Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack: 'Domestic Production of Oil in America has Peaked'

You spoke a bit in your lecture about the concept of stewardship, and the resonance that this has in the United States. Could you explain what that means, what the origins of the concept are, and why it resonates in the way it does?

I think Americans, both those who are church attenders and those who have a deep, abiding connection to the land, the air, and the water, believe that these are gifts that were given to us not to waste. They were gifts given to us not to dissipate, but to utilize and pass on to the next generation in better shape than we found them. I think there's a growing recognition, understanding and concern among Americans that we may not be doing all that we need to be doing to protect the air, land and water.

For some, there is a religious responsibility, for others, a moral responsibility, and for some simply a common-sense responsibility to protect and enhance the environment and to pass it on in better condition. That requires, for example, a recognition by the national government that global warming is real, and that the United States has a responsibility to help lead an effort to address this issue. It has a responsibility to create innovative solutions in terms of recycling and renewables, in terms of lowering consumption, in terms of carbon trading, carbon sequestration, or whatever combination of things has to be done so that America is in a position to provide moral leadership to the rest of the world. We are blessed with a strong, functioning economy, with a large middle class and a stable and secure government. We are blessed with abundant natural resources. Because of those blessings, there is a responsibility that we have to use them to strengthen America and provide for a better world. The interesting thing about it is that when we do this, we create a more vibrant economy and healthier cities and environments for our children. There are lots of positive benefits in addition to being able to go to the table with the rest of the international community and say, we're back. We're willing to talk about what occurs after 2012, after the Kyoto Protocols expire. We're ready to talk about what the next step needs to be. We're ready to engage and participate in that, and we think we can do it without necessarily damaging at the end of the day the overall economy. We think, in fact, it can enhance the economy. You've got to put a hopeful and optimistic view on this. You can't say, well, you're going to have to give everything up. You've got to take advantage of this opportunity. This is going to create new opportunities for us in America. This aspect of moral leadership I think is part of stewardship. It's a part of making sure that we leave the world a better place than we found it.

What role would you like to see the United States playing globally in the next 25 years?

I'd like to see the United States be the innovator and the creator, doing what most today would think impossible or improbable, just as we always have. When folks were figuring out the horse and buggy, we were building cars. When they were figuring the car out we were building airplanes. When they figured that out, we were building spaceships. What is the next set of innovations that can provide for a better, safer, more secure world? My hope is that the United States is providing moral leadership on issues involving climate control and climate security, that we're working with the international community, that we're working with the International Energy Association and other groups to try to find creative ways for us to work together. My hope is that the United States has a foreign and national security policy that is focused on building and strengthening alliances and friendships in all parts of the world, and that to the extent they are enemies of the United States they are very much isolated in the world, not united as they may be today.

Interview conducted by Nermeen Shaikh of the Asia Society.