Governors Tackle Climate Change California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hosting an international climate change summit in Beverly Hills this week. He's partnered with governors from across the country to discuss how cutting emissions can help the economy. We also talk to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who recently vetoed the expansion of coal plants in her state.
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Governors Tackle Climate Change

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Governors Tackle Climate Change

Governors Tackle Climate Change

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This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Cohen.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. California is hosting a preview of next month's global summit on climate change that will take place in Poland. Yesterday, the 800 attendees from around the world in Beverly Hills heard from President-elect Barack Obama in a taped video message.

President-elect BARACK OBAMA: Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.

BRAND: President-elect Barack Obama. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is hosting the summit along with four other governors, including Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. She joins us now on the line from Beverly Hills. Welcome to California.

Governor KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (Democrat, Kansas): Thank you, Madeleine, nice to be here. It's a beautiful day.

BRAND: A beautiful, sunny day. Well, what's likely to come out of this two-day meeting on climate change?

Governor SEBELIUS: Well, I think it's a continuation of, certainly, discussions American governors have had with one another. There are lots of regional agreements moving forward on targets for carbon reduction and efficiency measures. And often, we've been battling with our own Environmental Protection Agency but continuing to move forward.

But this really gathers partners from around the world. We have representatives from China and Mexico, Canada, India, various South American countries here to highlight the fact that this issue is a global issue, that we all need to collaborate and cooperate, and that America wants to be part of that dialogue once again.

BRAND: Now, your state, Kansas, you vetoed an expansion of coal-fired plants, which was popular at the time in the legislature. And you said at the time, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives. What are they?

Governor SEBELIUS: Well, in Kansas, we have enormous wind assets that we're just beginning to tap and harness, and not only is it an opportunity for power in our own state, but gives us an export opportunity once again to share our prairie winds with states around the country. So, that's a enormous asset that we're just beginning to take a look at.

I'm also a believer that before we build any additional carbon-powered power in Kansas, we really need to take very seriously energy efficiency and conservation measures, which we've begun in a major way. But we really haven't reached the level that we can in terms of really lowering energy consumption and allowing our existing power to stretch much further into the future.

BRAND: Let's talk a little bit more about wind energy. As you probably know, the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens recently abandoned his plan, at least temporarily, to go for wind energy, and supply a lot of it, because it's just too expensive. And right now, with this economy, it's just not doable, he said, to go ahead with this plan. So what does that mean for your idea of pursuing wind energy in Kansas?

Governor SEBELIUS: Well, I think one of the cost issues will be greatly enhanced by having some comprehensive energy policy at the national level. Right now, there's no question, you know, coal is cheaper than a variety of other sources because we don't put any price on carbon, and we don't have any way to have a market value for what we're doing to the environment and to people's health with a cap and trade system, with a realistic price on carbon.

And I think that that's really what we need. We need a comprehensive national policy to essentially give incentives to production of alternative sources to conservation and efficiency measures, and actually put a penalty for producing new carbon because we have a huge price to pay if we continue to wreak havoc on the environment.

BRAND: Now, you are rumored to be on the short list to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Do you want the job?

Governor SEBELIUS: You know, I think that we need talented people in this administration. Certainly, the new energy future is a passion of mine, and I have been working on it at the state level and will continue to do that. I haven't had any conversations with President-elect Obama about specific jobs.

BRAND: If he approached you, would you say yes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Governor SEBELIUS: I don't deal a lot in hypotheticals. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, and I certainly want to be helpful in any way I can to make sure not only he's successful, but that we get this economy back on track.

BRAND: Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas. Thank you very much for joining us.

Governor SEBELIUS: Great to talk to you, Madeline. Thanks for asking me.

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