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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript - Climate Change and Energy

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MADDOW: See, in south Boston, they do not have carbon in March, they have
carbon in March. And they packed their cars and you know the rest.

The reason -- the reason it matters that President Obama`s nominee to head
the EPA has that spectacular south Boston accent is because it is an
indelible reminder of where she comes from. She comes from Massachusetts
which is both where she is very obviously from and where she used to work
for Republican governor, Mitt Romney, specifically.

She was a top environmental official in the state of Massachusetts under
Mitt Romney and as such she oversaw the implementation of Mr. Romney`s
climate action plan to combat global warming.

The centerpiece was a plan for Massachusetts to join with all the other
states in the northeast in a regional cap and trade system for emissions.
That was Mitt Romney`s plan to be overseen by Gina McCarthy, and then Mitt
Romney decided to get the -- to try to get the Republican nomination for
president in 2008 and so he decided to turn against all his own ideas.

He backed out of the regional cap and trade thing and all of his other
climate stuff. Gina McCarthy ultimately left what had suddenly become a
dead end job because the boss decided to run for the Republican nomination
for president.

Republican political ambition and environmental concerns mix about as well
as oil and water. On the other hand, our current Democratic president has
made a really big deal about the subject from his lengthy and rather
impassioned treatment of the issue on his second inaugural address to his
big speech accepting the nomination for president in the first place last
year.

Even little moments like the one today when the president was speaking to
his export council and he brought up how rising temperatures are going to
raise really practical logistical issues from managing our nation`s
waterways as a means of shipping goods around the country. He talks about
this issue all the time frequently and at length.
Of course, talk is one thing. Talk is cheap, right? Talk is easy. What
about action? I mean, amid headlines like this, do headlines get any
blunter than this? Look at that line. "Global Temperatures Highest in
4,000 Years."

Amid headlines like that, at a time when "The Wall Street Journal" is
publishing the scariest chart I have ever seen published in the "Wall
Street Journal", and they`re kind of known for their scary charts, look at
that. Look at that graph. Temperature change over time. Do you see how
it shoots straight up off the chart at the end? Like it hasn`t in 11,000
years?

At the time when the data and the headlines look like that but the idea of
climate change is still a laugh line for one of our two political parties
in this country. Republicans are uniformly opposed to doing anything about
it.

What is possible? What is realistically possible? Some of what has been
possible so far is encouraging the development of other forms of energy and
other types of energy usage that could compete with traditional fossil
fuels.

In the presidential election, though, it of course became part of Mitt
Romney`s stump speech to derive the fact that there were government
supported loans for the electric car company, Tesla. Mr. Romney said that
was investing in losers and the government shouldn`t have done that. Well,
now Tesla has just released its annual report explaining that it will start
early repayment on its government backed loans.

Tesla thinks it will be profitable this quarter and it is moving ahead of
schedule to repay the investment made in that company by the government.
An investment that was made to try to goose the American development of
cars that run on electricity instead of gas.

Here`s the thing, though. That loan to Tesla that Republicans made such
fun of during the election, that loan that actually turned out great in the
end with early repayment and everything, that was made through a loan
program created in 2007 signed into law by the previous president who was a
Republican named George W. Bush. And now even when that is paying off,
even when it is working, it is a laugh line to them.

Mitt Romney was good on the climate issue until he wanted to run for higher
office. Republicans were all for investing in electric car until they
decided they would call it a joke and a travesty.

At a time of some urgency on this issue, what are our chances of moving
forward at a time when half of our political world is moving backward on
this issue even against their own ideas?

Joining us now is a man who knows something about science and technology.
He is a nuclear physicist who beat IBM`s computer at "Jeopardy,"
Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey.

Congressman Holt, thank you very much for being with us tonight.

REP. RUSH HOLT (D-NJ), NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: Rachel, it`s always
good to be with you.

MADDOW: When the Republicans are criticizing or trying to hold back this
sort of investment, what impact do you think it has on innovation and new
technologies that could help on these big issues of energy and climate
change?

HOLT: You know, I don`t know how many wildfires, hurricanes, barges
running aground in Mississippi, tornadoes, it takes before people realize
that facing up to and dealing with climate change is in the public
interest. And if that requires new research and development, somebody has
got to pay for it and if the private sector is not paying fully, not paying
enough for research, not providing the financing that we need for the
development, then there`s nothing immoral or illogical about the federal
government doing it.

It is in the public interest to do so and it often pays back big. And for
something as big a crisis as climate change, we should hope for a big
payback.

MADDOW: The common wisdom seems to be that this president has demonstrable
commitment to this issue, but the likelihood of doing anything through
Congress is just nil because of essentially uniformed Republican opposition
to doing anything that even acknowledges the problem let alone tries to fix
it.

Do you -- do you share that sort of skepticism about anything being
possible through Congress? Do you see any way that your colleagues on the
other side of the aisle might get more creative or constructive on this
issue?

HOLT: I mean, on this issue, I`m not sure yet. There are a few promising
signs as you know. The Violence against Women Act, the Hurricane Sandy
relief, those who were brought to the floor and passed with Democratic
votes. The speaker allowed that to happen, so that`s -- that`s
encouraging.

On climate change, I still don`t see it. I don`t know what it`s going take
for people to wake up. You know, they`re just saying over and over again,
well, we can`t afford that. We can`t afford to deal with it. Well, we
can`t afford not to deal with it and, you know, we`re not a -- we`re not a
poor, impoverished nation. We`re just acting like one.

We should be investing as if we believe there will be a future for us. We
should be investing in education and infrastructure, and research and
development and particularly to deal with those problems that are staring
us in the face such as climate change.

MADDOW: Looking at this decision by Tesla to early repay its loan at the
same time they`re announcing that they expect to be profitable this
quarter. So obviously, we don`t know in the long run whether or not that
investment is going to -- is going to pay off in specific ways, but we can
see some early signs that that might have been a good move.

HOLT: Sure.

MADDOW: Given that, given your background as a scientist and your position
as a congressman, are there other investments like that that you would like
to see the government making, that you`d like to see the public sector
endorsing that we haven`t done yet?

HOLT: Well, the way we produce and use energy is the greatest insult to
our planet. So there are a myriad of projects that should be undertaken.
Advances that need to be made in the way we produce and use energy. And
energy efficiency, in new technologies, fusion energy. Networks,
networking and energy storage for wind.

All of those things and, you know, there is, as you`ve pointed out in
Congress an aversion to having the federal government involved in it.
Well, the federal government has been involved in research and it`s worked
out well. There are a couple of fellows named Bren and Paige who were
doing a digital library, federally funded, NSF project, it turned into
Google.

You know, that was a good investment. The human genome project. And that
was a pretty good investment. Nuclear magnetic resonance that gives us
MRIs. That was a pretty good investment. We can -- there are so many
things we can do. We are badly underinvesting in research and development.
And we can see that by historical comparisons here in the United States or
more strikingly by comparisons with other countries. And as I say, for
something like climate change, which is very costly in lives and dollars,
if we don`t deal with it, there -- it`s staring us in the face as something
that we need to do research and development in.

MADDOW: Congressman Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, it`s always good to
talk to you, sir. Thank you very much for being here tonight.

HOLT: Thanks, Rachel.


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