Is this global warming issue a threatening issue for the fossil fuel
He is President of Western Fuels Association, Inc. and maintains that many
scientists, politicians and environmental groups have greatly overstated the
threat and consequences of climate change. He argues that inexpensive fossil
fuels such as coal are an essential component of U.S. economic success and
cutting back fossil fuel use would seriously affect the world's social and
It's very threatening. It's a game-ending kind of issue for the American
coal-fired electricity industry.
Why is it so serious? In principle, you might not survive it?
If society decides--as part of an international treaty, as part of U.S. energy
policy, however you want to characterize it--that we are going to set policy
based on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions coming from various sources,
they come to the coal plants first. We are at the top of the food chain insofar
as CO2 emissions are concerned. So if you get in the business of
limiting CO2 emissions, of taxing CO2 emissions, of
creating a value in CO2 emissions where people trade them in this
emissions trading scheme, you go to the coal plants first because of the fact
that that's the greatest source --single source--of CO2 that there
So in the firing line, you're ahead of gas, oil.
I like to say we're at the top of the food chain, quite literally. The carbon
content of the fuel, of the fossil fuel, determines the amount of carbon
dioxide that is created in a combustion process. And coal is the most
carbon-rich in terms of the content of the fuel, and it's 60 to 65 percent
carbon. So compared with natural gas, that's down in the 30 to 35 percent
range, I believe.
You've had to deal with environmental issues before. What makes this one
This is different because this is a lifestyle kind of an argument. In the past,
we've had these great struggles over pollution in the United States. Sulphur
dioxide is a pollutant. We have a coming argument over air toxics, mercury and
the like. Those are pollutants. Carbon dioxide is a benign gas required for
life on earth. It is not a pollutant. It is not regulated. There are no state
laws dealing with CO2. There are no Congressional laws that give any
agency the right to regulate based on CO2. So when the environmental
community gets their hands on our policy apparatus in the U.S. and says, "We
live too well, or there are too many of us, we have to cut back in this area or
that area, we have to put less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," they come
first to us, because we are not only the biggest source of carbon dioxide,
we're the biggest source of electricity. And the electricity--the low-cost
electricity that the coal plants provide--has enabled our society to have the
economic success that we have.
In the coal industry, you're not denying that CO2 is a greenhouse
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.
And you're not denying that its concentrations in the atmosphere have
increased since the Industrial Revolution?
They have increased. Now, there have been some recent studies that throw into
question why they've increased, but we accept that people burning more and more
fossil fuels will increase the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide. We do
accept that for purposes of this debate.
And so, do you accept that it's a legitimate concern that people would say
that if you had something which would be trapping energy in the atmosphere, and
that this was on a trajectory which seemed to be increasing, that there might
legitimately be some questions about whether this might change the
I have met reasonable people that are concerned about it. The way I put it is
that there are reasonable people that have speculative fears about more and
more CO2 going into the air, impacting climate. But the science to
me--and I have been involved, not as a scientist but as a lawyer--the science
to me suggests, in the ten years I've been involved in it, that there is no
basis, no mechanism that anybody can point to or look at to say that more
CO2 in the air is going to lead to catastrophic global warming or
apocalyptic global warming, as opposed to some mild warming, which is nothing
to be concerned about at all. So I would concede that reasonable people are
concerned, but to me the concerns are speculation and not based on observations
or on any scientific mechanism that they can point to.
There's uncertainty about the way that climate would react to different
perturbations and simulations. So we don't really know what might happen. All
we know is that something might happen. So, what would be a reasonable way to
proceed, given that, in your view?
The insurance policy argument. Actually, the way that it's phrased is the
so-called precautionary principle. And the way that the environmentalists come
at it is to say that we are putting more and more CO2 in the air
every year; we don't know what's going to happen, therefore we should do
something to restrain what we're putting in the air, out of precaution, even
though we can't really sit here and say what's going to happen.
There's another side to that, that gets totally overlooked. In ice ages, it is
historically a fact that carbon dioxide--atmospheric CO2 levels--
are driven down to very low levels. And we are starting out now, even though
CO2 levels have been coming up for the past 100 years or maybe a
little longer, from a very low level. It used to be that people in the United
States--the scientific community--worried about ice ages. You could go over to
the Smithsonian. It's not up there any more, but when you walked in about eight
years ago (and I remember it; I wrote it down), the very first thing that hit
you when you walked in was that we are in an interglacial period; we're going
to have another ice age. So the precautionary principle might say that we
should put more CO2 in the air to prevent CO2
levels from being driven down to such low levels in the future by an ice age
that it extinguishes plant life. And there are scientists that believe this.
So the precautionary principle is one way or it's the other way, depending on
how you want to view the thing. Therefore the precautionary principle--if you
can't identify a mechanism to say something good or bad is going to happen, you
can only speculate--should not be the basis for setting policy.
But we could say that, at the moment, it's only like 30 percent above the
preindustrial levels, but if, as you say, there's a lot of coal in the world,
and then there's a lot of clathrates, and there's probably hundreds and
hundreds of years of the stuff. And if the developing countries develop and
approach our standard of living, you could easily get four, five, six times the
concentration of preindustrial levels. There's no reason why you couldn't get
that. That would be unusual. It would be a long way away from too little, in
Well, there's a debate over what humans actually could--if you had everybody on
earth consuming the amount of fossil fuels that we do in the United States, for
example--how much CO2 you would ultimately end up with in the air.
There is one body of thought that says that the mechanisms of the planet--the
biosphere--that because it responds positively to more CO2, which is
the Greening of the Planet Earth thesis, that the biosphere will soak this up
so that you really don't have much of a risk of ever getting above--much
above--1,000 parts per million. And in the European greenhouses, for
example--and this is in our second video, Greening of Planet Earth
Continues--they run those at 1,500 parts per million.
I think you'd say the view would be: It's one thing to do in a greenhouse,
but basically, on a global level, you have to prove that this is a sufficient
sink to be able to keep up with the increasing levels. That's the issue.
There is no mechanism that anybody can identify today that says any
level of CO2 in the air is good or bad, from the standpoint of
apocalyptic global warming. It's just not there. Dick Lindzen from MIT says,
"It's not that I would believe the models if they only showed cooling." He
says, "There's just no basis to believe the models." So I understand that
people get uneasy over the concept of more CO2 going in the air, but
you can't live your life based on speculation. And we know today that using
fossil fuels is a good thing. It leads to economic growth. It allows more
people to live longer on earth. There are positive goods that come from using
fossil fuels. There's a speculative bad that people are holding out there,
saying, "Therefore let's stop using fossil fuels." And I think that's an
imprudent approach. Now, I'm all for research and development. I'm for watchful
Explain a bit about how important coal is to our lives. Most people don't
think much about coal, do they?
People don't think a lot about coal, and they're not required to think about
coal. But coal in the United States is the major driver of our economy, in that
it supplies 56 percent of electricity generation. And the graphs on the
correlation are complete and clear that more electricity consumed in a society
means more wealth, more economic growth. The linkage between coal, electricity,
and economic growth in the United States is as clear as it can be. And it is
required for the way we live, the way we work, for our economic success, and
for our future. Coal-fired electricity generation. It is necessary.
Break it down. The electricity that I get in my house, roughly what comes
from different sectors?
Depends on where you live. On the coasts--in California, for example--there's
quite a little bit of hydroelectricity from the projects in the Pacific
Northwest and in the Sierras. As you get to the interior, it becomes
coal-fired--70 to 80 percent in the interior parts of the country. On the East
Coast you find more oil generation and gas generation. Nuclear is an important
source. In certain instances, it's very important. Hydroelectricity is an
important source. But the major driver is coal. Gas, natural gas, is more and
more becoming an important source. And I think a lot of the new units will be
Can you distinguish as well between the types of electricity, baseload and
others? Coal is baseload?
Coal is baseload electricity. The nuclear units, they tend to run as baseload
units. The natural gas units, they put in as peaking units, but more and more
baseload natural gas units are being planned and installed. But the gas units
are not as good as baseload as the coal units, but you can have gas baseload
So we have a situation where we have these projections. We have the current
situation with coal, the deeply offending fossil fuel with the highest carbon
content, used for 56 percent.
Depending on what you think of CO2.
And we have projections over the next 100 years, and with countries like
India and China, which have a lot of coal too. And in trying to change the
concentrations of CO2, people come up with different scenarios. One
scenario is called the optimistic ecological scenario, where they have 60 to
70 percent of energy coming from renewable sources.
That's the no-electricity scenario.
Talk about that scenario.
What we know now about renewables is two things. One, we know we can make
electricity with renewables. But two, we know that the electricity would be
expensive, and that we cannot make as much electricity as we need for our
society with renewables. We know those two things for a certainty. I do believe
that we should do research and development on renewables. And I think the
federal government--our federal government--ought to be in the business of
providing R&D money for renewables. The current batch of renewables (the
solar and wind) I really do not believe, long-term, are going to be viable. To
create the amount of electricity that we need in the United States for our
growing economy with solar and wind is not possible.
Say I'm a utility owner, and I currently get 60 percent from coal and 20
percent from nuclear, and I've got green expectations, so I want to build big
wind farms, big solar plants, big biomass plants. Talk me out of it.
Well, the massive scale of these coal units...first of all, the coal units are
very, very efficient in that you can put them in a spot, you can move very,
very large amounts of coal in and out--rapid unit train rail transportation
services. For example, a power plant we are involved with in southern Wyoming
burns 7 million tons of coal a year. It's 1,500 megawatts of generation. It
supplies electricity for a million and a half people. Now, if you take that
amount of generation and say, "I want to have solar," for example, you might
have to cover 10 percent of the state of Arizona to put in your solar
plant--panels which have their own set of problems in terms of manufacturing.
By the way, it takes electricity to manufacture those panels. [There are]
environmental problems in terms of covering the land. It's not as good an
energy resource in that you don't have the density of energy per unit of
substance that you're converting into electricity. The wind: You'd have to
cover the plain states with windmills. And the wind is intermittent.
The biomass units have their own set of problems. They have to be specific to a
location where you can get the substance that you put in there. And the heat
content of the biomass does not approach coal. Coal is a wonderful fuel for
making electricity, and that's why we use it.
Are you saying it's really an energy density issue?
I think that's a big part of it. Clearly, it's cost. You know, we have been
saying for the last two decades that as time goes on, the cost is going to come
down. Well, maybe so. The cost of coal has been coming down too. And our
ability to generate...we haven't been standing still in our part of the
industry. And we are getting better and better at generating with coal--cheaper
and cheaper electricity. So we're staying ahead of that curve.
But aside from the cost standpoint is this density question. And people really
don't focus on that. We have a lot of people in the United States--almost 300
million people now. We use a lot of electricity. And to get it from renewables
is a wildly impractical idea from the standpoint of current technology.
Now, it could be that we could go to something like a hydrogen or a nuclear
fusion or things of that nature. I'm all for R&D money going into making
electricity better and cheaper for people, because energy is a necessity for
people, and anything we can do to make it more abundant and less expensive I am
for. I think that's a positive good, and I think the government ought to be in
that business. But this notion of punishing what's on the ground today because
of some ephemeral fear of catastrophic global warming 50 or 100 years from now,
and taking away this positive good that we're providing to people
today--low-cost electricity using American resources--is a very bad idea.
So all right, you've convinced me that maybe the renewables are just niche
They are niche players right now.
What about increased hydro?
That'd be fine with me, but you might have an argument with the environmental
community. Bruce Babbitt, our Secretary of the Interior, runs around the
American West talking about taking out hydro projects, let alone letting
people put in more hydro projects. In the Pacific Northwest, this debate over
salmon, in terms of under the Endangered Species Act, may lead to turning some
of these magnificent hydro projects into run-of-the-mill river ladders. Hydro
also is very specific to a river in a canyon. But forgetting about that, the
political climate for hydro is more difficult--if that can be imagined--than it
is for coal-fire generation.
Well then, why don't you greatly increase your nuclear capacity?
I'm not in the nuclear business. I don't have any problem with nuclear. If
people want to put in nuclear plants, that's fine. But there's no reason for us
to take out our coal plants. They are regulated. The sulphur emissions from
these plants are regulated. The regulations are getting tougher. Carbon dioxide
is not a pollutant, and there is no demonstrated basis today to say that we
ought to do something different with these coal plants because of carbon
When we had the Kyoto protocol, which many environmentalists thought was
really a sellout--that it wasn't very much of a reduction--what was your
That was a photo-op for the Vice President of the United States. The notion of
reducing carbon dioxide emission levels in the United States 7 percent below
1990 levels by the year 2010 is a complete fantasy. The notion that we are
going to pretend like we're serious people in trying to achieve that goal is
complete fantasy. This whole business of Rio and the Kyoto protocol is a blind
man's alley. Nothing's going to come of it. We're not going to reduce coal or
gasoline consumption in the United States.
We will put R&D money into technology. And in the event we have a problem
long-term to take CO2 out of the stack gases, that's one thing we
can research. We're doing R&D on the super car. We're doing R&D on
renewables. But this notion that the United States of America is going to back
down from its energy consumption is not right. And people that think that that
is right...[they] don't understand the United States.
Let me take the other argument. These people gathered at Kyoto believed that
this was a problem, and they thought that the poorer developing countries
didn't want to get into this now because it might hurt their development, but
the very rich country producing most of the CO2 could tighten its
belt a little bit, could work more efficiently. What's wrong with that as a
Energy is a positive good. Energy is like air and water. We need it to live.
Energy is not a luxury. We don't succeed in the United States in spite
of energy consumption. We succeed in the United States because of
energy consumption. We are criticized for being the highest per capita
consumers of fossil fuels in the world. It's a positive good. There is a
correlation between our energy consumption and our success. In rural parts of
the country, they for sure are the highest per capita consumers of energy in
the United--in the world. We make enough food in the world to feed 50 percent
of the world, if people could distribute it. It's dependent on fossil fuels.
Food, energy, fossil fuels, air, water. These things go together. If you say
"Tighten my belt on energy," I say, "Tighten your belt on food. Eat less food.
Breathe less air. Drink less water." It is an antipeople, an antihuman proposal
to say to the human community that you are going to use less energy.
I think many people from environmental groups, and many people generally,
would feel that we use energy excessively, more than other countries,
exorbitantly. What do you think?
It's not true. The only reason people think that is because that's what they
read. What I call big media in the United States is Malthusian. Everybody that
writes for the Washington Post, the New York Times,
even the business magazines by and large, start from the premise that we ought
to limit what we consume in the way of natural resources. I go, "What? Why do
you think that?" Why are more people living better? Is it in spite of natural
resources, or is it because of natural resources? When people get into this
issue and sit down and take the time to understand what's involved, how
important energy is to them--and I've given speeches on this all over the
country for the last ten years, in front of big groups and small groups--I
never have anybody coming up to me afterward, going, "That's totally
irresponsible." They come up to me and they go, "Oh, I understand." Because
people are not given the full set of facts to understand how important energy
is--fossil fuels are--to our life. It's life.
When you heard about Kyoto, were you worried? Or did you just dismiss it as
Oh, you have to be worried. I mean, this is the United States government
identifying with a policy that would be devastating, not just to us but to the
rest of the world. You know, the people that get in these rooms in these
international conferences, I don't know what motivates them, and I'm way beyond
trying to figure out people's motivations in this thing. I just go along. I try
to do our business and state our point of view and let people decide what they
will. But I'll tell you one thing they don't understand: The U.S. economy is
what is driving wealth in the rest of the world. We're the biggest economy on
earth. We're $9 trillion out of $27 trillion, the United States economy is. For
us to say that we are going to cut back, or for them to tell us to cut back,
means we will consume less. If we consume less, they export less. If they
export less to us--we're the biggest market--their wealth goes down, their
well-being goes down, their joblessness comes up. And the impact on the Third
World, where two billion people already don't have any electricity, would be
They're not talking about hurting the economy. They're talking about
basically reducing the amount of carbon that's emitted. And so to go back to my
analogy when I'm asking you to decarbonize the power source, what's wrong with
switching to natural gas? Here we have another source which works. It just has
less carbon in it. Why can't you just take half of your coal electricity and
turn it into gas?
It's disingenuous to say that natural gas is the solution. If you study
greenhouse theory--and I have studied greenhouse theory--7 percent below 1990
levels does nothing. What the long-term goal of the Vice President of the
United States is, is to ultimately eliminate all fossil fuel used in the United
States, to return CO2 emissions to preindustrial levels around 1900.
That is their goal. When they get up in a political context and someone asks
them point black like that, they'll dance around it. But if you read what they
have said, if you study what they're doing, President Clinton in connection
with Kyoto said it was --his words--"a good first step." A first step to what?
A first step to eliminating fossil fuel utilization in the United States.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel. You could convert all of the coal plants in the
United States to natural gas and, under greenhouse theory, have zero impact on
the apocalypse looming 50 or 100 years from now because natural gas is a
carbon-based fuel. We are, by the way, a carbon-based life form living on a
carbon-based planet, consuming carbon-based fuels. So the notion of
decarbonizing energy is another way of saying we are going to decarbonize life,
which is another way of saying we are going to reduce the amount of life on the
The White House has a problem because we're committed under Kyoto to be 7
percent below 1990 levels. How are we doing?
We're going up! Instead of going south, we're going north. We're doing great,
thank God. The American economy is flourishing. We're using more fossil fuels.
We're putting more CO2 in the air. The coal plants are running at
record levels. Business has never been better. We're doing great.
Do you think there's any chance of Kyoto being ratified?
No. There's no chance of Kyoto being ratified. We are not going to do it as a
society. Moreover, we are not going to return to 1990 levels of CO2
emissions as called for by the Rio Treaty. We are not going to do that. And
people who think we are do not understand the United States.
Here's a scenario which I can imagine: that the U.S. uses a trading system,
so we buy credits from Russia and the Ukraine, who aren't producing much
CO2, and with a bit of bookkeeping, we get to compliance. Can you
imagine something like that?
If that were a stand-alone proposition, I probably wouldn't have a big problem
with that. But I know it won't be a stand-alone proposition because it is the
goal of the Vice President of the United States to completely eliminate all
fossil fuel consumption in the United States of America over the next 30 to 50
years. That's his goal. So we're not going to achieve that goal by pretending
we're eliminating fossil fuels. You have to achieve the goal by eliminating
fossil fuels. That's what they're trying to do.
But your point is that even if he were right about climate change, it would
be impossible to eliminate fossil--
If he is right about climate change, if there is some basis to be concerned
about this, the way to do it is the approach that is now embodied in
legislation that will shortly be introduced by Senators Murkowski and Hagel,
which has the federal government developing technology to scrub CO2
out of gases and to sequester it. That's the way to do it. If you want an
insurance policy, I'm for that, because that doesn't punish anybody.
The coal industry did not create this problem. The automobile industry didn't
create this problem. The airlines didn't create this problem. The steel people
didn't create this problem. If there's a problem, it's a societal problem, and
the society develops the technology to let us all continue to live our lives
the way we are living our lives, without taxing us and punishing us. But the
environmental community can't think in those terms. And they won't be for this
This bill...this kind of future would envisage a continuing fossil industry,
dominant fossil industry--
Yes, right. Dominant fossil industry.
But what you're doing is, you're removing the offending ingredient. Explain
Right now, we scrub gases for sulphur dioxide. That was the Clean Air Act and
the Clean Air Act amendments. In the seventies and in the nineties, we had big
arguments as to that, but those are in place. That's working. We're taking
sulphur dioxide out of the gases by scrubbing. And the scrubbing technology for
carbon dioxide has not been developed, but it is theoretically possible to do
that. And what this bill would entail would be to have the government getting
in the business of developing that scrubber technology.
Now, the term used here is "sequestering". What does that mean,
Well, it's used in a lot of different contexts. Plants are already sequestering
more and more carbon dioxide every year, because we see a more robust
biosphere, greater agricultural production, more robust forests, more robust
plant life--all contrary, by the way, to the vision of the apocalypse . But
that's sequestration. Pumping it into the ground is sequestration. Carbon
dioxide is used for tertiary oil recovery from depleted oil fields, as a gas to
increase the pressure to force the oil up. That's sequestration. You could find
caverns, I'm sure, like these old salt caverns in Louisiana, where we store oil
in the event of an oil emergency, where you could pump CO2 in, and
I'm sure that there would be R&D. Research and development would be done on
making plants respond even more vigorously to carbon dioxide so that you would
have more plants sequestering CO2. So you could have sequestration
in a number of different contexts.
But the idea is that the plants themselves, or new plants, would sequester
the CO2 at the point of combustion?
Once the CO2 goes into the air, it's ubiquitous. So it doesn't
matter very much where you put the plants. But tree planting would be one thing
you could do.
This scheme, if it worked, you'd obviously use energy to do this. There'd be
an energy penalty. You'd actually be producing more CO2 in order to
Does that make technological sense? I'm not saying whether we should or
shouldn't do it. Does it make technological sense?
That would be part of the R&D process, to see whether you could do it.
Certainly when they talk about renewables, to create the technology to have
renewables, you need electricity to create that. So where does that
electricity come from? Are renewables energy-efficient on a net basis? Do you
get more or less energy out of renewables? That's something we're looking at,
by the way. But this would be an open question, and a legitimate one, in terms
of: Is there a net gain by putting this technology on and sequestering? And
that would be part of the process.
Let's say the engineering answer comes out as I expect it would, that for a
certain price, you can sequester it. There's plenty of places to put it.
There's even a scheme of making it into carbonate rocks. But to get you to move
in that direction, how do I encourage you without some sort of government
It's not government control in this context. I go back to my point: If we
decide as a society that this is a problem, it is a societal problem. It's not
my problem. It's not your problem. It's not the airlines' problem. It's not the
autos' problem. It's society's problem. Society ought to pay for it out of
general funds. So you would have...if you developed a technology, we decide we
want the technology, we need the technology, we're willing to pay for the
technology, the United States of America would pay for the technology in terms
of having it installed, not individuals, not this company or that company. We
haven't done anything bad. We put these coal plants in because the government
asked us to put the coal plants in. We didn't wake up one morning and say, "I
know what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be a greedy polluter that
confuses the American people by having a scientific argument over something
that is threatening the future of the globe. That's my aspiration as a human."
That's not how this happened.
These coal plants came from a federal policy to make us energy-independent. We
put them in, in good faith. We're operating them in good faith. We're trying to
protect them. We think they provide goods for people. If we decide that we want
to do something different with them, then the government ought to pay for it,
not the people that put them in. And that's the argument where it stands
But you're going to have to build a lot more coal plants just to keep up
with demand, aren't you?
We are going to have to build more coal plants. And the government recognizes
But I could apply the argument with nuclear: We didn't tell you we were
going to require all these additional regulations when you started, but we do,
because we think safety requires it. And we're saying to you, maybe we did say
that in the seventies, but now we're worried about CO2. You're going
to have to sequester it.
Well, I understand that point of view, and I'm not going to be argumentative
about it. I'm not here representing the nuclear industry, and I don't know what
happened then. I know what happened with the coal plants, and I know that that
result would not be fair, is not fair. And I think there would be a very, very
large legal argument over the government's ability to come in after the fact on
these coal plants and say, "We're going to penalize you for making
CO2." And I promise you, I will be leading the pack on that one.
With new plants.
Well, new plants: You just go to efficiency levels. That's how you do that.
Some countries already have a carbon tax, like Norway.
Yeah. They say they do. I haven't really studied it, but--
Do you think it would be possible to have an upstream carbon tax? Not one on
individual motorists but one which just applied to people who made
Here's what I think about a carbon tax. I'm accused of being dishonest because
everybody knows a tax is the easiest thing to fight. Nobody likes taxes. So
instead, they go off to this market-friendly stuff, like emissions trading.
I've been in Washington long enough to know that if we went to emissions
trading, it would make tax reform look tame by comparison in this town. If you
had the United States government in the business of saying who gets to use what
energy, where, under what circumstances, paid for...the lobbyists will be
crawling all over this town. That's who's pushing emissions trading, by the
way, are the lobbyists.
So ifyou decide that you want less carbon energy, the simplest, the fairest,
the most straightforward way to do it is a carbon tax. Now, you would have to
accommodate people that are especially energy-intensive in the U.S., like
agricultural people, because it will annihilate them. You have to accommodate
that. But if we really decide that we want less carbon in our fuels, taxation
is the way to do this. And I do believe that.
From your standpoint, that would be the fairest way to go?
It's really probably the only workable way to do it.
It would depend on what the tax was?
Sure. How large the tax is, and how expensive you want to make electricity.
Could you stomach something on the order of $25 to $30 a ton?
In today's market environment? Per ton of carbon dioxide, or per ton of
Per ton of carbon dioxide.
I think the coal plants would still run at $25 per ton of carbon dioxide,
because it's not a one-to-one; it's 60 percent. So the tax per ton of coal
would be in the $12 or $13 range. Now, it would hurt a lot of people in a very
serious ways. I would be very, very opposed to that. But if you ask me, would
coal still be burned at those levels? I would say yes.
What do you think is going to happen on this issue? You've been with it a
long time. Where is it going to go?
Watchful waiting. Research and development. We have a wonderful system in the
United States. We're very contentious. We argue a lot. We yell at each other a
lot. But the system is such that it is very, very difficult for somebody with a
radical idea, particularly a radically wrong idea, to come in and impose that
way of thinking on the American society. And we have seen examples of that in
the last .. couple of Congresses, haven't we? Well, what is being proposed here
is a radical proposal. I think gradually we will move toward more energy
efficiency. I think gradually you'll see more renewables in niche applications.
I do think technology will keep driving important gains, both in our ability to
burn things more cleanly and to use things in a better way. But in terms of
somebody coming in five years from now or three years from now or eight years
form now and saying, "Hey, you're not going to use fossil fuels in the United
States any more," I don't think so.
Does this then cease to be an apocalyptic issue? It's not going away.
It's not going to go away.
But on the other hand, how do you keep the show on the road, if nothing's
Well, one thing we will keep doing is, we will keep funding scientific research
to try and help answer the question: Are we going to have an apocalypse or not?
So far, everything we see is extremely reassuring in terms of not only are we
not going to have an apocalypse, but things are going to be better on earth
because we're putting more CO2 in the air. And we will keep
promoting the value of what we do for people in terms of representing coal and
coal-fired electricity, because it is so important and people need to
understand that we need to protect what we have on the ground, and that we're
going to need more capacity in the future. That's how...that's the role we'll
But you know that things can turn on individual events. So it's interesting.
Like nuclear power turned on Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, CFC's turned on
that ozone hole. You could have some event which might not, strictly speaking,
be possible to link to global warming--
A weather event?
A weather or flooding event. Something. Right?
Yeah. I don't think so. I disagree.
But with public opinion, you don't--
So you think this is different from those examples?
It's totally different. I'll tell you one reason why it's different. And
I...you know, in the ten years I've been in this argument, I've looked at just
about everything you can possibly look at. One thing I started looking at was
historical extreme weather events. And there have been plenty of things that
happened way before CO2 got in the air, worse than anything we've
seen today. For example, the Dust Bowl. How's that? The Dust Bowl was in the
thirties. That was way before the buildup of CO2 gases. How about an
ice age? Is there anything more extreme, in terms of an ice age? You can get
records of floods in various parts of the world and various times of the world,
records of drought in California. The Anasasi Indians were driven out of ..
their cliff dwellings in the American Southwest, where I grew up and I love it,
into their pueblos along the rivers. Obviously it was a more temperate, more
benign climate for them. They had agriculture out in areas that's now desert.
And I have no doubt of our ability to reassure people that anything that
happens anywhere is nothing compared with what's happened in the past.
But you could get that message over, you're confident? Because
Absolutely we'll get the message out. We're getting it out. We're having this
conversation, aren't we?
But Gore's been getting the message out. He's there in front of the forest
Yes, he goes in front of the forest fires. But when I've talked to people, and
I ask them what they think about this, I'm telling you, this is a Beltway deal,
period, finish, end of story. If you go to where I was yesterday in Palmyra,
Missouri, near Hannibal, or you go out to Ames, Iowa, where they went out and
they had a global warming conference out there--or the Administration did--and
they brought in someone from the European Union, a commissioner, to tell the
farmers out there they had to use less fossil fuel so they'll...so the grape
growers in France could breathe easier about future climate, I'm sorry, we're
Polls that I'm aware of show there is some concern with this issue, and
that people would be willing to pay $25 a month. Have you seen these
Oh yes. Sure, I've seen them.
And beyond that, interest disappears.
I don't worry about those polls. Not at all. I was here for the BTU tax, 1993.
I mean, you'd have thought it was the Civil War revisited. And you know what
they ended up with? Four cents a gallon of gas. [laughs] I don't worry about
the polls. When people see that the United States government is getting ready
to raise their energy prices, I promise you, they pay attention.
Might we become isolated on this with the other OECD countries?
There is a risk of that. And I do worry about that. I'm not involved in the
foreign trade issues. I am a lawyer. I study these things. I know that the
World Trade Organization exists. I know that there are discussions about
putting environmental standards in there. It's conceivable to me that at some
point somebody goes to the WTO and says, "America can't export X product
because it uses too much fossil fuels." I don't see that as a short-term
threat, but I think that is a potentially a long-term threat.
But I think the thing that will stop that is that we are the biggest, most
important market on earth. And they quit us from exporting things abroad, they
better think twice if they want to sell stuff here.
> the debate
> carbon diet
> stories in ice
> beyond fossil fuels
> water world
> program excerpt
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