Transcript: The Post's Lois Romano Interviews Carol Browner

January 14, 2009


LOIS ROMANO: Hi Carol, thanks for joining us. Carol Browner, who will be the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate, welcome.

CAROL BROWNER: Thank you.

ROMANO: They call you the "Czarina."

BROWNER: Well, the most important thing is that the President elect has decided that he wants to have a senior advisor, a top advisor, in the White House whose responsibility is to focus on energy and climate change policy, in the same way you have General Jones who focuses on national security; we have Larry Summers, who focuses on economic policy; we have Melody Barnes, focusing on domestic policy and health policy with Tom Daschle, that President elect said, "This is important. I want to make sure that we have a clear voice, a team of people focused on energy and climate change."

ROMANO: So, will you be a coordinator of sorts for all these different agencies? It sounds like a lot of cooks.

BROWNER: Yes. The great thing is that there are a lot of cabinet agencies, cabinet secretaries, Administrator of the EPA, who have really good authority that we can bring to bear in terms of creating a green economy, change in how we think about energy, reducing our energy use, energy security. So, part of my responsibility is to bring those people together to make sure that we are taking advantage of all the authorities that exist in the Federal Government today.

QUESTIONER: Now, these cabinet level jobs that are involved in energy, will they be direct reports to the President as well as you, or will they report to you?

BROWNER: They're absolutely direct reports to the President. The Secretary of the Treasury is a direct report to the President all of the cabinet members work directly for the President. They work at his pleasure.

But the President recognizes that you have got to coordinate across a number of these businesses, and my role is to coordinate and, obviously, work with them and with the President to formulate policy going forward.

ROMANO: What advice did you give the President elect about what his priorities should be with regard to climate and the environment?

BROWNER: Well, the good thing is that he gave me the advice. I think as the American people are well aware, during the campaign, this was an incredibly important issue for him. He spoke about it passionately, he spoke about it regularly, a very detailed plan in terms of what we are going to do when it comes to energy efficiency, when it comes to doubling our renewables solar, wind, geothermal when it comes to making the grid that moves our electricity around more secure, to update it, to make it bigger.

You know, he's been leading the way on these issues over the last year.

QUESTIONER: What Bush initiatives do you have your eye on to roll back?

BROWNER: Oh, my gosh. You know, unfortunately, the list is rather long. I think that each of the cabinet secretaries has cabinet nominees, as part of their process, has begun that look, if you will.

Every administration has an automatic hold on rules that were adopted in the final days, and so we will also have that kind of automatic pull. And some of those rules may make sense, and they may move forward, but we need to take the time to look at that.

And then I think we will be working with the individual agencies and departments to say, "What's out there that, quite frankly, does not really comport with what we think should be happening and what we think the law says?" We've got, for example, over at EPA, we have a recent Supreme Court decision, and I think there is a pretty fair argument to be made that the current administration has not complied with that Supreme Court decision. As the new Administrator, I imagine we will be looking at what does she need to do to bring the Agency into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling?

QUESTIONER: Let's be specific, though: Do you have one or two examples is it oil and gas drilling? where you would like to take a really close look?

BROWNER: Well, For example, the Supreme Court decision, the Supreme Court ruled almost two years ago now that the EPA has some authorities to look at greenhouse gas emissions, to look at climate change under the existing Clean Air Act. The first step in that process is to determine whether or not greenhouse gases are dangerous to public health and the environment. The current administration declined to do that.

The Supreme Court actually said, "You don't have a choice to say we are not going to make a decision. Make a decision: Is it, or isn't it?" So, I think one of the early acts we will see at EPA is a review of the science, a review of the law, a review of the Supreme Court decision, and then whatever the law says and what the science says, the appropriate steps.

QUESTIONER: What was the most important action you took during your tenure at the EPA that the Bush Administration undid?

BROWNER: Oh, gosh. Well, that's an interesting question.

I think there are two sort of fundamental issues: One is the failure to really recognize that we don't have to choose between strong public health and environmental protections and a strong economy. The Bush Administration was constantly saying, "Oh, this is going to be bad for the economy." In cleaning up our air and our water, over and over again we have demonstrated it's not bad for the economy. In fact, it can frequently be good for the economy. There were individual decisions failure to regulate mercury from power plants the good news is that we had many state governors step up and take on that responsibility; failure to really enforce the law when there is an egregious violation of our pollution standards.

You know, the good news is it's a new day. We've got new people coming in firmly committed to upholding the laws of the country, and the processes, the science of all of the work that goes into setting a pollution standard and then enforcing that standard.

QUESTIONER: Well, how do you make the country green when the country is out of money?

BROWNER: Well, we have a recovery plan, as everyone is very, very well aware, and a significant component of that will be a down payment, if you will, on the President elect's commitment on a green jobs and a green economy. It's been great. I have been working with Larry Summers and the economic team to formulate the package. In fact, Larry Summers and I were just up on the Hill with Chairman Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee members, a lot of back and forth very, very positive trying to figure out how do we really jump start this green economy, and I think people are going to be very pleased. We've done a lot of work with the renewables industry, the wind and solar and geothermal industry, looking at how do we really enhance energy efficiency. There is a lot of opportunity out there to green our buildings, to green our schools. State and local governments have an important role to play; looking at how we make the grid bigger, better, smarter; and looking at how we change transportation in this country so that it's greener.

QUESTIONER: What do you say to corporations who believe that they are going to have an undue economic burden with these new standards?

BROWNER: Well, the stimulus is all about making sure that there is money moving that creates jobs, and what I'm focusing on is obviously creating green jobs, and that's the first and most important thing. We recognize we've got to get the economy moving, and this is a significant infusion of resources across the country to get the economy moving.

You know, we then turn to the day to day activities of the government, whether it be at EPA or the Department of Energy, Department of Agricultural, Transportation. I see we are going to want to work with the industries. There are always ways to make sure that what we are doing can be done in a cost effective, and you have to work with industry. And one of the things I have been doing as part of the transition is a lot of industry outreach, meeting with various sectors. I have meeting with CEOs coming up on Thursday, CEOs who have been working on climate change proposals. We are engaging people, hearing what's the best way to accomplish the President elect's targets.

ROMANO: What options are you looking at to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

BROWNER: Well, first and foremost, the work that we are doing on the stimulus on the Recovery Plan will lead to reductions in greenhouse gases. For example, when you achieve significant energy efficiency, not only do you reduce, for example, if we improve the energy performance of the Federal buildings, of the office buildings, all of the square footage that the Federal Government. And when we include the energy performance of those buildings, not only do we drive down the taxpayers' energy bill right? because at the end of the day it's the taxpayers paying that bill, but we also drive down the carbon, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with those buildings.

ROMANO: Well, I'm glad you mentioned government buildings because the Capitol is probably the most inefficient building in the world. Tell me a little bit more about how you're going to practice what you preach.

BROWNER: I know that, actually under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, there is a real effort to green the Capitol, and I applaud her for that.

So, when we think about and this is true whether we are thinking about individual homes or big office buildings. We look at how are we using the energy today, whether it be in terms of lighting, in terms of heating, in terms of cooling, what are the windows, what are the insulation, and what we find over and over again is for some relatively modest investments we can get dramatic reductions in energy use, and every single ounce of energy we don't use has a correlation in terms of greenhouse gas reductions.

And so, as we look across all of the Federal building supply, if you will building stock, if you will there is tremendous opportunities to reduce the Federal Government's energy bill.

QUESTIONER: I used the Capitol as an example, but there are 6,000 cars that come in to the Capitol every day. Have you looked at all about having any government regulations on driving?

BROWNER: Well, we are not going to regulate people's driving, but what we do want to do is work with those industries who are developing the next generation of clean vehicles. For example, in the stimulus, we have been having a lot of discussions about how do you sort of jump start battery technology. One of the keys to greener cars is going to be battery technology. There are other paths we could go down, and we are looking at those as well, but just to use batteries as an example, really investing in battery production, battery development. We have gone over a lot of parts of the country where we have got idle factories. Could some of those factories be retooled and become battery factories?

QUESTIONER: To what extent will the administration take the lead in writing legislation (noise interference), global warming legislation?

BROWNER: And again, we're just in a transition. We don't take office for another week, but we have aROMANOeady had some conversations with the various important committee chairs, obviously Congressman Waxman, Chair Boxer, Jeff Bingeman, and what we want to do is work together on this to make sure that we all understand each other and to craft the appropriate legislation.

I will tell you the focus right now has been on the Recovery Act, and I think the process there has been a very good process. We put together sort of the broad outlines and then immediately started engaging with the democrats on the Hill to really flesh that proposal out, and I think it's been a good process, and it is one I would hope to copy going forward.

QUESTIONER: Do you anticipate having a bill this year before the Copenhagen talks?

BROWNER: I certainly think we want to be very far along in the process with the Hill on energy legislation, on climate legislation.

At the end of the day, they are the keepers of the calendar, and I do want to be respectful of their calendar, but I certainly think that the President elect has been clear that he wants to re establish the United States as a leader on these issues.

ROMANO: Will this administration support the Kyoto Accord?

BROWNER: Well, as you know, it hasn't been ratified by the United States Senate, and that's what puts it into effect. You know, having said that, the President elect has been very, very clear about his commitment to do what is important in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from a domestic perspective; we are going to work with Congress on that. The Recovery Plan is a significant step in terms of the ways in which we are looking at energy emissions and clean energy. All of that will contribute to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and then we will work with that.

QUESTIONER: Al Gore was a mentor. Are you talking to him? Are you consulting with him?

BROWNER: I do talk to Al. And, as you know, so does the President elect. They had a meeting in Chicago several weeks ago; and, you know, Al has obviously been an important leader on these issues for over 20 years now.

ROMANO: The Bush Administration declined California's request for a waiver on the Clean Air Act--What's your position on that?

BROWNER: That is a decision that I think is appropriate for Lisa Jackson to take a look at. It is a statutory responsibility of EPA, when California seeks a waiver for cleaner cars than the rest of the country, to review that waiver.

And part of my job as coordinator is to be respectful of where the jurisdictional lines fall, and that is something that is appropriate. I granted lots of waivers when I was at EPA. Those are not issues that the White House engaged in, and so we want to be respectful.

QUESTIONER: You have been very involved in the transition. Tell us a little bit about that. It seems to have been a very well planned transition.

BROWNER: It has been. It's really impressive. I got involved back in August. John Podesta came in, put together a small group of a dozen or so folks to start thinking about what would be happening in November; and, as we got closer to the election, the group grew, appropriately grew, in size, and we were able to really hit the ground running.

And I think one of the things we realized early on is that the enthusiasm that would come on Election Day wasn't going to be put back in a bottle until we got to almost the end of January, and that the public there were a lot of expectations, and we wanted to honor and have done a very good job of honoring the "one president rule," but showing America that this administration, this President, this Vice President elect are prepared to hit the ground running.

QUESTIONER: Whose idea was it to create this new job that you're going to do?

BROWNER: The President elect's.

A lot of people talked about at this point in our history we needed to have a coordination function within the White House, and you know the same way that President Clinton created the National Economic Council at a point in history, that we had reached a point that really having the ability to bring together and coordinate across a number of agencies and departments made a lot of sense. But at the end of the day, it's the President elect who makes the decision.

QUESTIONER: You were a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Did the President elect reach out to you after Mrs. Clinton withdrew?

BROWNER: I reached out and said I would be happy to do whatever I can to be helpful.

I have known the President elect since he was in the Senate, and we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit. It was just thrilling to be helpful during the campaign. And as I said, you jumped into the transition, I would say, early August we started seeing him.

QUESTIONER: Okay. You were the longest serving Administrator of the EPA. What did you take from that experience and bring with you today?

BROWNER: Well, I take from that a deep awareness of all the tools that are available to the Executive Branch. I also take a real appreciation for the staff and the public servants that make up these departments and agencies.

And I also understand that there is a difference between being an assistant to the President and having a statutory responsibility as the Secretary of Energy, being the Administrator of the EPA. We have different responsibilities, and it's important to remember that.

QUESTIONER: Can you explain that.

At the end of the day, the EPA Administrator, Secretary of Energy, et cetera, they have to make their decisions in light of the laws that they function under, and that's really important because we are a nation of laws. And so, as the assistant to the President, my job is to work with him to make sure we are doing those things in coordination, but also be respectful of where those laws allow them to go and where it might not allow them to go.

QUESTIONER: Do you envision yourself working with other countries to reduce the global carbon footprint?

BROWNER: Obviously, the administration will be engaged in the whole Copenhagen process. I think, in addition to that process, there will inevitably be dialogues and conversations beyond a country to country on a bilateral basis. Yesterday, the President elect met with the President of Mexico, I think as you saw in the report from that meeting some discussion about the leadership that he has been providing on energy and climate change issues.

ROMANO: There is a lot riding on the President fixing the energy problems we have. How fast are you all going to need to take action?

BROWNER: Well, we are taking a lot of action in the recovery plan, hitting the ground running, demonstrating that there are real opportunities. As the President elect said in his speech, we are going to double renewable generation. People go, "What does that mean?" And I point out that it took us 30 years to get to where we are today, and we are talking about every three to four years doubling that; a significant step forward.

We see the Recovery Act as an opportunity to work with those industries, to demonstrate to the American people that there is a different way to think about our energy use, to achieve reductions in foreign oil dependency, to enhance our energy security, and to do something that's really important to our quality of life and that of our kids, our grandchildren, and our country.

ROMANO: You're talking about a lot of legislative measures. How do you get the American people to buy into this and change the way they do business?

BROWNER: Well, we have to start. We have to provide the leadership, and that's certainly what the President elect is committed to doing, and I think we are demonstrating that in the Recovery Act. We are talking about making significant investments in renewables so that the energy that comes into your home will be cleaner. It will not have the same impact on our environment on climate change. We are talking about working with families who want to upgrade the appliances in their homes, the heating and cooling systems in their homes, but we recognize it starts with us providing some leadership.

BROWNER: I don't doubt that somebody will say, "Oh, my gosh, they're talking about we are never going to be able to drive our cars again." We are not talking about not driving cars. We are talking about driving different cars. We are talking about cleaner cars. We recognize that, for many Americans, cars are an important part of how they get to work, how they manage their daily lives. Now, in some places, we can enhance mass transit, and we are committed to doing that. But it's not about not living our lives the way we need to. It's about figuring out ways to make our lives better, whether it's investing in renewables, whether it's investing in batteries so we could have a new generation of cars. You know, this is all about opportunity. We have the opportunity to create jobs and to protect our environment. It's a win win.

Yes. The great thing is that there are a lot of cabinet agencies, cabinet secretaries, Administrator of the EPA, who have really good authority that we can bring to bear in terms of creating a green economy, change in how we think about energy, reducing our energy use, energy security. So, part of my responsibility is to bring those people together to make sure that we are taking advantage of all the authorities that exist in the Federal Government today.

QUESTIONER: Now, these cabinet level jobs that are involved in energy, will they be direct reports to the President as well as you, or will they report to you?

BROWNER: They're absolutely direct reports to the President. The Secretary of the Treasury is a direct report to the President all of the cabinet members work directly for the President. They work at his pleasure. But the President recognizes that you have got to coordinate across a number of these businesses, and my role is to coordinate and, obviously, work with them and with the President to formulate policy going forward.

ROMANO: What advice did you give the President elect about what his priorities should be with regard to climate and the environment?

BROWNER: Well, the good thing is that he gave me the advice. I think as the American people are well aware, during the campaign, this was an incredibly important issue for him. He spoke about it passionately, he spoke about it regularly, a very detailed plan in terms of what we are going to do when it comes to energy efficiency, when it comes to doubling our renewables solar, wind, geothermal when it comes to making the grid that moves our electricity around more secure, to update it, to make it bigger. You know, he's been leading the way on these issues over the last year.

QUESTIONER: What Bush initiatives do you have your eye on to roll back?

BROWNER: Oh, my gosh. You know, unfortunately, the list is rather long. I think that each of the cabinet secretaries has cabinet nominees, as part of their process, has begun that look, if you will.

Every administration has an automatic hold on rules that were adopted in the final days, and so we will also have that kind of automatic pull. And some of those rules may make sense, and they may move forward, but we need to take the time to look at that.

And then I think we will be working with the individual agencies and departments to say, "What's out there that, quite frankly, does not really comport with what we think should be happening and what we think the law says?" We've got, for example, over at EPA, we have a recent Supreme Court decision, and I think there is a pretty fair argument to be made that the current administration has not complied with that Supreme Court decision. As the new Administrator, I imagine we will be looking at what does she need to do to bring the Agency into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling?

QUESTIONER: Let's be specific, though: Do you have one or two examples is it oil and gas drilling? where you would like to take a really close look?

BROWNER: Well, For example, the Supreme Court decision, the Supreme Court ruled almost two years ago now that the EPA has some authorities to look at greenhouse gas emissions, to look at climate change under the existing Clean Air Act. The first step in that process is to determine whether or not greenhouse gases are dangerous to public health and the environment. The current administration declined to do that.

The Supreme Court actually said, "You don't have a choice to say we are not going to make a decision. Make a decision: Is it, or isn't it?" So, I think one of the early acts we will see at EPA is a review of the science, a review of the law, a review of the Supreme Court decision, and then whatever the law says and what the science says, the appropriate steps.

QUESTIONER: What was the most important action you took during your tenure at the EPA that the Bush Administration undid?

BROWNER: Oh, gosh. Well, that's an interesting question. I think there are two sort of fundamental issues: One is the failure to really recognize that we don't have to choose between strong public health and environmental protections and a strong economy. The Bush Administration was constantly saying, "Oh, this is going to be bad for the economy."

In cleaning up our air and our water, over and over again we have demonstrated it's not bad for the economy. In fact, it can frequently be good for the economy. There were individual decisions failure to regulate mercury from power plants the good news is that we had many state governors step up and take on that responsibility; failure to really enforce the law when there is an egregious violation of our pollution standards.

You know, the good news is it's a new day. We've got new people coming in firmly committed to upholding the laws of the country, and the processes, the science of all of the work that goes into setting a pollution standard and then enforcing that standard.

QUESTIONER: Well, how do you make the country green when the country is out of money?

BROWNER: Well, we have a recovery plan, as everyone is very, very well aware, and a significant component of that will be a down payment, if you will, on the President elect's commitment on a green jobs and a green economy. It's been great. I have been working with Larry Summers and the economic team to formulate the package. In fact, Larry Summers and I were just up on the Hill with Chairman Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee members, a lot of back and forth very, very positive trying to figure out how do we really jump start this green economy, and I think people are going to be very pleased. We've done a lot of work with the renewables industry, the wind and solar and geothermal industry, looking at how do we really enhance energy efficiency. There is a lot of opportunity out there to green our buildings, to green our schools. State and local governments have an important role to play; looking at how we make the grid bigger, better, smarter; and looking at how we change transportation in this country so that it's greener.

QUESTIONER: What do you say to corporations who believe that they are going to have an undue economic burden with these new standards?

BROWNER: Well, the stimulus is all about making sure that there is money moving that creates jobs, and what I'm focusing on is obviously creating green jobs, and that's the first and most important thing. We recognize we've got to get the economy moving, and this is a significant infusion of resources across the country to get the economy moving.You know, we then turn to the day to day activities of the government, whether it be at EPA or the Department of Energy, Department of Agricultural, Transportation. I see we are going to want to work with the industries. There are always ways to make sure that what we are doing can be done in a cost effective, and you have to work with industry. And one of the things I have been doing as part of the transition is a lot of industry outreach, meeting with various sectors. I have meeting with CEOs coming up on Thursday, CEOs who have been working on climate change proposals. We are engaging people, hearing what's the best way to accomplish the President elect's targets.

ROMANO: What options are you looking at to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

BROWNER:: Well, first and foremost, the work that we are doing on the stimulus on the Recovery Plan will lead to reductions in greenhouse gases. For example, when you achieve significant energy efficiency, not only do you reduce, for example, if we improve the energy performance of the Federal buildings, of the office buildings, all of the square footage that the Federal Government. And when we include the energy performance of those buildings, not only do we drive down the taxpayers' energy bill right? because at the end of the day it's the taxpayers paying that bill, but we also drive down the carbon, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with those buildings.

ROMANO: Well, I'm glad you mentioned government buildings because the Capitol is probably the most inefficient building in the world. Tell me a little bit more about how you're going to practice what you preach.

BROWNER:: I know that, actually under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, there is a real effort to green the Capitol, and I applaud her for that. So, when we think about and this is true whether we are thinking about individual homes or big office buildings. We look at how are we using the energy today, whether it be in terms of lighting, in terms of heating, in terms of cooling, what are the windows, what are the insulation, and what we find over and over again is for some relatively modest investments we can get dramatic reductions in energy use, and every single ounce of energy we don't use has a correlation in terms of greenhouse gas reductions. And so, as we look across all of the Federal building supply, if you will building stock, if you will there is tremendous opportunities to reduce the Federal Government's energy bill.

QUESTIONER: I used the Capitol as an example, but there are 6,000 cars that come in to the Capitol every day. Have you looked at all about having any government regulations on driving?

BROWNER: Well, we are not going to regulate people's driving, but what we do want to do is work with those industries who are developing the next generation of clean vehicles. For example, in the stimulus, we have been having a lot of discussions about how do you sort of jump start battery technology. One of the keys to greener cars is going to be battery technology. There are other paths we could go down, and we are looking at those as well, but just to use batteries as an example, really investing in battery production, battery development. We have gone over a lot of parts of the country where we have got idle factories. Could some of those factories be retooled and become battery factories?

QUESTIONER: To what extent will the administration take the lead in writing legislation (noise interference), global warming legislation?

BROWNER: And again, we're just in a transition. We don't take office for another week, but we have aROMANOeady had some conversations with the various important committee chairs, obviously Congressman Waxman, Chair Boxer, Jeff Bingeman, and what we want to do is work together on this to make sure that we all understand each other and to craft the appropriate legislation. I will tell you the focus right now has been on the Recovery Act, and I think the process there has been a very good process. We put together sort of the broad outlines and then immediately started engaging with the democrats on the Hill to really flesh that proposal out, and I think it's been a good process, and it is one I would hope to copy going forward.

QUESTIONER: Do you anticipate having a bill this year before the Copenhagen talks?

BROWNER: I certainly think we want to be very far along in the process with the Hill on energy legislation, on climate legislation. At the end of the day, they are the keepers of the calendar, and I do want to be respectful of their calendar, but I certainly think that the President elect has been clear that he wants to re establish the United States as a leader on these issues.

ROMANO: Will this administration support the Kyoto Accord?

BROWNER: Well, as you know, it hasn't been ratified by the United States Senate, and that's what puts it into effect. You know, having said that, the President elect has been very, very clear about his commitment to do what is important in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from a domestic perspective; we are going to work with Congress on that. The Recovery Plan is a significant step in terms of the ways in which we are looking at energy emissions and clean energy. All of that will contribute to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and then we will work with that.

QUESTIONER: Al Gore was a mentor. Are you talking to him? Are you consulting with him?

BROWNER: I do talk to Al. And, as you know, so does the President elect. They had a meeting in Chicago several weeks ago; and, you know, Al has obviously been an important leader on these issues for over 20 years now.

ROMANO: The Bush Administration declined California's request for a waiver on the Clean Air Act--What's your position on that?

BROWNER: That is a decision that I think is appropriate for Lisa Jackson to take a look at. It is a statutory responsibility of EPA, when California seeks a waiver for cleaner cars than the rest of the country, to review that waiver.

And part of my job as coordinator is to be respectful of where the jurisdictional lines fall, and that is something that is appropriate. I granted lots of waivers when I was at EPA. Those are not issues that the White House engaged in, and so we want to be respectful.

QUESTIONER: You have been very involved in the transition. Tell us a little bit about that. It seems to have been a very well planned transition.

BROWNER: It has been. It's really impressive. I got involved back in August.

John Podesta came in, put together a small group of a dozen or so folks to start thinking about what would be happening in November; and, as we got closer to the election, the group grew, appropriately grew, in size, and we were able to really hit the ground running. And I think one of the things we realized early on is that the enthusiasm that would come on Election Day wasn't going to be put back in a bottle until we got to almost the end of January, and that the public there were a lot of expectations, and we wanted to honor and have done a very good job of honoring the "one president rule," but showing America that this administration, this President, this Vice President elect are prepared to hit the ground running.

QUESTIONER: Whose idea was it to create this new job that you're going to do?

BROWNER: The President elect's.

A lot of people talked about at this point in our history we needed to have a coordination function within the White House, and you know the same way that President Clinton created the National Economic Council at a point in history, that we had reached a point that really having the ability to bring together and coordinate across a number of agencies and departments made a lot of sense. But at the end of the day, it's the President elect who makes the decision.

QUESTIONER: You were a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Did the President elect reach out to you after Mrs. Clinton withdrew?

BROWNER: I reached out and said I would be happy to do whatever I can to be helpful. I have known the President elect since he was in the Senate, and we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit. It was just thrilling to be helpful during the campaign. And as I said, you jumped into the transition, I would say, early August we started seeing him.

QUESTIONER: Okay. You were the longest serving Administrator of the EPA. What did you take from that experience and bring with you today?

BROWNER: Well, I take from that a deep awareness of all the tools that are available to the Executive Branch. I also take a real appreciation for the staff and the public servants that make up these departments and agencies.

And I also understand that there is a difference between being an assistant to the President and having a statutory responsibility as the Secretary of Energy, being the Administrator of the EPA. We have different responsibilities, and it's important to remember that.

QUESTIONER: Can you explain that.

BROWNER: At the end of the day, the EPA Administrator, Secretary of Energy, et cetera, they have to make their decisions in light of the laws that they function under, and that's really important because we are a nation of laws. And so, as the assistant to the President, my job is to work with him to make sure we are doing those things in coordination, but also be respectful of where those laws allow them to go and where it might not allow them to go.

QUESTIONER: Do you envision yourself working with other countries to reduce the global carbon footprint?

BROWNER: Obviously, the administration will be engaged in the whole Copenhagen process. I think, in addition to that process, there will inevitably be dialogues and conversations beyond a country to country on a bilateral basis. Yesterday, the President elect met with the President of Mexico, I think as you saw in the report from that meeting some discussion about the leadership that he has been providing on energy and climate change issues.

ROMANO: There is a lot riding on the President fixing the energy problems we have. How fast are you all going to need to take action?

BROWNER: Well, we are taking a lot of action in the recovery plan, hitting the ground running, demonstrating that there are real opportunities. As the President elect said in his speech, we are going to double renewable generation. People go, "What does that mean?" And I point out that it took us 30 years to get to where we are today, and we are talking about every three to four years doubling that; a significant step forward.

We see the Recovery Act as an opportunity to work with those industries, to demonstrate to the American people that there is a different way to think about our energy use, to achieve reductions in foreign oil dependency, to enhance our energy security, and to do something that's really important to our quality of life and that of our kids, our grandchildren, and our country.

ROMANO: You're talking about a lot of legislative measures. How do you get the American people to buy into this and change the way they do business?

BROWNER: Well, we have to start. We have to provide the leadership, and that's certainly what the President elect is committed to doing, and I think we are demonstrating that in the Recovery Act. We are talking about making significant investments in renewables so that the energy that comes into your home will be cleaner. It will not have the same impact on our environment on climate change. We are talking about working with families who want to upgrade the appliances in their homes, the heating and cooling systems in their homes, but we recognize it starts with us providing some leadership.

BROWNER: I don't doubt that somebody will say, "Oh, my gosh, they're talking about we are never going to be able to drive our cars again." We are not talking about not driving cars. We are talking about driving different cars. We are talking about cleaner cars. We recognize that, for many Americans, cars are an important part of how they get to work, how they manage their daily lives. Now, in some places, we can enhance mass transit, and we are committed to doing that. But it's not about not living our lives the way we need to. It's about figuring out ways to make our lives better, whether it's investing in renewables, whether it's investing in batteries so we could have a new generation of cars. You know, this is all about opportunity. We have the opportunity to create jobs and to protect our environment. It's a win win.

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