The Bill and Hillary (and Al) Show


So, Hillary has made it clear that she’s running and running hard. She wants, more than anything, to be the next President of the United States. And she has staked out the ground where she intends to hurt the Republicans most on energy issues and the future of the planet.

Hillary Clinton at the National Press Club

Last week on the same day that the New York Times tried to smear her with rumours about her marriage Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton strode to the lectern at the National Press Club in New York in a blazing yellow pants suit and made an impassioned bid for leadership of the country.

Her speech touched on everything that progressives could want from a Presidential campaigner: global warming is to be recognised and the US is to take drastic action; renewable energy sources are to be promoted vigorously; local communities, particularly farming communities, are to be encouraged to wean themselves off oil and move to grow their own energy through distilling the wonder biofuel ethanol; energy conservation is to be treated as a badge of patriotism and not dismissed as self-indulgence and so the issues were rolled off, one by one, each one pointing to glaring inadequacies on the Republican side.

Hillary’s greatest asset Bill is also getting out there to tirelessly campaign on behalf of the planet. Last month he addressed students at the London Business School (LBS), telling them that of all the issues facing them today hunger, disease, civil wars, global terrorism the one that threatened them most was global warming and the desperate need to halt greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill, in his own inimitable way, not only had his audience cheering for a new future based on renewable energy sources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, he was also urging LBS students to see this as a great business opportunity.

Bill and Hillary are putting the blame where it belongs on the United States but they also recognise that India and China, the countries with most to lose from slavishly following a fossil fuel pathway, are themselves carving out a new energy future based on renewables. India has its Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, while its President makes speech after speech urging Indians to see energy independence (ie renewables) as ‘our nation’s first and highest priority.’ China has already become the world’s third largest producer of biofuels, particularly ethanol.

Enter Al Gore (stage left), with a brilliant performance at Cannes, where he is launching his new film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. The film offers a glimpse of the ‘old’ Al passionate, inspired, a true leader offering to take his country in a new direction. He has emerged as the star of Cannes eclipsing Penelope Cruz and Tom Hanks while at the same time putting his own mark on another run for the presidency.

And while Al was wowing them in Cannes, Hillary made it clear that it’s she who is in Washington and has the floor of the Senate at her command, spelling out a plan for a Strategic Energy Fund to kick start an energy revolution, funded by a tax on yes, oil.

So who will take the Democrat ticket Hillary or Al? The US opinion pages are already working themselves into a lather with most commentators (like Frank Rich in the New York Times) brazenly backing Al against the candidate they all fear could actually win. The guns are out for Hillary.

But Al or Hillary and behind them both, Bill are a force to be reckoned with. They will change the face of American politics during this next election and in doing so, change the world. It might be just in time.

And in these new times, who will be the new heroes?

Thanks to Tim Oliphant

Brazil has carved out a lead for itself as the ‘Saudi Arabia’ of ethanol, promoting the technology and the renewables business system actively to developing countries around the world. Tropical countries will finally have an export that the developed world wants and needs, in the form of biofuels distilled from cane, the starch in cassava, and many other crops. Their latecomer advantage will be that they are able to utilise the latest weapons from the biotech armoury, such as new enzymes that break down cellulose and make it easy to ferment, adding to their comparative advantages in sunshine and low costs.

And where does Australia stand, with its infinite supplies of sun and endless hectares on which to plant sugar cane and many other feedstocks for biofuels? Under the Howard Government, we have allowed ourselves to become the Saudi Arabia of coal the world’s biggest miner and exporter of the stuff.

Our Trade Minister, Mark Vaile, was at it again in Gladstone earlier this year, spelling out a glorious future for Australia as supplier of endless coal to Japan and China. Vaile thinks we can solve the problem of global warming with ‘clean coal’ technology and geo-sequestration. But on renewables, there is a deafening silence.

Why can’t Gladstone be a great port for the export of ethanol, distilled from Queensland cane fields, feeding the growing Chinese and Japanese renewable fuels markets?

Unlike Bill and Hillary and Al, who are making the political running in the US on the issue of renewable energy, Vaile and his Cabinet colleagues are allowing Australia to sleepwalk into oblivion.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.