration might succeed in delivering on the campaign promise to boost the U.S. economy through infrastructure investment. He talks about his time working with Republican Governor Schwarzenegger, who to the surprise of many, become a leader on clean energy and environmental protection.
Governor Schwarzenegger was willing to work across party lines for the good of the people of California. And now we’re a leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency and alternative fuels. I drove to the studio today in my electric hydrogen-powered car 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 prospered much faster since then.
Tamminen presented President-elect Trump with a wide ranging plan to save the government money while creating new jobs through energy efficiency programs.
He seemed to be interested, for example, in replacing the 26 million streetlights in American cities that are still old and inefficient with new LED bulbs that could save 60 or 70 percent of the energy, cutting that amount of pollution from power plants. This project could be paid for within three to five years from the savings, and those are jobs that could be implemented in every city right away.
Some have said Trump’s interest in meeting with Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio was just for show, but in reality it seemed to have made a difference.
The day following [our meeting] he 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 — 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 said at one point, it would only be symbolic because much of what the U.S. is committed to will happen anyway. States like California, and 33 others that have renewable energy targets, have cleaner car standards and a variety of other things that are baked in and won’t be undone. 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 [opportunity] for manufacturing in the United States, truly I believe in the history of the planet.
Tamminen goes on to explain that some of Trump’s appointees are actually fairly strong on seeking a price on carbon, including Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson.
This will shock many people.. Rex Tillerson as the CEO of Exxon has called for a global price on carbon and has been actively engaged in trying to get countries to put at least a $25 a ton price on carbon because of the uncertainty that his business faces. 195 countries want some kind of change and have a mix of cap and trade systems, carbon taxes, various other kinds of penalties or decisions not to use oil. He thinks that it’s actually good business to admit to climate change and put a price on carbon.
Exxon realizes that the rest of the world has already moved in this direction of cleaner fuels, and at a minimum as long as we’re using these fuels, putting a price so that the carbon industry pays the true cost instead of just offloading those costs on the rest of us – a year-round fire season in the United States, health consequences, 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.
So tackling climate change is sound business, and it is also the job creator Trump could be looking for. A tired old talking point is that shifting away from extractive carbon industries is a “job killer,” but in reality just the opposite is true.
The price of solar and wind has dropped over 90 percent and now you can even get baseload power, in other words power that 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 100 percent renewable energy in a cost efficient way by 2050. This is a train that’s left the station. And today as we showed Mr. Trump, there are only 46,500 total jobs in the United States in coal, oil and gas combined and it’s declining 1 percent per year. And in the renewable energy sector there are 700,000 jobs and it’s increasing 20 percent a year. So if you really care about American jobs you obviously would support more renewables.
When asked about what the general public and what environmentalists should do during a Trump presidency, Tamminen gives some sound advice.
Let’s get our voices heard. 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 Congressperson 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.