Energy Security Means Creating a Sense of Community
VISHAKHA DESAI: Good evening. And welcome to the Asia Society. Most of you know me but in case you don't, I'm Vishakha Desai, and I have the honor of being the president of this wonderful organization. It's my great pleasure and honor to welcome all of you for a very special evening with Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, who is going to be talking to us about sustaining economic growth while combating social challenges in Asia. I must say, this topic of growth and social challenges was very much something that we discussed almost all day today because we had another highly successful business conference on India's financial markets. And one thing that kept coming up is how the idea of sustaining growth is going to actually balance out with the ideas of working with social as well as public health challenges and education challenges in places like India and China.
I should also say today is one of those days that Asia Society does a lot: we had a business conference, and at the same time, there were people going in and out of our wonderful exhibition of Liao dynasty, the Chinese treasures. And we had young people who are also coming to take classes while we close out the day with this very important policy address. This is exactly what Asia Society does well. We have been doing it for fifty years, as we celebrate our Fiftieth Anniversary this year. And indeed, these are the kinds of programs that give us a sense that three dimensional understanding of Asia remains more crucial than ever before. So if you haven't come here before we welcome you. We ask you to join us, support us and we'd be delighted to see you at any number of our programs as we go on.
Today's presentation and event is actually part of our new series entitled, "American Political Leaders on the Future of US Relations with Asia." We started with Governor Mark Warner and we had Senator Brownback and now we have Governor Vilsack, who doesn't get seen in New York very much so we're really delighted, sir, that you have taken time from your busy schedule to be with us. We also have invitations out and you should look out for this. We hope to have Governor Pataki, we hope to have Senator Dodd. We have a number of other invitations out, including to Senator Clinton. So I think that you should look out for this for the whole series in the coming months as we go on. The idea is to really get American political leaders to focus on their perception and have us understand their perception of Asia's rising role in the global affairs and its impact on the United States, as well as US approaches for responding to these new realities in international affairs. These are one of the ways that we actually continue to want to make a difference in US-Asia relations. And we're really delighted that all of you are here with us.
Before I actually turn over the podium to Les Gelb, a good friend of the institution, let me also say that Governor Vilsack - and we talked about this for a long time. In fact, he was with us in India at our big corporate conference in Mumbai, when we inaugurated our India Center with Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. And it was at that point our Chairman, Richard Holbrooke, had asked Governor Vilsack and we are really delighted that we could finally figure the schedule for you to be with us. One quick word of housekeeping and that is, would you please turn off your cellphone and beepers, etc., etc.? Yes, it's a good idea. I should tell you that we had the Chinese Ambassador here. I announced this. Everybody else turned their phones off. He didn't. And he actually took the phone while he was sitting here. [LAUGHTER] I know you don't want to do that!
We are really also very pleased to have Les Gelb with us, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, just down the road, and a great friend of the institution. A person who really always has insightful questions, thoughtful ways of framing the issues of US-Asia relations. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Les Gelb, who is going to introduce our speaker this evening. Les Gelb. [APPLAUSE]
LES GELB: Thank you, Vishakha, Dick Holbrooke, ladies and gentlemen. We have a special speaker tonight. We really do. Usually in places like this - and I've lived too much of my life in places like this - the view is from the stratosphere. Policy issue is very abstract. Tom Vilsack talks about policy issues in that broad way that policy people have to but he also talks about it at ground level, where people live - which I think is essential because it's somewhere in that mix that you actually find solutions to problems. Our speaker is also special tonight because I think he's a terrific and special guy as a person. There's a lot of manure in Iowa. [LAUGHTER] And he's got very little of it! [LAUGHTER] You will see someone who really talks, not as a politician, but as a person, looking at public policy issues more or less as we do. I like him as a leader because if you take a look at his record as Governor of Iowa these last almost eight years now, you see one of those special Governors who has been able to produce bipartisan solutions to problems in that state. It's so rare. In fact, I think the two most outstanding really have been Mark Warner and Tom Vilsack. And the proof is in the record. He has enormously increased the value of education in that state, to the point where I think Iowa ranks at the top of the SAT performance and lots of other educational performance records as well. On health care, the same thing. Most of the people in the state are covered. There's real economic growth in that state. He shows, I think, what we really need out of this country and that is bipartisan solutions to problems -- a Democratic Governor with a Republican legislature for eight years. And for us tonight he's going to step back and take a look at Asia and economic growth and energy issues and trade and the like and talk for about twenty-five minutes. Then we'll talk for a few minutes and open it to you. It's my great pleasure to introduce Governor Tom Vilsack. [APPLAUSE] And so thank you.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Les, thanks. Thanks very much. Les, thank you very much. I was a little concerned when I learned that Les was going to introduce me tonight because I was asked to give a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations a couple of weeks ago and Les, as he has been so gracious, provided me some advice. Actually two bits of advice. One was to talk about something I knew and one was to tell a joke. Les, I took half your advice and I talked about something I knew. I'm just not capable of telling a joke. [LAUGHTER] And I was fearful that Les would be offended by the fact that I didn't take all of his advice. And I appreciate Ambassador Holbrooke being here. We did, in fact, make a deal. More of the deal was just not an opportunity to attend the dinner but the Ambassador was kind enough to surrender his seat next to the Prime Minister to allow me the opportunity to visit for just a few minutes with the Prime Minister. And I think the Prime Minister was very appreciative of that. I was sitting to the Prime Minister's left and to the right was the Chinese Commerce Minister, who was in the process of trying to convince the Prime Minister of India to hire Chinese contractors to build Indian roads. [LAUGHTER] And I think the Prime Minister appreciated the opportunity to turn the conversation over to me! So, Mr. Ambassador, I really do appreciate that. It was very kind of you and very thoughtful. And I want to acknowledge the fact that my wife, Christie, is with me today. Christie and I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel quite a bit over the course of the last eight years. And I'll share with you just in a few minutes some of the itinerary of our travels. But it's great to have her with us as well.
I realize I'm talking to a group of people that know far more about most subjects relating to Asia than I know. And so I think it's incumbent to a certain extent to perhaps provide some credentialing before I speak about energy security and growth and some of our Asian experiences and how they have impacted and affected activities in my state and how, conversely, they will impact and affect the future of our world. Actually, Iowa has a very interesting connection with Asia. It started many years ago. But perhaps the most interesting connection occurred as a result of a typhoon in Japan, when a good part of the livestock of Japan was destroyed about fifty or sixty years ago. An Iowa farmer decided to try to do something about that and organized an airlift of hogs to Japan. And the result is that genetically today most of the pork that's raised in Japan has a connection to Iowa and as a result of that we established a sister-state relations with Yamanashi Prefecture, which has gone on for over forty years. And Christie and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Japan on three occasions and to have an opportunity to visit with the folks in that prefecture. And it was an extraordinary event that created a friendship that has lasted now into its fifth decade.
In the 1970s, at the tail end of the Vietnam conflict, there were a number of people who were looking for refuge and Iowa opened up its doors and we welcomed the Taidam people. We welcomed those from Laos, from Cambodia, from Vietnam into our state. And we have a very strong Asian population in Iowa - so strong that we just this year created and funded an Asian-Pacific Islander Commission to ensure that the culture of these people is protected and enhanced and studied and researched and appreciated by the people of Iowa.
By virtue of that the state began an effort aggressively to travel to Asian countries to try to develop relationships that would lead to trade opportunities. So as a result, during the last eight years, I have been fortunate to travel to China on more than one occasion, to Taiwan on more than one occasion, to Japan, to South Korea. Recently I went to India. I also traveled this year to Iraq and Afghanistan. And part of it obviously is a result of trade, part obviously a result of visiting troops and having a chance to meet with prime ministers and presidents and foreign ministers and the like. The job of Governor is different than it used to be. It used to be a situation where you were pretty much at home, taking care of business at home. But the reality of today's world is that what happens in my state has a direct connection to what happens around the world and vice versa. As a result of those travel experiences, I have grown to understand and appreciate the phenomenal opportunity that China and India and South Korea and other Asian countries present, in terms of the 21st century. And it is the view of many that what America was to the 20th century and what Germany may have been to the 19th century, China and India in particular could be to the 21st century. And that is certainly, certainly true.
In our Chinese visits, Christie and I had the opportunity to visit a school. And there's a profound impact when you travel - a profound impact on policy back home. When we went to this Chinese school we were struck - I was struck, anyway - when I walked into a second grade class. I was greeted in perfect English, which didn't surprise me. But what did surprise me was that this was Spanish class. And I said to the Principal, Spanish? And they said, Yes, we teach Chinese every year, obviously. And we teach English every year. And we begin a second foreign language for our students in second grade. A bell went off in my head. We went to a seventh grade class. Now, I wasn't particularly proficient in science and so I didn't recognize the class I was in, because I had never taken a physics course. But we were in an introductory physics course in seventh grade.
And we were told it alternated physics, chemistry, physics, chemistry, physics, chemistry until these young people graduated from this school. And in fact, they would spend roughly the equivalent of two full school years by American standards in school more than our students would attend school, by the time they reached the age of 17-18. As a result of that experience, that awakening, if you will, I came back to my state and suggested that our high school curriculum in particular needed to be far more rigorous and far more relevant than it had been. We needed to focus on foreign language. We needed to focus on science. We needed to focus on math. That trip profoundly impacted the education of literally tens of thousands of children in the state of Iowa. And we were able to establish as a result of that trip for the first time ever a high school graduation requirement in our state. That's the kind of power that we see today in a world that is so connected. The same thing happened in India, where we traveled to a computer program and a computer company where we were told that the challenge for India was to create two and a half million computer engineers within the next ten years so that they would continue to lead the computer revolution. Now, that spurred action in my state to ensure that we had adequate opportunities for the growth and development of those kinds of businesses in my state as well. So there is a connection.
All of this suggests to me that what we're going to see is phenomenal growth in India and China and South Korea. We've seen it. We know it's going to happen. Here's one of the problems - that in order to have phenomenal growth you have to have power. You have to have energy. You have to be able to fuel those computers and drive those trucks and drive those transportation systems. And we're going to create a potential conflict in the world in terms of energy resources. And we in this country in particular, have to be serious about that. If China is, as expected, going to increase its energy usage by a 150 per cent in ten years and India is going to project a 200 per cent increase -- and only a third of the homes in India have electricity -- and China and India are going to add seven hundred million cars to the world's car fleet in the next couple of decades, it is pretty clear that we are on a collision course as it relates to energy.
When you combine that growing demand with the fact that most of the oil in the world today has been discovered -- some experts would suggest as much as 95 per cent of it has been discovered; when, of the 23 oil producing countries, 15 have exceeded their peak production and are actually on the decline, including the United States -- you have a clear message that energy security is going to be important for all countries and America must lead that effort, since we are but five per cent of the world's population and consume 25 per cent of the world's energy. It is a moral responsibility, it is the requirement of a great nation and a world leader to begin addressing energy security so that every nation has access to sufficient energy to be able to fuel their economy. Now, that's going to require some very serious work on the part of people in this country to in turn help people in China and India and other countries that want to develop. It's going to require three specific steps which have profound impacts on our relationships with those countries and a profound effect on our relationship with all countries in the world and will have a profound effect on our economy.
There are many Americans who are concerned about the competition, the global economic competition. I hear it a lot from workers. They're worried, they're concerned, they're anxious. And I fear that worry and anxiety and concern may translate itself into policies that shut us off from the rest of the world, that don't allow us to develop friendships and relationships with China and India and to continue to extend those relationships. So it is important for America to create an economy that doesn't necessarily compete. Energy security is a way to do that. Three steps: First, America must become serious about conservation. There is a responsibility on our part to consume less. With developing countries in Asia needing energy resources we can no longer justify using 25 per cent of the world's energy. We have to get serious about the automobiles we drive. We have to establish CAFE standards that are consistent with the international standards that have been set by China and other nations. There's no reason why we can't produce cars that take fifty miles per gallon and work with the Chinese and other car producers to do so.
It is important for us to establish new kinds of materials to facilitate the research, not just in our country, but across the world, in new types of materials that are lighter, that require less energy. Currently today there's an international effort to produce different kinds of planes that are producing and made of much lighter material, that consume far less fuel, that allow us to transport people greater distances. The development of these new materials will give rise to an economy that doesn't necessarily compete but complements the economies of India and China and other Asian countries. It's going to be necessary for us as we develop cities in America and in Asia and across the world to develop new construction techniques, new ways of building buildings that do not necessarily consume as much carbon based and fossil fuel. The mayors of this country have challenged themselves by the year 2030 to develop cities with buildings that are carbon neutral. We have to consume less.
The advent of nano-technology - an opportunity to literally produce products without producing waste-think about what happens today in every industrial process everywhere in the world. You start with a substantial amount of raw material and you construct a vehicle or construct a product and then you dispose of the waste or you recycle the waste. Well, what about the possibility of producing a car or any other product, molecule by molecule by molecule? That is the kind of economy that needs to be developed here so, again, that we complement what's taking place all across this great world of ours.
You know, when I talked to the Prime Minister of India during our dinner conversation, I was struck by the potential and the paradox of India -- the fact that it is a country that has the largest middle class but it is also home to one-half of all the malnourished children in the world. And it seems to me that we all ought to do something about that. We ought to be able to produce enough food and be able to ensure that it gets to where it needs to get to make sure that every single young person in the world today has access to nourishment. But when we are a country that consumes vast quantities of food and now we are in a situation where we're encouraging the development of renewable fuels, we're creating the potential for that not to happen.
And so it's important and necessary for us, as we look at renewable fuels and renewable energy, to focus on alternative sources of that energy. Today in America we use corn, but the reality is that we're going to need that corn for a lot of other reasons. And it's going to be necessary for us to create ways in which we can produce renewable fuels through the use of grasses and other biomass products that can be grown here and can be grown in China and in India and all over the world. I remember a conversation I had with a Chinese minister about the use of soybeans for soy diesel. And we started talking about this and I said, Mr. Minister, we really would like to provide you with some Iowa soybeans. And he said, Every time you do, you run into problems with our farmers because our farmers want to grow soybeans. I said, Well, what about the opportunity to use soybeans to fuel trucks? It was an interesting reaction. He got up and left the meeting! [LAUGHTER]
We have to do a better job of educating people about the power of renewable fuel and the opportunity to move away from oil-based petroleum products. That can happen in America, it can happen in India, it can happen in China and it can put us in a position where we are no longer necessarily competing for natural resources. We're creating new ways to create power and energy. So a second strategy must be a renewable strategy. I would suggest to you that it is also going to be necessary for America and for the rest of the world to take a look at traditional ways of producing power in non-traditional ways. We have substantial sources of coal in this country that are not being utilized because of concerns about air quality. We need to be serious about global climate change. We need to be serious about climate security. We need to be serious about developing a system in which we can trade carbon, where we can sequester carbon, where we can use the coal that we have so that we are not necessarily adding to the problem that the world's dealing with today. In order for us to have relationships with growing economies in Asia it's going to be necessary for us to provide the moral leadership on this issue. To do that we need to begin embracing different ways of producing energy in this country. All of it connects to our relationships with countries all over the world.
China has figured out something that America is in the process, I think, of hopefully, refiguring - and that is that it's important and necessary to develop relationships and friendships to have access to the natural resources that will fuel your economy. Our younger son, Doug, spent some time in Africa, in Namibia last year. And when he came home I asked him for his observations of Africa. And I was assuming he was going to talk about animals, he was going to talk about the people he met. He summed it up in one word. He said, China. And I said, China? Why China? He said, You can't believe the amount of money that China is investing in infrastructure all across Africa. And I learned that they're also doing this in South America. They're developing relationships so that they have access to natural resources. If that's all that was happening that would be great. But the reality is that in connection with those relationships there are also political equations and political decisions that are being made. And the reality is that because America is not engaged in a discussion in utilizing its moral leadership on climate control, it's not engaged in reducing its dependence on foreign oil, we are in less of a position to be able to speak to China about separating what is a market decision to purchase natural resources and political decisions. And the reality is that we see the consequence of that in our inability to really effectively deal with the situation in Darfur. These are all interrelated issues. And it is important and necessary for us as we look at coal, as we look at traditional energy sources that we figure out ways in which America can exercise its moral leadership. It is also true that we also have to take a look at how we produce nuclear energy -- the ability to reduce the barriers that exist. We should be accelerating technology in America and across the world to determine whether or not we can produce that form of energy without the necessity of producing a byproduct that can turn into a weapon. I don't believe that that's impossible. Scientifically, today it may be but I believe that if we challenge ourselves we can find a way and what a difference that would make in terms of the capacity and the ability to expand dramatically opportunities for energy.
If we do not solve these issues, if America does not take an aggressive effort, we're not going to be in a position to see the economies of India and China grow without creating substantial conflict between our countries. Energy security is not just about a creative and innovative economy. It's not just about climate control. It's not just simply about better relations. It is something that's very fundamental, I think, for the future of my country - and that is, creating a sense of community in this country. Why do I think it's possible for America to consume less, to promote renewable energy sources and to create alternative ways of producing traditional so that we're not in conflict with Asian countries so that we can see their economies grow, so we can enhance trade, so we can reduce our trade deficit, so we can have a stronger budget situation that puts us in a position to be stronger from a national security standpoint? Why do I believe that that's possible? Because I think we're ready for it in this country.
I was in church the other day and there was a church bulletin in my church which struck me as odd. The church basically gives out this bulletin before the service starts, which is a mistake for me because I end up reading it instead of listening! But in the church bulletin it simply has some simple ways to reduce global warming. And the reality is that today in my church every week for the next fifty-two weeks there is going to be information about how to reduce global warming. If it's in my church I'm assuming it's in a lot of churches. And there is an opportunity for this particular issue of energy security to begin the process of uniting this country in a major effort to restore moral leadership on a very critical issue and put us in a position to be able to deal with a lot of other difficult issues.
Christie and I have seen their phenomenal growth in Asia. We have been impressed with the commitment of the people of China and India in particular, and of South Korea, to education, to hard work and sacrifice. What we need to do is take advantage of that growth and not necessarily put it in a position where we are in conflict with it - either because we are fussing over economic opportunity or because we are looking for the same ways to finance and to fuel our opportunities. We need to figure out ways in which we co-exist and not compete. I think energy security in this country is relevant to the growth and development of Asian countries and I think Americans are ready, willing and apparently able, if this church bulletin is any indication, to assume that role. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
LES GELB: Thank you very much. The first question that comes to mind in listening to this very intelligent array of what we need to do on education and energy policy is the politics of it. You convinced me about what we need to do on energy. But Dick Holbrooke continues to pollute the country, waste energy and most Americans are in his camp! [LAUGHTER} This has been tried now -- revamping our energy policy, conservation, new sources of energy - since Frank Zarb was made Energy Czar by Richard Nixon - the first Arab boycott. What are you going to do to make it possible? How are you going to convince people to do what people like you sensibly have been trying to do for over 40 years?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, you know, the interesting thing about the energy situation in this country is that when government really, truly focuses its time and attention and resources on something you can actually move the ball down the field. I mean, President Carter, notwithstanding all the criticism he got, really encouraged less consumption and in fact, for a short period of time, we were actually consuming less imported oil. So, number one is getting government engaged in a way that uses all of the resources, all of the power and energy of government, in a focused way. Energy security involves so many different aspects that could involve so many different parts of government that you can actually put the full weight of government behind it. Secondly, people want this, Les. It wouldn't be in my church bulletin if people weren't sensitive to the fact that in this country in particular we're consuming more than we should. And we therefore put ourselves in a position where there could be substantial and serious competition between us and other developing countries and emerging countries and emerging powers over natural resources. I think there is a moral calling here, which is reflected in this being in a church bulletin. It's reflected in evangelical churches across the country talking about stewardship.
So I think there is a willingness on the part of the public because they understand it's not right what we're currently doing. I think if we're interested in having the economy of this country grow to the point where we're not afraid of trade but that we embrace trade, we have to figure out ways in which we are not necessarily competing with others. And the way in which you do that is by being one innovation and one creation ahead of the competition by creating industries that don't exist. Nano-technology is an opportunity for us. New material science is an opportunity for us. New construction techniques is an opportunity for us - not just to avoid competition with foreign economies but also to be able to complement those foreign economies so that we have something that they're interested in, they have something we're interested in and we don't create this anti-trade mentality.
Many of us are concerned about what I commonly refer to as the birth tax. You know, there's a lot of discussion in our Congress about the death tax but the biggest problem is the birth tax. It's the deficit. And people are genuinely concerned about that. Every child born in this country is receiving a bill every day for thirty thousand dollars because that's their part of the deficit. How do you deal with that deficit? How do you deal with trade deficits unless you're in a position to consume less oil and produce more internally? I think it's an issue that calls every single American to common purpose. And I think more than anything else that I've said, there is a real longing in this country to feel a sense of connectedness, a sense of community. And we have to look for that policy, that issue that can be tied to a value. And the value that I tie this to is community. And I think Americans want to feel a sense of community. And they also want their country to be part of the world community. And what they sense today is that we've separated ourselves from the world community. And I will tell you, as separated as we are today, if we're battling over a finite amount of natural resource to fuel our economy, it's going to be extremely difficult for us to do what we need to do to make sure that globalization continues.
LES GELB: Well, I'm willing to credit community-based or faith-based conservation but I'll credit market forces even more, which adds to the puzzle for me. Because here we've had this steep rise in the price of fuel, which should have really made the politics of conservation and the politics of developing alternate sources easier. It's hitting directly in the pocketbook. And yet it hasn't happened. If you can't do it with market forces how are you going to make it work at all?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, first of all, let me disagree with the premise of the question, which is that it hasn't happened. Indeed, it has happened. It certainly has happened in my state. Today 80 per cent of the fuel mix of our state is ethanol, is renewable fuel. It's 10 per cent ethanol. It's being converted to 85 per cent ethanol. There is an effort underway to expand dramatically renewable energy and renewable fuel. My state now leads the country in per capita electricity from wind. So there are forces.
LES GELB: So how did you make it work in your state?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, we provided incentive to the retailers of petroleum products to lower the cost to the consumer so that the consumer would make the proper choice for themselves, for their pocketbook. Ethanol, because of the incentive, was priced lower than regular petroleum products and people began to realize it was a cleaner burning fuel and a better fuel and also began to realize that they were contributing to the economic well-being of farm families and to rural communities in our state. It also led to the development of the infrastructure, the production facilities, the processing plants which were owned for the most part by farmers because we changed laws concerning how you could create a cooperative. So we created the market and then we created the supply to meet market demand. Now, here's the challenge. I said earlier that corn is what's being used today. Corn cannot be used in the future, because there's not enough of it. Fifteen per cent of our corn crop around the country is now being used to create three per cent of our fuel source. That's not a good equation. So it is imperative for our benefit and for the benefit of Asia that we create alternative crops to produce this. Switch grass is a crop that can be grown on the plains in America. It uses less water, less fertilizer. It's more energy efficient and it can be grown in great abundance virtually anywhere. So there is an opportunity for us to substantially increase the raw material to produce the renewable fuel.
Now, there are several changes that have to take place in foreign policy and in national policy. One is how we subsidize ethanol. Currently we provide the subsidy to oil companies. I don't think they need a subsidy. It should be to the retailer. I think it should be tied to the price of oil so as the oil price goes up you don't need a subsidy. The market will work just fine. The oil price goes down, then it might need a little push. I think we should also take a look at phasing out and ultimately eliminating Brazilian ethanol so that we can create enough sufficient ethanol supply in America to put enough pressure on automobile manufacturers to continue to produce flexible fuel vehicles. That would be a way in which you would dramatically expand the market for this product. And it's a cleaner burning fuel. It's a much cleaner burning fuel. And there's a side effect. If you're concerned about asthma and concerned about health care costs in urban centers it's going to reduce the incidence of asthma. So there are a lot of reasons why this is going to work.
LES GELB: What does your friend, the Governor of Michigan, tell you about how the automobile manufacturers would react to what you're saying and how they've reacted historically?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, I think they have to recognize that they have not been as responsive to the market as they needed to be and not as responsive to what the consumer wants and the reality is if we think oil prices and gas prices are going to continue to go down, that's just not the case. They're going to start creeping back up again and they'll continue to go up. Because what's happening is oil production across the country, across the United States, across the world - we've basically identified all the easy pickins' and now the ability to utilize the remaining source of oil in the world is going to require much more expensive production processes. And so the price of oil is going to continue to go up. There's going to be less of it. It's going to continue to go up and there's going to be a much greater demand. And think about this - China and India just alone are going to add 700 million cars to the world fleet. The world fleet today is only 800 million. Those two countries alone in the next 20-25 years are going to double the number of automobiles in the world.
LES GELB: I think we ought to export the people who run our automobile companies!
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, they clearly have made a series of mistakes. And I think, you know, the ability to educate Americans, I think part of the job of leadership is to - you know, it's part teaching and part learning. And we haven't had much of that recently. We haven't had much teaching. I mean, we've been ignoring global warming. We've been saying it's not a problem or, you know, we don't think it's scientifically proven. Well, the reality is, the rest of the world knows it's a problem and we can't provide any moral leadership until we recognize it's a problem.
LES GELB: All right, to get this done really means making energy policy one of the top priorities. And anybody who is going to be President of the United States is facing such an array of problems - like Iraq, Iran, North Korea, social security, medical care, education. Where does this rank, in your view, with the things that must be done? Because if you're going to do all the things you say it requires a major Presidential effort.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: At the top of the domestic list has to be energy security because it is the one issue that impacts health care, it impacts an innovative and creative economy which in turn stimulates more revenue which in turn allows you to do a better job of dealing with some of the issues like the budget deficit, social security. As bad as social security is, it's Medicare that's really the problem that we're going to have to deal with. It deals with all of those issues and it also strengthens our hand in terms of national security. I mean, the reality is that we are still too beholden to foreign oil and the result is that we have to be very careful about what we say and in what we do with certain countries that are currently providing us oil, either directly or indirectly. And as I said earlier, it puts us in a much more difficult position to talk about how we separate the decision relative to natural resources and purchasing and letting the market work, as you suggested, and tying political considerations to those market considerations, which makes it far more complex. So energy security, I think, really strengthens domestically and from a national security standpoint, this country. That puts us in a much better position to deal with many of the other issues that you address. So I would put it at the top of the list.
LES GELB: Just one more thing before I open it up, Tom. You also mentioned education and what you saw on the educational front in China - the teaching and learning languages and the sciences. And that really has the potential to leave us in the dust. You were Chairman of the Democratic side of the Governors' Conference and you've talked to your fellow governors about this for almost eight years. Aren't they panicked?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: I think they are panicked. And I didn't tell the balance of the story which was all of what I said - the foreign language in second grade, physics in seventh grade, a longer school year - the Principal turned to me at the end of our little tour and she said, But we really have a problem in this school. And I said, Well, what is that? She said, We're really trying to figure out how to teach creativity. Well, I laughed to myself and thought, Well, there is no way you can teach creativity. It's sort of like God-given. And I come home and went to a seminar and conference in North Carolina and there was a fellow from the Getty Foundation - Ken Robinson - who said, Not only can you teach creativity, you better start figuring out how to teach it and incorporate it into the curriculum, re-design your education system to make sure that it rewards innovation and creativity. Because that is the only way in which America can continue to provide world leadership. That spooked me. I think the other Governors are still figuring out how to make their curriculum more rigorous and more relevant. I've already done that.
I'm trying to figure out how do I re-design the entire education system of this country so that innovation and creativity are front and center. And it occurred to me you start with early childhood. And the reason it occurred to me is that that is where you see evidence of creativity, is with really very, very young children. Ken Robinson would tell you that there are ways in which you can test creativity. And he will tell you that at five years old, 80 per cent of the kids will test as creative and by the time they get out of college in America, maybe 2 per cent are tested creative. Something happens between five and twenty-five. And it seems to me if we do a better job of rewarding creativity and educating parents about the importance of it that they, in turn, will help develop a different approach to education. And the No Child Left Behind program is literally creating a nation of standardized test takers. That is our reaction to foreign competition, is that we're going to be standardized test takers. Well, while the bottom half of our student population is seeing some improvement the data suggests that the top half is coming down to the middle. And so we will become a nation of average, standardized test takers at a time when every single young person needs to be creative and innovative. So governors should be panicked. Members of Congress and the Senate and the President should be panicked because I think we've got the wrong approach with reference to education. Accountability's fine but I think the goal is wrong.
LES GELB: Thank you. The floor is open and I would appreciate it if you waved your hand a little so I could see. And when I recognize you please state your name and your affiliation. It's just useful to have. And the microphones will come to you. In fact, why don't the people with the microphones just go to people and they'll stand up and that way I don't have to pretend to see them? [LAUGHTER]
MATT McKENNA: Right here, Les. It's Matt McKenna from PepsiCo. Tom, I love the concept that America should complement and not compete with the economies around the world. And that sounds wonderful on the eighth floor of the Asia Society on Park Avenue. But how do you bring that message to voters and how do you bring that message to people who have a little bit more individually at stake in that competition/complement balance?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, I think part of the problem, Matt, is that the way in which the economic competition is being framed is as a competition and therefore in most Americans' thought process, with a competition there is a winner and a loser. And it seems to me that we need to reframe the conversation as America is a great nation, America has been blessed with many advantages and America can basically provide the innovation and creativity to take the world to the next level -- that doesn't necessarily compete but complements. So, for example, with the car manufacturers, the challenge is, look, it's pretty clear that over the last twenty to thirty years we've lost our edge in terms of the market. We're not providing the consumer with what they want. Well, let's challenge ourselves to be best in class so that we look at new material design, we look at new engine design - maybe engines that don't even necessarily use traditional fuels. Let's figure out how we can elevate and continue that research and development that doesn't necessarily always compete but takes the competition, if you will, to the next level. I mean, we were in a factory in India that was manufacturing John Deere tractors. And my immediate reaction was, Ah, this is competition with our guys in Waterloo, Iowa. This is not good. But then it was explained to me that this is a different tractor that is made in India than is made in Waterloo. And the reason it was different and the reason why there was very little computer technology and robotics in that factory as opposed to Waterloo is that the work force was at a different place. Now, the market for that tractor, interestingly enough, is in part the United States for hobby farmers. The real farmers, if you will, need much more sophisticated machinery. They need machinery, for example, that has global positioning stations in it, that will allow it to essentially be self-propelled down a farm field.
Why is that important? Because if you manually operate a tractor and you're planting seed or you're applying fertilizer there will be a divergence of somewhere between 30 and 300 yards by the time you reach the end of the field. You don't drive in a straight line as much as you think you are. So you are wasting seed, you're wasting fertilizer, you're wasting chemicals. You use a global positioning station you're basically driving within three inches. Okay? They don't necessarily need that for a hobby farm. So it isn't competition, it's complementary. Now, eventually those workers in India will get sophisticated enough to be able to make that tractor that has the global positioning station. So what do we do in America? We take it to the next level. And that's how we, as a great nation, help to continue to lead.
Part of the problem, I would say, the biggest problem we're going to have with this notion is the impact on workers. And what has to happen in this country as we talk about trade is not an isolationist view and not closing the border and not building a fence around the country. It is developing a different social compact with workers in America so they are less fearful of trade. All right, what does that different social compact look like? Well, just understand that when someone loses their job because of trade in America they lose it for approximately 80 weeks of unemployment, as opposed to the traditional 26 weeks that the unemployment system currently provides protection for. And if you lose your job just because your boss wasn't very good at operating the business but you can go down the street and there's a competing business and you can get hired, you're going to be unemployed for maybe 10 or 15 weeks. Well, maybe we need to take a look at a new social compact that recognizes that longer term unemployment and maybe we need to begin thinking about not unemployment insurance but wage insurance where we essentially encourage people to go back to work as quickly as possibly but we basically provide them some cushion so that they aren't as negatively impacted by trade. Now maybe they're less inclined to look at the 50 billion dollars of loss of jobs and economic opportunity from trade in this country and the trillion dollars of benefit. That's the kind of thought process that you have to adopt. It's not competing. It's how does America take it to the next level? How do we do something nobody else has done? That's what Americans respond to. How do we do something that nobody else has done?
LES GELB: Tom, with your permission, let me throw this back at Matt. You're involved with a major international corporation and you've gotta be talking about and dealing with a lot of the same problems raised by the Governor. What's happening with PepsiCo in how they see some of these issues? If you could respond quickly.
MATT MCKENNA: Most of our businesses, Les, are very in-country businesses so that from a manufacturing point of view we seldom have manufacturing operations that far from our consumers. And so from a manufacturing and trade perspective we have very few international trade issues, in that respect. LES GELB: What about energy questions?
MATT MCKENNA: Once again, energy is important to us, certainly, from trucks and deliveries and things like that. And they become essential. As we expand around the world we look for alternative methods of bringing our products to stores and alternative methods of bringing our products to the consumers. One issue, though, that does cross all borders for us is nutrition and the nature of our products is being healthy products and better for you products. And that, from a complementary perspective, is very important to us that we, as Tom just said, raise the standard of nutrition and raise our internal standards to a higher level that other countries can aspire to, as opposed to competition.
LES GELB: Thank you.
BETH CALINDER [PH]: Hi, I'm Beth Calinder from Met Life. You mentioned moral leadership several times. And I think you answered this a little in the last question but I'm just interested to find out whether that's from our history or if you feel the US is uniquely called or situated to provide moral leadership.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: I think it's a combination of both. My sense about this country is that we've been enormously blessed with great abundance and great opportunity. We don't have quite the challenges that other nations may have in terms of - we've got two oceans that have protected us historically. We have abundant natural resources somewhere in this country to provide the needs of our citizens. And we've built this enormous economic power. What do you do with it? How can you as a country that represents less than five per cent of the world's population consume 25 per cent of the world's energy and you essentially turn your back on global warming and climate change? That is not what Americans generally want done. They want America to lead. They don't want America walking away from a negotiation table. As difficult as the negotiations may be, as hard as they might be - a great nation stays at the negotiation table until you figure out that elusive compromise, that elusive solution. You don't walk away. You don't ignore. You don't say, We'll figure it out later.
There is another reason for moral leadership and that is that there is this inherent understanding in America, this bargain, if you will, that we have with each succeeding generation of Americans and that is that we will provide them a better country and a better world than the one we inherited. That is pretty tough to do if you're ignoring the impact of global warming. It is pretty tough to do if you are not addressing these energy issues that will absolutely put you in conflict with very large, very powerful and very important other countries that are looking for the same kind of natural resource. China is suggesting a way of establishing relationships and alliances. They understand that it's better to make friends than enemies. We seem to be alienating our friends and unifying our enemies recently.
So it seems to me that there is responsibility when you have so much. There's a responsibility when you have this requirement, if you will, this promise to the next generation to leave a better world. It calls for some degree of leadership. And I think it's a moral issue because this climate issue affects every single living being. Every single person is going to be impacted by this. And the reality is that as you see developing countries who just simply want to get food on the table and people working, they're going to have a more difficult time initially taking a look at all of these sophisticated issues. So it's incumbent upon us to provide some leadership and some direction and some guidance to the rest of the world. And this is not a situation where we think we're better than anybody. It's that there is a responsibility here. And there is some degree of accountability. And I don't think we've lived up to that responsibility.
LES GELB: Well, when President Bush announced that he wasn't going to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol there was hardly a murmur, except for the environmental groups and a few others. It wasn't in any sense a major political issue.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: I know you're not really convinced with this but I'm telling you, this church bulletin has a lot of power, as far as I'm concerned. [LAUGHTER] I mean, look, this is a small congregation and every week we're going to be told - last week we were told three things. First of all, do your washer on warm and cold, you save five hundred pounds of emissions. Do your dishwasher on the energy saving drying system, two hundred pounds of emissions. Lower the thermostat on your water heater to a hundred and twenty degrees, another five hundred pounds. Every single American family can be called to this. Every single one of us can do something that can help.
LES GELB: That church bulletin was saying all these things?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Yes.
LES GELB: That's my kind of church! [LAUGHTER] Next.
VISHAKHA DESAI: Sorry to actually take this time. I shouldn't ask the question but I can't resist. We just recently did a survey with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Asia Society together. And one thing that stuck out very, very clearly is that when it comes to globalization and issues of international trade, that Chinese and Indians are very positively inclined towards globalization. Americans are actually worried about it. Fifteen years ago nobody would have thought that that was possible. So one of my questions - this is a two part question -- and the other piece is that all three countries, people seem to be worried about energy, which is very clear from what you said. So if, let's say, you are out there nationally and you want to convince Americans that, in fact, in this interdependent world and globalization, they're all part of it and we're not going to compete. So it goes back to the question that Mr. McKenna was asking. How would you do that to really get people focused on this idea of being part of the world community? And how would you work with Chinese and Indians and Japanese and others about creating energy policy that's not just about US but it's about world energy policy?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Well, the second part of the question is that there are already in place a number of agencies. The International Energy Association is working on a series of agreements, particularly as it relates to the separation of making an agreement to provide energy and having a political consequence attached to it. That's a pretty dangerous mix and I'm really concerned about that. But I don't think America is in much of a position to do much about it because here we are consuming more and not doing much - in terms of government policy, not trying to do much about it. So I would work with international agencies and organizations to take a look at issues like that. I would also suggest to you that it's very difficult for America to have any credence and currency, if you will, on this conversation if we're walking away from the next discussion and beyond Kyoto. Okay, okay, maybe there were problems with Kyoto in terms of American industry - maybe not. But the reality is you don't walk away. You figure it out. And I think that's what a great nation does. In terms of the issue of globalization and American workers, let me just say this - there are a couple of things.
First of all, I don't think the people that are advocates for trade do a very good job of selling trade. Because the media focuses always on the plant closing and never on the plant opening. Big headlines when you lose 50 jobs or 100 jobs or 500 jobs. Maybe, maybe a sentence or two, a paragraph or two or a small little article and a column about a plant opening. You know, there is this equation that fifty billion dollars is lost but a trillion dollars is gained. And how many jobs does that equate to and who are those people and where are they working? That's not very well marketed, in my view. Secondly, we have not had this conversation about the social compact between America and its workers. And because we have not, 26 weeks of unemployment when you've been unemployed for 80 weeks doesn't help. The notion of health insurance coverage through COBRA, where you have to purchase your health insurance, doesn't really work when you've lost your job. And it's all well and good to have some training but the training is very limited. And there is no assistance whatsoever for those workers who decide, You know, I'm tired of working for someone else. I want to work for myself - and they want to be entrepreneurs. There's no program that says, You know what? If you lost your job from trade and you've been working at Maytag in Newton, Iowa for 20 years and you want to decide to start your own business, instead of unemployment or instead of training resources, here's X number of dollars if you've got an idea to start a business. There's nothing like that at all.
And until you have a support structure and a system that speaks to those anxieties and until you market the benefits better, you're going to continue to have this angst in America. And I will tell you that it is real. It is very real. America is a very anxious place today. Families are anxious about health care, they're anxious about the cost of energy, they're anxious about costs of college expense. They've very anxious about America's place in the world. They are not happy with the notion that we've somehow separated ourselves where people no longer like Americans. They don't like that. And the national government has to address that. It has to aggressively address it. And a lot of the reaction to globalization is the failure of our national government in particular to respond to those anxieties. And in fact, I would argue they have fed those anxieties. They have created a nation which is quite anxious and quite fearful and I think they do it in part for political purposes. Because if you're anxious and you're fearful you look inward. And if you look inward you're looking for that person who is sort of the father figure kind of person and that's the person you're going to vote for. And it's going to be necessary and important for us to basically get tired of being fearful in this country and to recognize that we have a responsibility as a great nation and we need to live up to that responsibility. And part of that is by creating an energy policy that helps lead the world to a better place, a cleaner place, a healthier place, a more vibrant place. Part of it is creating more innovation and creativity than we've ever had before. We're capable of doing that. Part of it is not being afraid of the rest of the world but figuring out how to develop alliances and friendships so that we can isolate those who want to do us harm. That's the America I want to see.
LES GELB: What were the figures on the extent of the alarm, Vishakha?
VISHAKHA DESAI: I don't have the percentages right in front of me but the difference is quite significant between where Chinese and Indians are versus where the Americans are. Also the fact that American kids do seem to feel that their life is going to be worse than their parents', unlike Chinese and Indian kids.
LES GELB: Right.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Think about the consequence of that, particularly that last notion that a lot of American children do not believe in the premise of this country. And the premise is that you're going to have a better life than your parents. That has been the premise of every single generation of Americans up to this point. Okay, that is a serious issue that has to be addressed. Because the uniqueness, the power, the true energy in America comes from the people and the citizens of America. And if they no longer believe that it's going to be better then what they're going to do is they're going to hang on to what they got. And that's why we don't have a sense of community or connectedness in this country today because everyone's kind of hanging on to what they got. You start hanging on to what you got, you're eventually going to lose it. Just ask the folks at General Motors and Ford. They were hanging on to what they got. You can't be thinking that way.
WILLIAM HASELTINE: William Haseltine, of the Haseltine Foundation. I'm quite taken by your focus on energy. It seems to be a laser focus and it's certainly an important one. To what extent have you worked out what a policy would be for engaging the full power of our research on alternative energies? You've talked about creativity and you've mentioned some alternative forms. But there's geo-thermal, there's certainly the cellulose conversion, which would solve some of the issues you raised. How would you envision mobilizing our research capacity for this problem?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: You know, there are a multitude of ways that that can be done. First and foremost, taking the power of the federal government and taking a look at precisely what we're doing with the federal budget as it relates to research and development. Part of the problem I have with the current budget is that we've really redirected resources away from what was working pretty well, in terms of R&D, funded in part by the federal government and we've sort of gotten away from that. Secondly, would be to challenge the universities and the private sector to work with us. Sit at the table, tell us what you need. And let me give you an example. We decided that we wanted to challenge our utility companies in Iowa to produce more renewable energy. And we said, What do we need to do? And they gave us several regulatory changes. And then we said, Okay, now that we're one of the leading producers of wind what is the barrier to producing more wind and to using wind effectively? And there are essentially two barriers. One is transmission. You can produce all the renewable fuel or energy in the world but if you can't get it to where it's needed, it's not going to do you any good. And secondly is storage.
So we're now working with the Municipal Utilities Association to try to figure out a way in which we can use the aquifer in my state to help store the wind generated energy through compression. I don't know enough about the science to explain it any better than I just explained it, which is not very well. But the point of it is that government sits down with industry leaders and basically says, This is the goal. This is the result we want. Now you tell me how we get to that result. The problem is that we're not doing that right now. There is no challenge to America. There is no challenge on this issue of energy to America. What is it that we've been asked to do? Is the challenge that 25 per cent of our energy is going to be renewable by 2020? Is the challenge that we're going to produce so many megawatts of renewable? Is the challenge that we're going to convert our fuel supply from petroleum based to 50 per cent ethanol? There's no challenge. Challenge America. We respond to challenges. Set a goal. When we went to the moon the goal was we're going to go to the moon within a decade. Well, set a goal in terms of energy. And then bring the university presidents, bring industry leaders, bring the full force of regulatory, tax policy and fiscal policy for this country and focus it on energy security. Put all the force behind it because here's what's going to happen. If you do that there are going to be a lot of unintended positive consequences. A lot of that research that starts off in one place is going to end up, you know, inventing something that we didn't even think could be invented. That's not being done today. Our energy policy primarily consists, for the most part, of a couple of subsidies, which I think are wrongly placed, which add to the federal deficit and don't necessarily subtract from it.
ROHIT DESAI: My name is Rohit Desai. The question I want to ask is why is it that we don't have a national policy on important issues? Whether it's health care or energy or national security, it seems to me we always have a Democratic policy and a Republican platform. Is there a way to think about it long term where we could have a national policy so that there is a consistency from one administration to the next?
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Boy, that's an interesting question. I don't think I mentioned today the word Democrat or Republican when I was talking about what we did in Iowa. What we did is, it was a bipartisan policy because we had a Republican legislature and a Democratic Governor. I've never had a legislative body controlled by my party in the eight years I've been Governor. The answer to your question isn't what you're going to expect me to say. Part of it has to do with literally how we draw legislative districts in this country. Because 80-90 per cent of Congressional seats are for the most part safe seats. And if you're in a Congressional seat that's safe you don't worry about a Democratic opponent or a Republican opponent. You worry about a primary opponent to your extreme - to your extreme left or your extreme right. And the result is a development of a polarized capital because that's politically what's in your best interest, to focus on the extremes of your party, not on trying to reach some consensus so that you can guard yourself against a Democrat or a Republican who is going to run against you in the next election. So one of the things that we ought to be thinking about is trying to convince the states in this country to create systems that allow for the drawing of districts that create really competitive districts. Secondly, I think we have to get back -- and I'm surprised this question hasn't been asked in one form or another - is, you know, really, what does a Governor have to do at all about talking even about any aspect of foreign policy or national security because you don't know much about those kinds of things that's usually asked in a forum like this. You know, that's not the right question to ask. The right question to ask is, How do you make decisions? And the reality today in Washington is that decisions are too often made by folks who are pursuing a particular ideology or a particular partisan approach.
What we have to do is we have to return to a day when people working in Washington, once they get to the capital, take the national interest and elevate it above partisan and parochial interests. Now, that may seem like a naïve statement but I believe Americans, the citizens, are ready for that. I had a chance to visit with Ted Sorenson not too long ago. And I was very curious at the Cuban Missile Crisis and the decisionmaking process - not what decisions were made in that crisis but why President Kennedy put the people in the room he put in the room to create an alternative to war. I thought it was an interesting comparison between one style of decisionmaking versus the current administration's style, which is - in my view, anyway - ideologically directed. I think the Kennedy model is a much better one and I think that the country is ready for that. So the next administration, whether it's run by a Republican or a Democrat, better look for the best people - not the best Democrats or the best Republicans - the best people. And I think if you start doing that and having competitive elections, really competitive elections, you're going to see a much different direction of policy in our nation's capital. If you don't change the election system and you continue to have people who say, Well now, our team's won and so we get to put all our guys on the field - I think you're going to continue to have that kind of division that you've talked about.
WOMAN: Thank you. I'm a member of Asia Society. You've talked extremely convincingly about the necessity to use alternative sources of energy. Is there, in your mind, any feasibility of the United States giving incentives to, let's say, Afghanistan or Colombia to, let's say, grow corn and make it into ethanol as a substitute crop to the poppies that they are growing, damaging the whole world? Thank you.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: I was in Afghanistan this spring. And as an aside, what a remarkable experience. I was visiting with troops there and I said, So how do you like it? You know, what are you doing? What's your mission? And one soldier looked at me and he said, It's about hope, Governor. And I said, Hope? He said, Yeah. He said, You can see it. Huh, I said, Well, how can you see hope? He said, You see it on the faces of children. He said, We know that because of what we've done, kids are now going to school and they're happy they're going to school.
That was in the morning. In the evening I visited with governors of Afghan provinces and states as sort of a Governor to Governor kind of thing. And I realized what a dangerous job they have because they could be assassinated at a moment's notice. And we talked about an agricultural exchange. I don't know that we would necessarily hire them to produce that for the United States. But we could teach them. We could teach them to produce it for themselves -- and if they produce enough of it, for someone else. It is very clear that if Afghanistan is going to truly stabilize they need an economy that's built on something other than drug trade. And it is also clear that God has not blessed them with a whole lot of natural advantage. But they do have the capacity to grow. And what we need to be doing is we need to be working with their agricultural experts and their farmers to figure out ways in which we can give information and knowledge and the experience and the ability to grow these crops to them. And it goes back to the earlier question about research and development. Let's figure out precisely what kind of bio-mass material could be produced in great quantity in that country to help fuel their automobiles, their transportation systems, their factories, their industries, their homes in the future. That seems to be important to do.
Now, the other observation I'd make about Afghanistan is it's a very interesting thing to - and I suspect, Richard, you've been to the President's palace in Kabul - it's very interesting to see all of the bullet holes and the shell markings. You realize it's not a very safe place to live and how desperate they wanted America to help. They wanted more American help. It's ironic. Iraq wants less and Afghanistan wants more and we've done precisely the opposite. We've given Iraq more and Afghanistan less. And I think it's really unfortunate, because they're not as confident in NATO as we are. They want our guys there because they know our guys will stay there when the fighting gets tough. And now, what we've done by backsliding is we've created more instability in that country, which is really, really unfortunate.
LES GELB: We have a moment for one last question and one last answer.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Nermeen Shaikh, Asia Society. Thank you very much, Governor Vilsack. That was a truly edifying speech. As I'm sure you're aware, at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, President Bush Sr., when he was presented with some of the issues that you raised today - the level of over-consumption in this country as well as diminishing oil reserves around the world and a number of other conservation-related issues-he simply responded by saying, The American way of life is not up for negotiation. Now, the question I want to ask you is whether you think that public opinion in this country in the last 14 years has changed so much that the things that you were saying today would not be perceived as extremely radical, as required changes in consumption patterns among American citizens? And if public opinion has, indeed, changed, what do you think accounts for it? Thank you.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Now, you know, I think there are ways to discuss this that don't necessarily create a sense of panic among consumers. Let me give you an example. What about a day when utility companies will be able to give you information about the nature of the electricity that you're consuming in your home so that you as a consumer would be able to determine when it was more expensive or less expensive to do X in your home? Americans would love that. Right now I doubt that there's anybody in this room that knows the cost of the electricity that they're consuming at various points in the day. But it isn't always constant. There will be the development of appliances and of mechanisms in the very near future to educate Americans that if you vacuum at eight o'clock at night instead of four o'clock in the afternoon you will spend less money. Do not underestimate the power of this stewardship concept that is growing all across the US. I mean, think, what other issue can you think of that people who are extraordinarily progressive and people who are very evangelical agree on? What other issue? Can anybody name another issue? But stewardship is one issue where there is absolute agreement. Eighty-two of the largest evangelical ministers and churches in the country have just signed off on an agreement to push stewardship because the Bible says they're supposed to do that. Progressives are saying, You know, I don't know about the Bible but the data tells me the world's getting warmer and that's a problem. There's tremendous opportunity here. And the thing that Americans in particular want, I think, is they want to feel connected to each other. They don't want red and blue. They don't want this us and them business. They're tired of it. They want to feel like we're in something together. Because, you know, as long as you're alone you feel anxious. If you're in something together and you know you got people on your right and your left helping you, it makes it a lot easier. So I think the time is different. And I think the awareness is different and I think Al Gore did a terrific job in his film. I was running the other day in Des Moines, up Grand Avenue, and I ran by this Presbyterian church. And what caught me - I was sort of shocked - was a huge banner in front of this Presbyterian church and it said, Free. And I thought, Well, this is interesting. Free, you know. What's free about religion, you know? [LAUGHTER] An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore. They're showing it in the church. So I'm telling you, this is coming. This is coming. It's coming in a big way and when it's in a church bulletin and people are given simple ways to make a difference, Americans are going to respond.
LES GELB: Well, I always wondered what they did in Iowa. [LAUGHTER] And tonight I got a good answer to the question. They study up on these important national issues. And I think you heard one of the few people in our country who could have addressed these questions with such depth. Join me in thanking him.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Thanks very much. Thank you, thank you. [APPLAUSE]
LES GELB: That was terrific.
GOVERNOR VILSACK: Thank you to the Asia Society.