2012 Energy Policy After Solyndra – Axelrod Transcript

2012 Energy Policy After Solyndra – Axelrod Transcript

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Here is a transcript of my interview with David Axelrod on January 27, 2012 re. Solyndra, 2012 Energy Policy and President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Video here

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: Hello and welcome to Fresh Dialogues. Today I’ll be talking with David Axelrod. President Obama’s Chief Political Strategist. David, thank you for joining me today on Fresh Dialogues

DAVID AXELROD: Happy to be here.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: Good. Now Obama has started his first  (2012) Campaign ad with a defense of his clean energy policy. Why did Obama choose to start with green?

DAVID AXELROD:  The ad that it was responding to was an ad sponsored by a SuperPAC… sponsored by the Koch brothers… two oil billionaires … and it was an attack  particularly on the Solyndra issue but it was really an attack on the whole green energy initiative of the president’s. And we’re proud of that initiative…we’re proud that we’re on par to double renewable energy during the course of his first term. He believes very strongly that we need to command the clean energy technology of the future and that as a country we need to be encouraging the development of clean energy technology or we’re going to see that go to other parts of the world.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: You mention Solyndra specifically. Solyndra seems to be a thorn in the side of Obama. It keeps coming up. How does he intend to remove the thorn?

DAVID AXELROD: All you can do is be open and candid about it. We knew when made investments in clean energy technology that some would do well and others would not. That’s the nature of this…these are speculative investments. And that’s the reason why they needed some nudging from the government in order to blossom…You can look at Solyndra or you can look at the fact that when we started, the US had about 2% of the advanced battery manufacturing for electric cars. We’re on course to get to 40% by the middle of this decade.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: That’s impressive.

DAVID AXELROD: That wouldn’t have happened without the investments we’ve made. We’ve seen real growth in solar and in wind energy and so these are investments that are paying off for the country. I’m very certain that we’re going to look back at the seeds that were planted during this period and we will say that it has made a big difference for the country in a positive way.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: What percentage of the program’s investment went to Solyndra?

DAVID AXELROD: There were forty under this specific program, so it was a small percentage of the entire program. It was a program… that was begun under the Bush Administration and we accelerated that program because we do believe that we are in a real competition for the clean energy technology of the future and we as a country have a great interest in developing alternative energy and home grown domestic energy and renewable energy. These were investments that made sense. Some will pay great dividends, others unfortunately will not.


DAVID AXELROD: Plainly, we have to have our eye on the future and really encourage and develop renewable sources of energy. It’s good for the planet, it’s good for the economy, it’ll create great jobs…high end manufacturing jobs. This is going to continue being a thrust for us. We’re not going to back off.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: Thanks for joining us.


The interview took place backstage at Foothill College’s Celebrity Forum on January 27, 2012. Check back soon for more with David Axelrod:

On Michelle Obama’s influence on green policy

Read transcripts, see photos and check out our ARCHIVES featuring exclusive interviews with Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Vinod Khosla and many more green experts and visionaries…

and join the conversation at our Fresh Dialogues Facebook Page

Check out exclusive VIDEOS AT THE Fresh Dialogues YouTube Channel

Jeffrey Toobin Transcript: Kagan, Supreme Court, Environment

Jeffrey Toobin Transcript: Kagan, Supreme Court, Environment

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Fresh Dialogues (TM) is an interview series with a green focus: Fresh Questions, Fresh Answers. This video interview took place at  Foothill College Celebrity Forum on April 1, 2010, just one week before Justice Stevens announced his retirement. Check out the new Fresh Dialogues YouTube Channel more exclusive interviews.

Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview


We welcome feedback at FreshDialogues.com, click on the Contact Tab

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: Hello and welcome. Today on Fresh Dialogues: Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey – thank you so much for joining me on Fresh Dialogues. Let’s go on to your specialty: The Supreme Court. In 2009, they decided against environmentalists in a lot of cases…

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Six out of six.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: Yes. What are your thoughts on that, moving forward? Is this going to continue…this anti-environmental stance of the Supreme Court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: I think that the court as currently constituted will likely continue in that direction. I don’t think it’s a particular hostility to the environment per se. I think it is a general sympathy for corporate defendants in all cases, environmental cases being one category of cases where the corporations are the defendants.  They are also generally – the conservative majority –  fairly hostile to government regulatory efforts…and the environment is one area, not the only area. So if the court stays as it currently is, I think you’ll see a lot more cases like that.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: So would you say, it’s moving more pro-business?


ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: And the environment losing out as a result?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: That’s certainly how the environmentalists see it.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: And how do you see it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Again, not a field of great expertise of mine, but I see who wins the cases and who loses them. And it’s the polluters who keep winning.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: And what about the future? Justice Stevens is due to retire shortly

JEFFREY TOOBIN: He hasn’t said so officially but I think he will retire this Spring.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: So how is that going to change things? What are your predictions?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: I think he is a key member of the liberal four on the court, he will likely be replaced by another liberal. So in terms of the outcome of  cases in the next few years, probably not a huge impact, but I often like to quote Byron White the late Justice, who said if you change one Justice, you don’t just change one Justice, you change the whole court. If you start to have an energized liberal group of young  – by Supreme Court standards -Justices like Sonia Sotomayor, like the next Obama appointee, the wind could start to be at their back. And if Obama gets re-elected, you could see more appointments…so it’s a big deal.

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: And who is your No. 1 candidate for that appointment?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Elena Kagan, the Solicitor General, former Dean of Harvard Law School. Very much an Obama type person – moderate Democrat, a consensus builder…

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN: Do you know if she’s an environmentalist?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: I don’t… I just don’t know. My sense is, it’s just not an issue that has come across her plate a lot…she is someone who has written on administration law, which tends to mean she’s a believer in the power of the Federal Government to regulate. But I wouldn’t…

A – I don’t know what she thinks…and B – I don’t…

A is enough. I don’t know what she thinks about these issues…(laughter)

ALISON VAN DIGGELEN:  (laughter) OK. Jeffrey Toobin I really appreciate your taking the time for Fresh Dialogues.

JEFFREY TOOBIN: My pleasure. Nice to see you.

For more Fresh Dialogues Video interviews click here

Robert Ballard Transcript: Titanic explorer talks Global Warming

Robert Ballard Transcript: Titanic explorer talks Global Warming

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Transcript: Exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview with Robert Ballard, Ocean scientist of Titanic Fame, January 22, 2010

Watch the video and read the post here

Alison van Diggelen:  Hello and welcome to Fresh Dialogues. Today I’m interviewing Robert Ballard, ocean explorer and discoverer of the Titanic. Thank you for joining us.  Dr. Ballard, I want to thank you very much for being on Fresh Dialogues today.

Robert Ballard:  Pleasure to be here.

Alison: A question came up last night about global warming and you had a two-prong answer…Can you explain what you meant by that…  you’re not worried about the planet…

Robert:   I’m not worried about the earth. There have been times in earth’s history, in the Cretaceous (period) for example, 90 million years ago, when it was a lot warmer than it is now. There were no glaciers, there wasn’t an ice-cube on the planet, sea-level was much higher. We’re just the latest bad thing, maybe, that’s happening to the earth. So, I’m not really worried about the earth’s survival.

Alison: What about mankind?

Robert: I worry about mankind. Sometimes I see this tombstone that says, “the human race came and went but it was politically correct.” As a scientist I am not politically correct. My job is not to be politically correct. My job is to call it as I see it.

And I see that the biggest problem the human race has is that there are too many of us. You can’t have uncontrolled population growth. And then to take that population growth and multiply it times our footprint. Everyone wants to be an American and that would be the worst thing in the world… if everyone emulated us, because we’re so consumptive. An important thing for Americans to do is to drop their footprint.

Alison: Are you talking specifically about their carbon footprint?

Robert: Exactly.

Alison: Are you saying there is a human element to global warming?

Robert: Absolutely. I mean, we’re in a natural cycle. The real argument is: how much of this is a natural cycle and how much is it human additive? Hey folks: it’s both. Whenever you have a tremendous controversy both sides tend to be right and wrong. You do have the natural interglacial warming that we’re experiencing, but you are increasing the severity of it with the human footprint.  The concern most people have is that we can’t do much about the natural cycle, but we can do a lot about the human cycle. What people are worried about is if you steepen it too much, evolution can’t keep up and you get extinction. You don’t have adaptation to change…you have extinction and I think that’s what people are really worried about; they do see extinction.

Alison: Do you agree with Al Gore that there’s an urgent impetus for us as Americans to do something?

Robert: If you want to know the truth: it’s too late. Okay. All the ice is going to melt.

There’s a lag and it’s already in the system. In fact people don’t want to say that because they still want people to change their ways. But when it comes to glaciers and Polar Regions: it’s going to melt. Sea level is going to come up.

Alison: Are you saying we should do nothing?

Robert: No I’m not.  I was taught, when it doubt, try the truth. It’s never too late to change your ways. I’m not so worried about warming, because that’s going to happen and it’s happening. I’m more worried about disease; I’m more worried about pandemics. I’m more worried about that than the sea level rising. At least we can walk inland. But I’m more worried about the spread of disease. That’s a bigger threat.

Alison: What are your views on alternative energy? The ocean is over 70% of the earth, what about harnessing the power of waves?

Robert: As an American, I’m more pro alternative energy because it so affects our relationships with other countries than it does economic impact. I don’t like being dependent upon oil that’s controlled by countries that don’t like us. So, I’m more concerned about that than I am moving away from fossil fuel to wind energy or solar energy. I’m more worried about how it affects our foreign policy.  So I come down more on that concern than reducing our carbon footprint.

Alison: What about wave energy?

Robert: Wave energy is a lot harder.  I’m actually very pro nuclear. I thought the Three Mile Island calamity was an absolute disaster. A disaster for our country, because I’m very pro nuclear energy. I think it’s safe if done wisely. I envy what France has done. I think they’re up to 90%.  But because of that horrible tragedy and how it frightened people…and the media added to that fear. I was a little upset with that…of hyping it…which media has a wonderful capability of doing…that we lost a generation of bringing more and more nuclear power online.

Alison: Well Dr. Ballard, I really appreciate your taking the time.

Robert: Pleasure, pleasure.

This interview was recorded at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California. Dr. Ballard was in Silicon Valley as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series, hosted by Dr. Richard Henning. To see and read more interview segments with Dr. Ballard, on how he inspires education in science, gets funding for his expeditions and what his next adventure will be, check back soon.

For the young or young at heart, in answer to my Barbara Walters’s inspired question, if you were a sea creature, what sea creature would you be? Ballard answered: A killer whale.

For more exclusive interviews with Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Martin Sheen, Maureen Dowd and many others, check out Fresh Dialogues interview schedule

Paul Krugman: Transcript- Will Climate Legislation Kill the Economy?

Paul Krugman: Transcript- Will Climate Legislation Kill the Economy?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This exclusive interview with Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman was recorded in Silicon Valley. Dr. Krugman was in town to deliver a lecture as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series. This segment is titled: Will Climate Legislation Kill the Economy? Click here for video


Alison van Diggelen: Paul thank you very much for joining me today on Fresh Dialogues.

Paul Krugman: OK. Good to be doing this.

Alison: Now some people are saying, climate legislation is going to kill the economy. What do you say to that Paul?

Paul: Well, a lot of people have done serious work in trying to figure this out. Now, to some extent it will be unknown territory: we don’t know what happens when you set the price of carbon significantly higher than it is now, but the economy has got a lot of flexibility. We have precedent. We had the problem of acid rain and we introduced a cap and trade system – SO2 permits – and a lot of people said it was going to kill the economy…terrible stuff. In fact it turned out that dealing with it was cheaper than most estimates had suggested before hand. Given the incentives, the private sector found ways to generate a whole lot less acid rain.

So current estimates are that if we did something like the legislation that the House has already passed, that ten years from now it would be maybe one third of a percentage point off GDP. And 40 years from now, when the constraints would be much stiffer, it would be something like 2% off GDP, relative to what it would otherwise have been. So if you think about what it would do to the growth rate, it’s minimal. We don ‘t know if these numbers are right, but if history is any guide, they’re probably too pessimistic. It’s just not a big deal.

Alison: Let’s talk about your column, Paul… Now you didn’t pull any punches with the Bush administration. You talked last night about the Bush White House being evil and stupid. What is your characterization of the Obama White House?

Paul: Oh, they’re good guys and they’re smart but just not as forceful as I’d like. It’s a world of difference. When I argue with them in my column this is a serious discussion. We really are in effect speaking across the transom here…

Alison: Is it really a dialogue, are you hearing back from them?


Paul: Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean yes there’s that…

Alison: Does Ben Bernanke call you up?

Paul: Ben Bernanke doesn’t call me up but is aware of what I’m writing… people in the administration do call me. I’m never going to be an insider type but at this point I do have genuine contact with both the White House and with congressional leadership. It’s no longer  this sort of Cold War as it was during the Bush Years.

Alison: Some people describe your writing as having a missionary zeal.  Where does that come from Paul. Can you trace that back?

Paul: Oh. Gosh…I have to say that during the Bush Years, if you didn’t feel passionate that we had to change things, there was something wrong with you…

Alison: You didn’t have a pulse?

Paul: Right. So..before that, I was in fact a pretty cool…uh…

Alison: A cool dude…?

Paul: A pretty cool technocratic sort of writer. I had some fun but I wasn’t crusading. So that is what changed it. And now, I’m trying to make this progressive moment in American history a success. So that’s where I’m pushing.

Alison: So you feel the missionary zeal is gone now, or is it just redirected?

Paul: It’s not the same. There was the sheer.. OMG what a horrible thing…we need to alert people as to what’s going on…I’m still trying to get stuff to happen…it’s less doom laden maybe than it was in the Bush years. But stuff has to happen….I’m still pretty passionate about the column.

Alison: And do you feel you’re more effective as a columnist than inside the government?

Paul: Oh yeah! That’s a personal….you have to know who you are…know what you’re good at. I’m not a…being an effective government official, you have to do bureaucratic maneuvering, be pretty good at being polite at the appropriate moment… you have to be reasonably organized…I’m none of those things.

Alison: An honest man.

Paul: I can move into a pristine office and within three days it will look like a grenade went off.

Alison: [laughter]

Paul: You really don’t want me doing that sort of thing.

Alison: Right. Paul Krugman, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

Paul: Thank you so much.

For more exclusive interviews with leaders, such as Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd and Charlie Rose click here

Paul Krugman: On China and Climate Change Transcript

Paul Krugman: On China and Climate Change Transcript

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh DialoguesPaul Krugman, Alison van Diggelen-Fresh Dialogues Interview

This exclusive interview with Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman was recorded on November 12, 2009 in Silicon Valley. Dr. Krugman was in town to deliver a lecture as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series. Here is the transcript of Part Two: On China and Climate Change. To listen to this interview click here and or watch video (coming soon)

Alison van Diggelen: Paul thank you very much for joining me today on Fresh Dialogues.

Paul Krugman: OK. Good to be doing this.

Alison: Talking about other countries, Spain took the lead… Denmark is taking the lead… China is now way ahead of us in certain clean energy technologies. Do you feel that we’ve lost eight years and we have at least eight years to catch up?  Is it feasible we can catch up?

Paul: It’s always feasible. You don’t want to get too hung up on the specific sexy technologies. I guess the Danes are ahead of us in building wind turbines. But a lot of what we’re going to be doing on the environment is  going to be… insulation, clever urban design to minimize energy loss. That’s all stuff that’s coming along and look – the history of information technology has said very clearly that nobody gets a monopoly for very long… I don’t get anxiety about it. I’m just more concerned that we won’t do what we need to do to protect the environment.

Alison: How big is the role of government? Ultimately it’s the private sector investment that’s going to make the substantial investment…

Paul: But the government has to provide the incentives…what we have now is the economic concept of an externality…if you have something where you impose costs on other people but you don’t have any incentive to reduce those costs, bad stuff happens. And climate change is the mother of all externalities. It’s a gigantic thing and the private sector by itself is not going to deal with it. Left without any government intervention, we’re just going to basically par-boil the planet, right?

So what you have to do is have a set of rules in place. Now the idea is for it to be market oriented. Yes, there can be some public research, some public investment, some things will have to be done directly by government… but mainly put in a cap and trade system – put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and then let the private sector do its stuff.

Alison: Right. Why is it you favor a cap and trade system over a straight carbon tax?

Paul: Oh, there are a couple of reasons. One is, right now, cap and trade looks like it might pass Congress and a direct tax will not. Partly that’s because cap and trade is relatively well suited to paying off the industry groups, right? We live in the real world. By handing out some of the licenses, at least in the first decade or so, you make it easier to swallow.

International coordination is easier with cap and trade. If we say to the Chinese – well we want you to have a carbon tax – how can we really tell it’s enforced? But if we negotiate with the Chinese that they will have total CO2 emissions of so much, we can monitor pretty well whether that’s actually happening. So that’s a lot easier to envision an international  agreement with cap and trade.

So, I would take a carbon tax if…

Alison: If it were politically feasible?

Paul: It’s not clear to me that it’s even superior. But it would be OK, certainly. The fact is, cap and trade could be a bill by this time next year. A carbon tax is like single payer health care. It’s not going to happen this decade and I want something to actually happen now.

Alison: Paul Krugman, thank you very much I really appreciate your taking the time.

Paul: Thank you so much.

Check back soon for more interview segments on the stimulus package, what gave him that “missionary zeal” to write such fervent columns in the New York Times, and whether the green economy can be our salvation.

 To check out more exclusive Fresh Dialogues interviews, click here

Listen to Part One: Paul Krugman’s advice on Obama’s Job Summit

 Part Two when Paul Krugman discusses China, Climate Change and clean technology

Paul Krugman: Advice for Obama Job Summit Transcript

Paul Krugman: Advice for Obama Job Summit Transcript

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh DialoguesPaul Krugman, Alison van Diggelen-Fresh Dialogues Interview

This exclusive interview with Paul Krugman was recorded on November 12, 2009 in SiliconValley. Dr. Krugman was in town to deliver a lecture as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series. Here are some transcript highights. To listen to the interview click here and or watch video.

Alison van Diggelen: Paul thank you very much for joining me on Fresh Dialogues.

Paul Krugman: OK. Good to be doing this.

Alison: Last night, you talked in your lecture of your concern about the unemployment rate. It’s very high and moving higher. In light of Obama’s announcement today about the job summit in DC in December, do you have any advice specific advice for Obama administration, particularly for green jobs?

Paul: Well OK, green jobs I think is going to be a much harder thing to get going. That’s going to take time. That really waits on climate legislation which we won’t get till next year, if we’re lucky. 

What he needs to do is get some actual targeted job measures, we need some policies that are aimed at encouraging job creation directly: probably a job tax credit and maybe some subsidies for firms that hang on to jobs. We can learn a little bit from European countries (like) Germany which have been relatively successful in containing the job losses…We just have to get something going…. If I had my druthers, if there were no limits politically, I’d say actually let’s just have a really massive second stimulus plan to get the economy going, but since that’s not going to happen we need some measures that are cheaper, don’t maybe do as much for GDP but create a lot of jobs…

Alison: You said last night he’s been too cautious, Obama has been doing things in half measures. What advice would you give him at this stage?

Paul: This jobs summit can’t be an empty exercise…he can’t come out with a proposal for $10 or $20 Billion of stuff because people will view that as a joke. There has to be a significant job proposal…

 Alison: Do you have a minimum he aught to spend?

Paul: There’s no hard and fast number, but if it isn’t several hundred billion dollars…OK, probably it’s not going to be as big as the first stimulus bill and not going to be as big as I think it should be… But I have in mind something like $300 Billion, you could do quite a lot that’s actually targeted on jobs.

Alison: Paul Krugman, thank you very much I really appreciate your taking the time.

Paul: Thank you so much.

Check back soon for more interview segments in which Paul Krugman discusses China, Climate Change and clean technology, the stimulus package, and why he prefers cap and trade over a straight carbon tax.  He also explains what gave him that “missionary zeal” to write such fervent columns in the New York Times. To check out more exclusive Fresh Dialogues interviews, click here