Episode 581: Gov. Christine Todd Whitman Calls For A Forward Approach To Politics, And Energy
March 23, 2023
by Nico Johnson
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Christine Todd Whitman — the former New Jersey governor and federal Environmental Protection Agency administrator — thinks it’s time to stop treating climate change as a “political football.”
And maybe that goes hand-in-hand with rethinking the two-party American political system, she suggested.
During a wide-ranging interview earlier this month at CERAWeek by S&P Global in Houston, Christie explained why she walked away from the Republican party to promote a new option and how she expects its evolution to benefit climate action and clean energy.
Christie joined hundreds of senior energy executives at CERAWeek to discuss the energy transition and addressed the standing-room-only Cleantech Leaders Roundtable reception at the Petroleum Club Houston, highlighting how traditional and emerging energy companies can synergistically create a better future for all.
Ms. Whitman gained prominence as a Republican in 1994 as the 50th person — and the only woman — elected as a New Jersey governor.
When her eight years in office ended in 2001, she spent two years as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the administration of President George W. Bush.
Since then, she authored a New York Times best-seller, “It’s My Party Too,” published in January 2005, and founded The Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm specializing in government relations regarding environmental and energy issues.
Now she’s realigned her political perspective and joined with ex-Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang as co-chair of a new political party called Forward — an option, she says, for the politically homeless.
She said Forward stands for the rule of law, respect for the Constitution, and changes in how we elect political candidates through options like open primaries and rank choice voting.
“Until we change the stranglehold the two major parties have on the process, we will never have different outcomes,” she said.
“Obviously, we care about climate change and will likely identify some major issues to work on. But how these issues are worked on should be left up to the candidates and the states.” She added that forward does not have a party platform in the traditional sense.
In today’s podcast, I talk with Gov. Whitman about her new Forward Party’s potential, its approach to environmental and climate issues, and the path she believes we should take to create a decarbonized grid and a clean energy future.
Christie notes that it’s essential for everyone to have a voice while also recognizing there are vast differences across this country. She explains her process for gaining resolution around competing ideas and how a diversity of backgrounds and opinions are the best tools to forge solutions.
“You have to get people together who agree on a problem and are willing to sit down and solve it. As for the energy industry, it’s not either/or. We can’t suddenly turn off fossil fuels. It’s not going to happen,” she said.
She said it’s premature to envision relying only on solar because there are still challenges around storage, production, and generation.
She supports nuclear energy in the form of small modular reactors (SMRs) — “the only form of energy that produces no greenhouse gases or other regulated pollutants while producing power.”
“We’ll still have alternate forms of energy until we can ultimately transition to a cleaner form. Maybe fusion will finally make an appearance, and hydrogen is already making an appearance. There are a lot of exciting things going on now to reduce our energy usage,” she said.
Governor Christine Todd Whitman has much to say and shares plenty of insights about the energy transition.
“What you want to do is bring together the scientists with people from the energy industry who know how it works,” she said.
Then it will be easier to share the manufacturing and entrepreneurial opportunities with the public to win broader support. What we need to do, she said, is to make clean energy a priority for the country and sell it in a way that explains, “Look, we’re creating jobs.”
Join me to learn more, and please reach out to me and share your thoughts after you’ve had a chance to listen!
“As for the energy industry, it’s not either/or. We can’t all of a sudden turn off fossil fuels. It’s not going to happen. You can’t do it tomorrow and rely solely on solar.”
— Christine Todd Whitman
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ABOUT THE HOST OF SUNCAST:
Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, consistently rated a top solar podcast in the clean energy sector. The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today’s market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.
Nico is an Investor, Executive Coach, and 16-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.
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