Politics:

Political analysts discuss how western U.S. could affect the 2008 presidential election

With Democratic governors now holding office in several western states, some political analysts believe traditionally red states in the West could be turning blue. During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, filmed at the Progressive Policy Institute last week, several experts discuss the opportunities for Democratic candidates in the West. Former Interior Department deputy secretary David Hayes explains how western policymakers can balance resource development and land conservation issues. Plus, Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) talks about why he believes the next presidential election will be decided by the western United States.

Transcript

Will Marshall: You know the West is one of the fastest-growing regions of the country. They're rapidly urbanizing. And that seems to be altering its political outlook and creating some openings for Democratic gains, which we saw last time around in Colorado and Montana in particular. But in general there's reason to believe that parts of the West, the Mountain West, are becoming bluer. I've got a chart here which you are not going to be able to see very well, but this is the 2004 presidential election from the county perspective. To me this is the real red/blue map of America. It's not so much a matter of states, as it is metropolitan regions and suburbs and rural areas. But as you can see from this map, I hope, the lower states in the Mountain West have significant blue areas which really track urban and suburban growth. And help explain why there are new openings for Democrats in this region. And you see a kind of gains among pragmatic centrist Democrats here. The National Journal did a study of the ideological complexion of congressional delegations and found that Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, the lower parts of the Mountain West, are very centrist delegations. Not as conservative as the other ones. So something is happening there that bodes well, we think, for progressives.

Now Western politics has traditionally been centered on who controls land and water. And for a century really, since Teddy Roosevelt's time, it's been a national priority to try to preserve the spectacular landscape of the West for the nation, as a kind of a patrimony for all of us. And that's created a lot of strains, but Westerners are proud of the beauty of their region. And there's a kind of an international romance with the Western landscape. I saw this a couple of years ago when I was touring with my family in the Colorado River basin. Everywhere I went we were flooded by European tourists, particularly French tourists. We went to the rodeo at Bryce Canyon and it was exclusively French people. And the strangest thing was that they were rooting for the cows. But in any case obviously there's been a great deal of resentment though in the West toward the distant federal landlord which has controlled such large chunks of territory. And the Republicans have been very adept at exploiting the feeling that we're willing to get Washington off our backs and leave us alone.

But now there seems to be a broad worry in the region that a way of life may be jeopardized and may be vanishing and it needs to be preserved. And I think people are looking for a pragmatic alternative to the way the debate has been framed for them usually, which is a choice between Republican policies of maximum exploitation of public resources and environmentalists who have tried to lock up public lands and sort of insulate them from public use. Now, I think, the key is to assure public access to public lands. And to assure public access for all sorts of purposes, for hunters and fishers and hikers and birdwatchers and backpackers and people who want to live the outdoors life. You know there's a really powerful hook and bullet constituency that's grown up in this country, hunters and sports peoples who really are worried about vanishing habitat. When the Bush administration tried to relax wetlands' regulations couple of years ago they heard it from the hook-and-bullet crowd. The same thing happened when they were trying to relax controls on mercury emissions at power plants, a big reaction from people who would prefer not to catch mercury laden fish. So what's happening is that there's a huge constituency. There are about 13 million hunters in this country that are increasingly worried about the loss of their opportunities to hunt and fish. And may be more worried about that than the threat that somebody is going to take their guns away.

So anyway there seems to be a turnabout and it also gives progressives an opportunity to champion local involvement in land-use decisions, to practice what we call here at PPI, civic environmentalism. Trying to decentralize decisions over how you manage natural habitat, how you preserve endangered species to landowners, to localities, who, after all, are on the ground and in a position to do the job if you give them the right incentives. Now I don't want to say that resource issues are the only issues that are important to Westerners. Let me be real clear, I mean obviously people in the West are concerned about national security and about education, particularly immigration, these days, health care and the rest. But we do believe in that clean energy policies and a balanced approach to preserving natural resources and assuring public access to them there are opportunities for progressives if they follow this very lucid formula that David is going to talk about in a minute that allows them to, I think, really identify with Western values. So without further ado let me introduce our speakers. David Hayes is an attorney with Latham & Watkins here in town. He served as deputy secretary in the Department of Interior during the second Clinton administration. He was a top adviser to the Kerry campaign on energy and environmental issues. He's also a member of the informal PPI brain trust, folks who are experts on these issues, who are helping us try to frame new clean energy policy approaches. So David, thank you so much for doing this excellent work today.

And after David speaks we're going to hear from Congressman Mark Udall, who is from Boulder, second District of Colorado. He's been here since 1998. He bears a famous Western name. Some of us have been around long enough to have fond memories of Moe and Stewart. And I think he really exemplifies a new breed of Western progressivism, someone who is really an outdoorsman. I understand Mark you're an accomplished mountaineer and rock climber and kayaker and ran the Outward Bound program out there for a long time. And someone who has made environmental protection and growth management signature issues in his campaigns out in Colorado. But Colorado is really one of the ground zeros for, I'd say Colorado and Arizona are maybe the most important ground zeros for the kinds of political and social changes that we're talking about here today. Mark also sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Resources and Science Committee and co-chairs the Renewable Energy Caucus. So with that, David, over to you.

David Hayes: OK. Thank you, Will. Thanks for having me here. I'm humbled to be here with you and with Mark Udall in particular. What you said about Mark and his outdoors qualities are and are stated to be sure. I probably told Mark a couple years ago that after an incredible burst of physical activity that was short-lived but impressive during the period, I climbed the Grand Teton in Wyoming. And Mark then went into his discussion of his climb of Mount Everest. And that put the correct perspective on at all. In connection with work I'm doing with PPI, I have put some thoughts down on paper, Winning the West, that I hope you will enjoy and look at.

I begin with a few observations. First, the assumption in many quarters is that the West is Republican territory, has been, always will be. And when you look at some of the margins, particularly in presidential races, certainly in places like Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, it would appear to be true that this is Republican territory. Democrats need not apply essentially. And the conventional wisdom also is that, among many quarters, is that Republicans own the West because they best represent the character of the West. And give life to the policies that most Westerners want to see implemented in the United States. Now the starting point here, as Will referenced, is the fact that the West is different in important respects from other regions. It is heavily dominated by public lands in particular. More than half of the lands in most Western states are managed by the federal government, with a historical nexus that is very important in our culture and history. And also very important to the West in particular, where traditionally the economics of the West have relied disproportionately on the use of those federal lands. The early efforts to populate the West by encouraging hard rock mining by essentially giving away mining opportunities in return for the investment in the West. And heavily subsidizing water development and power development in the West through federal investments, by essentially giving away grazing rights, as, again, both an economic, an important economic element of early Western development and a sense that this is a sound use of the land that should be propagated. And the stereotype that ironically also has developed in the West and that is assumed to essentially be owned by Republicans is that the prototypical Westerner is that rugged, gun toting, fiercely individualist, get the government off our backs guy. Who fiercely guards every man's right to drill, log, do whatever he damn well pleases. And it is a 'he' by the way. And this is the prototypical Westerner. And probably the most community oriented thing this person does is every couple of years go down to the polling place and pull the Republican lever. That's the stereotypical Westerner that many political pundits believe characterizes the West. And the Bush administration, I would have to say, has played into this and has emphasized this stereotype and the policies that flow from the assumption that this is today's West. In ways that I think have surprised many in terms of the conservatism and the lengths to which they have fostered a resource exploitation type of agenda, an anti-federal government type of agenda.

Let me just give a few examples. The administration's priorities and policies in the West have included an obviously relentless focus on opening up new areas for oil and gas drilling, often by short-circuiting environmental reviews. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, while not being in the West, is a bit of a poster child example of that. And more quietly throughout the West there has been an enormous push for opening up new lands. A reversal of the protections for the roadless areas in the national forests despite the strong popular support for that in the early administration indications that they would support that policy. An obvious hostility towards designating wilderness areas. Gale Norton's undesignation of wilderness study areas by the Bureau of Land Management early in the administration. Skepticism about wildlife protection. A perpetuation of the status quo in terms of mining law and grazing rights. A hostility toward having the marketplace into the grazing market so that conservationists can set aside, can get permits and set aside lands that are endangered. And a defunding of the land acquisition program, which was one of the Bush administration's promises, that the administration would continue the land and water conservation fund and have money available to protect sensitive lands. A de-emphasis on the national parks. We've seen very few national parks, etc.

And the conventional wisdom is that this is working for the Bush administration and Republicans generally. But, as I discuss in my paper, I think the facts suggest otherwise. And Mark certainly will chime in on this from his on the ground perspective. But the fact is Democrats are making amazing gains in the West that belie this conventional wisdom. Montana, Montana State Legislature, for the first time in 44 years, in the last election cycle, went Democratic, Democratic majority. There are now Democratic majorities in the Colorado State Legislature. We have a popular new Democratic governor in Montana joining Democratic governors in New Mexico, in Wyoming, in Arizona. This is the heart of the Intermountain West with Democrats showing the way. And the interesting thing to me is the approach of many of these Democrats, including the gentleman on my left, to these resource issues, which to some extent are the heart and soul arguably of the character of the West in the views of many Westerners and certainly many who enjoy the West as well. When you look at what has propelled Democrats in the West, I argue that it's a disciplined pragmatism and not an ideology toward dealing with resource issues in a commonsense way that has made them remarkable in terms of their innovation and their resulting popularity. The voters have responded to this.

Take Governor Schweitzer in Montana for example, the traditional Republican ideology is there's too much public land. Ironically in Montana there is a tremendous concern by the hunting and fishing constituency that Will mentioned about access to streams, to hunting areas because of private efforts to essentially button up all that. Governor Schweitzer, as one of his planks in seeking the governorship and winning it, said we're going to make sure there is more public access to these opportunities. And there's an enormous constituency as Will referenced, in Montana, for that. It's a very popular thing. Completely unorthodox from the perspective of the traditional Republican approach here.

Likewise we have a new senator, Ken Salazar, in Colorado. He helped create a new national park. Again, that's verboten in the orthodoxy. We don't need any new federal land. We certainly don't need to have more folks with those hats and uniforms out there in the West. The new national park is Great Sand Dunes National Park. And the reason, and that's Ken Salazar's home territory, the San Luis Valley. That whole valley was being threatened by the private and proposed private export of water from that region. The national park provided the strategy and opportunity to protect that local, incredibly important, water resource in the San Luis Valley. And therefore essentially protecting the way of life of that valley. So it was a pragmatic solution, a clever solution, that said the heck with orthodoxy and the heck with ideology, we're going to solve the problem.

Bill Richardson in New Mexico has been very strong in terms of energy development, as have most Democrats in the West and appropriately so. This is a very important region for the United States in terms of oil and gas development and renewables in particular. But Governor Richardson said let's develop in New Mexico, continue to develop in the oil and gas fields that make sense, but when it comes to the Otero Mesa, a pristine area with frankly marginal potential opportunities in the oil and gas side, we're going to say no. Much like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I'm going to have a standard here and we're not going to open up that area. A principled disciplined approach that recognizes that, yes, we need to oil and gas development, but there are some places where the environmental values and the historic and cultural value are too high and we should say no.

All of this leads me to suggest, somewhat presumptively, a potential agenda for Democrats in the West. I would argue that this is an agenda that the successful Democrats like Mark Udall and others in the West are already following. But I think Democrats should articulate this. And should take the argument back from Republicans and say we have a sensible agenda. We have a message. And it's a message that resonates in the West. My paper identifies four specific policy approaches that Democrats are following and I believe should articulate and reemphasize. First Democrats should demand value for private use of public lands. This is the weak point in the Republican orthodoxy. The public lands are owned by you and me and all Americans. And yes, there is a tradition and appropriately so of private opportunities to use those public lands. But we should demand value for that. And by demanding value we will help discipline the process and make sure that the uses of those public lands are appropriate uses. No more giveaways. The hard rock mining giveaway, back in the Mining act of 1872, which this administration has happily been idly watching go by. Issues like the royalties in the Gulf of Mexico, which sort of reinforce the recognition that this administration is all too happy to give away our resources. We should not allow that. And by having more discipline on the economic side we will have better, sounder uses of public lands.

Number two, we should recognize that not all public lands are the same and demand higher standards for developing pristine lands. It's a commonsense approach, but it's not an approach that this interior department implements at all. They view lands, basically whether they're currently in areas where there's a lot of oil and gas development or not, as essentially the same as roadless areas, like the Teton Bridge or national forest, which has been opened up for oil and gas drilling. There should be a higher standard. It may be appropriate to open up some of those areas, but let's have a dialogue. Let's create a higher bar. Let's show that the long-term economic benefit balances out against the environmental harms.

Thirdly, as Will mentioned, Democrats should embrace local input into land management decisions. This has been a weak point for Democrats I think historically, a sense that the West and the public lands should be governed from Washington with a sort of Father Knows Best approach to public land management. Democrats, on the ground in the West, are rejecting that. That should be recognized, acknowledged and accepted as a new way of doing business with folks on the ground from the federal agencies interacting and not adversarial with local interests, with local electives, etc. Finally, the feds need to show flexibility in dealings with private land owners. There has been a perception and to some extent a reality that Democrats have not been as understanding of the incredibly important role that private land owners have in terms of land management and the synergies between private land ownership and public land ownership. In the Clinton administration Bruce Babbitt pushed habitat conservation planning, safe harbors, etc. Those were dedicated toward the private land owner community. Those are the kinds of initiatives that Democrats should be pushing. And ironically, an untold story is that this Interior Department has let a lot of those initiatives die on the vine.

My point of view is that by Democrats taking up this principled, disciplined approach to resource management, not only will they reinforce the gains they're making in the West, they have the potential to change the electoral map. And more importantly block and tackle on the resource issues side of things. So that the other issues that are important to Westerners, like education, like infrastructure, like affordable healthcare can and should take a center stage in the West along with the ideology versus practicality that my paper talks about on the resource side. So I'll close there and I'll look forward to Mark's comments. Thank you.

Will Marshall: Thank you very much David.

Mark Udall: Good morning. Thank you, David. Thank you, Will. One of the reasons I wanted to join you all today was to have a chance to walk around the myths that we all dear about the West. And I think if you're westerner you're susceptible to wanting to believe in myths. And it's one of the wonderful aspects of living in the West. We're all, for the most part, new arrivals in the West. I was intrigued recently, David and Will, there was a vignette shared in southern Colorado where they asked a tribal chairman of one of the Ute tribes what he thought about the immigration debate. And his response was well look what happened when we liberalized our immigration laws.

The points that Will and David have made are right on point about what's happening in the West. If you look at the 2004 election results John Kerry lost Nevada by one percentage point, New Mexico by 5,000 votes, was competitive in Arizona and was more competitive in Colorado than people realized. And had he won Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado he's president today and not George W. Bush. And that's in part why there's so much emphasis right now and interest in the Southwest, not only in the upcoming cycle, but in the 2008 cycle.

David talked compellingly and with great insight into some of the trends in the West. And one of the most interesting ones is the fact that you have Democratic governors from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, including the states of Montana and Wyoming. Wyoming, in many ways, is even more interesting given the makeup of the electorate there. You have Governor Freudenthal, who's very popular and is on his way, I believe, to being reelected because he stood for many of the points of view that David outlined. In particular in Wyoming there's a concern about the use of public land solely for extractive uses. And the sportsman's community is very, very engaged in the debate in Wyoming. And there is this pragmatic mindset that we ought to be, we, the royal we, extracting value from the coal fields, from the oil and gas fields in Wyoming. But we ought to do it in a way that preserves those options to enjoy the great outdoors, because that's, in effect, the politics of personal identification which are important all over this country. But in particular, in the West, people define themselves in that regard.

In Colorado we, for the first time since John Kennedy was president, found ourselves in control of both Houses of the General Assembly. And the sense is, and again in part I'm here today because I want to learn more about my own region and I'm looking forward to the questions and comments from y'all here. But the sense was that the Republican leadership in both Houses of our General Assembly was not particularly interested in governing. There were a series of challenges facing Colorado, in particular in regards to investment in the public square. There were shortfalls across the board budgetarily because of a very interesting constitutional amendment we passed in the '90s which limits the amount of revenue the state can not only accept, but then requires that it be returned to the voters. And it sounds great on the surface, but after a while when the schools are deteriorating and we haven't responded to increasing traffic and the pressures of growth, getting $25 or $50 or $75 back from the state government doesn't seem as important as perhaps aggregating that among the 3 1/2 million, now approaching 4 million, Coloradans. And making sure that our road and transit systems work and that our schools are doing the job that we want them to do.

There's also, to stay that topic for a minute, the sense was that Democrats were interested in solving those problems not grandstanding, particularly on social issues. We were talking earlier, Will and David and myself and some others, there is a contradiction in western sensibilities. And that contradiction is that there's a real libertarian streak. David mentioned the old mining tradition of the West. And there still is even a newcomer's in a sense reflected by the miner who pulls out a shotgun and says, "You better get off my mining plain before I blow your head off." And at the same time, a tradition of raising, literally, a barn, a building, a school, putting a hospital on the ground in the West because it can and has been a harsh place climatically as well as in finding a way to make a living. So you have those two competing political philosophies at play in the West. But I think in the '04 election the communitarian philosophy rose to the surface.

There is also this very fascinating new coalition emerging that involves the environmental community, the sportsman community and economic interests particularly, what I call the new economy, because that's what makes the West such a favorable place to do business. And I've been intrigued by how powerful that group has become. There are a couple of examples. One of them is in Montana. When it comes to oil and gas drilling and some of the new statutes that have been put in place there, Governor Freudenthal in Wyoming has also been a defender of access to public lands and wanting to manage the growth, particularly in western Wyoming. And is a big fan of NEPA, because it gives him a tool to make sure that the development there is thoughtful and well considered.

And in Colorado we've had initiatives both that were successful and others that were defeated that included members of that coalition. On the positive side we passed, in this last cycle, Amendment 37, which created a renewable portfolio standard for Colorado, a modest one, but nonetheless an important one. By the year 2015 we will produce 10 percent of our power through renewable means. And that involved a very interesting group of agricultural interests, environmentalists, again, those who see real economic opportunity. And in the previous election cycle there was an attempt to put a $4 billion blank check on the table to develop water supplies in Colorado. And it was overwhelmingly defeated because of the sense that it was a blank check and that water is really our lifeblood and that there needed to be a more thoughtful approach. And that coalition involved the west slope of Colorado, some Ag interests, urban environmentalists, and interestingly enough, other economic interests that felt that there were other ways to handle the problem of drought and water supplies in the West.

Let me, I have a lot of examples for you, but I think what I'd like to do is make a couple of final comments and then look to the audience for give-and-take here. One of the opportunities, and Will, we were talking about this earlier, in the West is to draw on that optimism that drew people to the West in the first place. And there is a sense, in the West, of possibility, of a new start. The big skies, I think, lend themselves to that feeling of inspiration and opportunity. But as was suggested here, more people in the West, many more people in the West nowadays go to work with a briefcase rather than a saddle bag. It is the most urbanized area in the country. And when we draw people into talking about more than parochial issues, health care, defense, Will mentioned my assignment to the Armed Services Committee. I'm consciously involving myself in the debate about national security and how Democrats can make the case more compellingly than we have. The innovative agenda that the president outlined in his State of the Union speech, we were happy to have him join the parade. A lot of us have been talking about that for six or seven years. But that's key to the West because so much of the West's economy is the new economy. It's high tech. It's telecommunications. I have one of the largest biotech sectors in my district. So the idea, as David suggested, that somehow the West is looking to the past for its economic future really isn't accurate.

But the point I'm trying to make is that the broader issues resonate in the West, defense, health care, being competitive and being fiscally smart and fiscally responsible. That is one of the characteristics of the electorate in Colorado. You have to really prove and make the case that any public funds that are asked to be generated are spent for positive and defined outcomes. We passed a transit initiative in the Denver region that skeptics thought was going to fall on its face. But when the case was made exactly how those increased tax dollars would be spent there was a strong support for it in the Denver region. So it is about the public lands, but it's also about these broader issues and tying the two together. And for me it's the concept of taking the new economy, the traditional economies, and finding that common pragmatic ground off which to operate. And that provides Democrats, I think, with some real openings in the West. And it is where, I think, this next presidential election will be decided. And it's an area that all of you here should watch carefully in this cycle this fall, both at the state level, when it comes to the governors who are running for election and in the Legislatures. We're involved in quite a battle in Colorado to hold the two Houses of the Legislature. And I think right now the odds are that we will hold those two bodies, because we've proven we want to govern. We want to solve problems. And I think there's an increasing sense that the dominant party here in Washington doesn't want to solve problems. Power is the end all. And that's another opening for Democrats. Thanks for having me. I look forward to questions and comments from the audience as I too try and understand the region from which I hail.

Will Marshall: Well thank you very much, Mark, for those comments and for underscoring, you know, the changing economic base in the West. Because I think that's so important to understanding this potential shift in the political alignments. But let me start things off by asking you both, you know, about energy policy. Obviously there's a much greater emphasis on securing what we can get from our own resources. And gas is particularly under pressure now, natural gas. So the question really is, you know, is the West, is there a growing constituency in the West for new clean energy, renewable energy policies? Or are Democrats still seen, or branded as a party that is against the exploitation of the resources that we have at hand and could presumably tap to help us meet our problems right away?

Mark Udall: There's a lot of excitement, I speak for my home state of Colorado, but I think more broadly around the West when it comes to tapping these renewable energy sources there is a consortium now, the 25 by '25 Group and I know David is familiar with it and Will as well. Which, again, is one of these new coalitions of the Ag interests, environmental interests and economic interest, including VCs, venture capitalists, who see potential in the abundant sun and wind in the West. And it was reflected in the Amendment 37 initiative that I mentioned earlier. It really hasn't focused on, primarily it's job creation. I co-chaired the Amendment 37 campaign with the former speaker of our statehouse Lola Spradley, who's a moderate to conservative Republican. And in the 2004 cycle it shocked people because the two of us actually rode around in the same car together and got out at campaign stops and talked about the importance of this, not just to Colorado, but to the country. She said to me, initially, Mark if you talk about greenhouse gas emissions I'm going to strangle you. This is about economic development. Or she called it eco-devo, which sounded a little bit like she was from Boulder. But that really appealed to people and then of course you have the environmental benefits are obvious. And then this increasing focus on national security, which is very important to me and is the nexus of my responsibilities on the resources, armed services and science committees, which all have a key role to play in this regard.

But it also was appealing to people in an idealistic manner because of the importance of agrarian values and the agrarian experience to our system of government, to our vision of ourselves as Americans. So there is, Will, a lot of interest and a lot of excitement in the West about tapping these resources. We're helped of course by the fact that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is in Colorado. The president paid a visit to the laboratory. Magically we reinstated the 32 jobs that had been cut a week earlier by the Bush administration. The head of Human Resources at the lab said that when asked how he was going to bring these people back, he said I don't have a playbook for that. This is the first time that's ever happened. We fired people one week and brought them back the next week. The point was though it shouldn't be just 32 jobs that are created. It ought to be 1032 jobs. It ought to be 10,032 jobs.

On the other side of this, the fossil fuel exploitation in the West, I think we are willing to do our part. But we're not willing to be a national sacrifice. We want to know these lands are going to be reclaimed. There is an ongoing debate about subsurface and surface ownership rights. And in the Colorado Legislature, as we speak, there's an attempt to give the surface owners more say in how those oil and gas resources are developed. David knows this very well having served in the Department of Interior. Again, that coalition is being led by farmers and ranchers and private property owners who feel like they're being run roughshod over by some of the oil and gas companies. There's also been, as a part of this concern about the quality of the water that's extracted when you in particular produce coal bed methane, because in order to bring the methane up you have to bring water first. And some of that water can be used, but some of it is actually overly saline and can cause real problems to watersheds in an area where water is everything. You know the old saying, "Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over," still rules in the West. There are concerns about how that water is being used. I just introduced a bill, actually yesterday, to look at that so-called produced water. And when it's appropriate, put it to beneficial use. When it's not, then we ought to make sure that we get back in the ground or we treat it in such a way that doesn't negatively affect watersheds, livestock, wildlife.

So there's just a lot of turning going on around energy. We want to do our part. And we think of it as an economic development opportunity. But we're not going to be a national sacrifice though. And I don't care whether you're a Republican or Democrat or increasingly Independents of course make up the Western electorate, people get this. And truly the sky is the limit when it comes to new energy development in the West and in renewable areas.

Will Marshall: David?

David Hayes: Just one quick additional point, Mark. Mark covered the points on the traditional oil and gas side very well, which I think the bottom line is the West has been, will continue to be and should be an important source of domestic oil and gas supplies. The question is how do you do it responsibly? And the point is to bring the needle back from over here to the middle. And on the renewable side, which Mark has been an enormous champion of, he's too modest to talk about it, but this is one of the areas that he has championed in Colorado and throughout the West. Let's move to wind and solar. And get the money into those technologies and find the opportunities. And the West has enormous opportunities in both regards. The final quick point I want to make is about climate change, a thing you couldn't talk to your colleague about. It's very interesting to me at least how climate change is infecting, I think, the American public in terms of a recognition that this is a serious problem.

And this, probably, this fact I think more than anything else is going to start, and high gas prices, gasoline prices, is going to, is changing our view of whether we have an energy policy that revolves around oil and gas. And Westerners, I think, are particularly attuned to it because of the importance of the physical environment to many Westerners. Let me finally say that I think there are special opportunities in the West, not only because of renewable energy opportunities, but also part of the carbon cycle involves keeping carbon in our forests and in our range lands and protecting those resources. And as we move to a market-based cap and trade system, as we inexorably will, there will be opportunities, I think, for Western ranchers, farmers, foresters, to participate in this economically. Senator Feinstein, just two weeks ago, introduced a bill, a climate change bill, that is based largely on a template of the McCain Lieberman bill. But adds an important feature of low-cost carbon credits for rural America, protecting, for farmers who manage their lands in a way that protects the carbon in it, low-till agriculture, etc, for foresters, for ranchers etc. There's going to be a new participation opportunity for many Westerners, I think, on climate change.

Mark Udall: David's exactly right and this town, increasingly, since I arrived here seven years ago you have to sloganeer. But here's one for you, the road to energy independence leads right through rural America. And it's clear that that's where a lot of the solutions lie. And people in rural America are increasingly excited about the possibilities. And it's an opening for, again, a Democratic Party that wants to solve problems and find solutions. And there is this turning over of political allegiances I find increasingly in my state and I think throughout the West.

Will Marshall: I think that's such an important point. It's not just carbon sequestration and control. It's also biofuels, which could be huge for farmers in the Midwest, I mean to try to move them off the subsidy, crops subsidy regime.

David Hayes: And as we deal with the forest fire problem in the West, as we mechanically balance, you know, forest fire suppression efforts involve obviously both setting fires on a controlled basis, but also some mechanical thinning. There's a lot of biomass that is going to come out of those forests, job opportunities and energy possibilities.

Mark Udall: The ski industry is leading in a number of ways because the effects of climate change will be felt as much as anywhere else in the country in the West and in the Rocky Mountain West in particular. We did have that discussion, by the way. Carson Blumenauer, when I was speaking with him one day about the West and he said, now wait a minute, we're the West in Oregon. I said, well, what are we then? He said, well, you're the Rocky Mountain West. So I think that's a term we can accept. But the ski industry is really aware of the potential here to negatively be affected by climate change. In last week's Time magazine, in personalities they profile there, included a young man Oden Schindler, who's involved with the Aspen Ski Corporation and some of the work he's doing to really push better awareness in the industry and to change their own practices. Which is back, in part, to what Will was saying and David, which is there is an upwelling of local activity and action in the West when it comes to many of these public policy challenges that we face. And this is one where people are tired of waiting on the federal government frankly and are going to take things into their own hands. More power to them.

[End of Audio]