The Green Alliance: Remarks of Senator Tom Daschle to The Atlantic Partnership Breakfast

DaschleBy Tom Daschle
NEW YORK: Good morning.

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the transatlantic cable – the first time that messages could move quickly between the United States and Europe. One hundred and 40 years later, I would hope that we can get discussion of policy solutions to travel just as quickly. America could take a page from the European greenbook.

When I was first approached about being with you this morning I considered talking about the increasingly precarious security situation that is bedeviling the U.S. and our European allies in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Those challenges give me great concern, if not fear. They will certainly be the subject of much debate in Presidential politics as we ramp up to 2008.

In addition, I remain deeply concerned about the deficit that we have run up in the last six years. In this instance, I’m not talking about the federal deficit and the current account deficit — significant as they are. I am referring to what I would call the goodwill deficit.

The United States has lost the moral high ground that our parents won for us in WWII and the Cold War. Remarkably, a young South Korean is nearly twice as likely to cite America – rather than North Korea – as the biggest threat to South Korea’s national security. According to recent polls, the three most popular figures in Egypt are the head of Hezbollah, the head of Hamas and the President of Iran. And talking with our friends in Europe, one cannot help but hear them with words just short of satisfaction that America is bogged down in Iraq, having been taken down a few notches from the bluster of a few short years ago. Already, we hear potential 2008 candidates discuss this situation as a dominant theme for the politics of ’08.

But since I agreed to being here, I have become a little more hopeful. The election shake up that occurred a month ago today is part of the reason. The American people clearly recognized the failures of the past six years and have demanded change.

The change they want is a return to the pragmatic policies that cemented solid foreign policy decisions with our allies for decades. The Transatlantic Alliance is the backbone of that policy.

I don’t want to overstate the consequences of the election. Democrats have only nominal control in the Senate, and the President will still set the terms of much of our foreign policy. The election is an encouraging first step…but the American people have not yet fully embraced the call for a complete change. That could, and should happen in ’08.

That’s why – as much hope as the elections provided – I also took hope from a less-noted event: On Wednesday, November 15, the day Tony Blair witnessed the Queen give the last Queen’s Day speech of his tenure as Prime Minister. On that day, I sat in 10 Downing Street as the Prime Minister and his staff reacted to the political crisis of the day: that the Tories were attacking Labor for not doing enough on the issue of climate change.

The politics of climate change in the UK have changed so much that the conservatives are trying to out-green Labor.

It doesn’t stop in the UK. The Merkel government is making energy and climate change its principal issue for the upcoming year – when Germany assumes the Presidency of the EU and when it will chair the G-8 meeting.

These changes in politics in Europe – in our closest ally in the United Kingdom and among the conservative Christian Democrats in Germany – are for real; and I am more hopeful now than ever that these changes are headed our way across the Atlantic, and will become one of the central issues in the election cycle of 2008.

Notwithstanding all the back and forth that has marked the Transatlantic relationship since the end of the Cold War, our shared interests still far outweigh the differences. That is most obvious in this room – the robust cultural and economic ties that each of you represents and strengthens each and every day in the work you do. Management of our alliance has fallen more and more to the people in this room – the business and cultural leaders whose daily work has been the glue that kept us working together.

But the environmental and energy challenges we face together could actually be greater than anything we have faced in our lifetime. And when faced with monumental challenges in the past, we have come together to meet and defeat them.

Nothing captured the size of our current challenge better for me – a South Dakotan – than the map that appeared in the New York Times on Tuesday. The map shows that by 2050, climate change will push land suitable for wheat cultivation deep into Canada and Alaska, almost exclusively.

According to USDA, there were 3.5 million acres of wheat planted in 2005 in South Dakota. According to this assessment published in the New York Times that could be zero in 2050. I’m all for promoting South Dakota’s farmers. But the minute they start having to grow tropical fruit, we’re all in trouble.

There is no mystery then, why Tom Friedman wrote that the new mission for the U.S.-Europe alliance must be low-carbon energy policy and development before it is too late. In that regard, America has a long, long way to go. We have much to learn from the other side of the Atlantic on these difficult energy questions.

Europe is innovating: the European Carbon Market in Brussels is a daily reminder that Europe is using market forces to begin to curb greenhouse gas pollution.

The Bosch Companies – which brought us the first ever spark plug and anti-lock brakes for our cars – has provided the technology that has made 70% of Brazil’s cars run on ethanol and has developed technology to reduce the mileage penalty flex fuel vehicles experience with the use of ethanol.

Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act aims to increase the share of electric power sourced from renewables to 12.5 percent by 2010 and to 20 percent by 2020. Germany has 41 percent of the entire OECD’s installed wind capacity. Much of Europe is doing more with less: Consider Denmark. It has experienced robust economic growth over the last several years without increasing its energy use at all.

Europe is knocking down old barriers: the European Energy Charter is liberalizing markets and creating efficiencies with the construction of a single energy infrastructure to power this economic engine. Europe is incentivizing renewable energy: the European Union has implemented its own renewable fuels mandate, setting a target of 5.75% of all gas coming from renewable sources (largely bio-diesel) by 2012. And Europe is using cutting edge technology to confront the hardest cases: the EU is financing the construction of a carbon capture and sequestration plant in China, a country that is building one new coal-fired electricity plant a week for the next 5 years.

As a historical footnote, this year marks the 140<font=1>th anniversary of the transatlantic cable – the first time that messages could move quickly between the United States and Europe. One hundred and 40 years later, I would hope that we can get discussion of policy solutions to travel just as quickly. America could take a page from the European greenbook. A good start would be permanent tax incentives for wind, solar and geothermal energy production. We should establish a national mandate– as Colorado and others have done at the state level – for certain percentage of our electricity coming from renewable sources. Such a renewable portfolio standard would go a long way to jump starting low carbon electricity. And we should implement a national cap and trade system on greenhouse gases.

If Tom Friedman is right that America urgently has to get greener, than Europe has to get more urgently GEO about its energy challenge. Europe has a fundamental geo-political and strategic problem with its energy. Today they are as dependent on Russian natural gas as we are on Middle Eastern oil.

Yet Russia might be an even less reliable energy partner than Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or Nigeria. Last winter – at the height of Siberian winter – Russia doubled gas prices to the Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia, whose governments just happened to be looking to distance themselves from Russia.

According to press reports we will see more of the same this year. I’m told the Republic of Georgia will see the price it pays for Russian natural gas double again, on January 1. It is also my understanding that Gazprom, which controls 26% of the European gas market at the moment, hopes to increase that share to 33% by 2010. So, as the US gets greener, our friends in Europe have to get more strategic. Here are a couple ways they might consider doing that.

It is time to streamline carbon capture and storage as an acceptable carbon offset to be traded in Brussels on the EU-ETS. The technology has come a long way given work off Norway and in the North Sea for enhanced oil recovery. Capturing carbon released from burning coal will give another green alternative to Russian gas, reducing its ability to corner the European market.

It is also time for energy consumers to think as strategically as energy producers. As OPEC considers expanding its membership to include Angola and Sudan, the International Energy Agency (IEA) must bring India and China more fully on board. Though they are not OECD countries, a formalized relationship – where we work together on common analysis and emergency response mechanisms – for them with the IEA is imperative. China has completed the first stage of its strategic petroleum reserves and it is in our interest to see them complete that process so that they no longer can take a free ride on the strategic reserves of IEA members in times of supply disruption, as was the case after Hurricane Katrina.
Lastly, I hope Europe will consider one more reason for Turkey’s accession to the European Union. The pipeline that runs from Baku, Azerbaijan to Ceyhan, Turkey is operative. This route to the resource rich Caspian Basin is an important alternative to the Russian dominance of the European market.

The best indication of the fact that Russia sees Turkey as a strategic competitor is that just before the recent NATO summit, a group of prominent Turkish journalists was invited to Moscow and received at two key institutions charged with elaborating and implementing the country’s foreign policy — Russia’s Foreign Ministry and Gazprom, the state-run energy monopoly.

Walking out of 10 Downing Street last month I walked past the pictures of all British Prime Ministers. I was reminded of the story of what Winston Churchill, then a first lord of the admiralty said shortly after converting the British navy from Welsh coal to imported oil.

Reacting to the outrage from Welsh coal mines and political opponents who opposed making the world’s preeminent power reliant on imported resources, Churchill said, “safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone.” Variety remains the answer in getting us out from under imported fossil fuels – and the greenhouse gas pollution they emit. Getting reliable alternatives to oil and natural gas on the timeline we need them, however, will require us to re-energize the trans-Atlantic alliance to invest in low carbon energy alternatives.

We have been here before: our countries – our alliance – facing a difficult, even existential threat. The answer then – three times in the 20th Century – was to make common cause. It is time to do so again. And there is no better place to launch this debate than with the Presidential campaign of 2008.