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Washington Governor Jay Inslee on his last big climate fight
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Washington Governor Jay Inslee on his last big climate fight

A conversation with the longtime climate champion during his final year in office.
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In this episode, recorded at a live event, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee discusses his multiple decades of climate advocacy, his political successes, and the upcoming threat to one of his crowning achievements.

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(Active transcript)

Text transcript:

David Roberts

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has not had a huge national political profile — most listeners will remember his modest-but-influential 2020 presidential run, which helped elevate climate as a priority issue among Democrats — but in his home state of Washington, he is practically a political institution, with a career in public service that has spanned over 30 years.

A little over a year ago, he announced that he will not seek a fourth term as governor, which means that storied career is winding down.

Inslee, who’s been a climate advocate since the early 2000s, is ending his tenure in the wake of a remarkable recent run of successes. Washington now has some of the nation's strongest laws decarbonizing electricity, transportation, and buildings, and alongside that, it has a steadily declining statutory cap on emissions. It's a suite of climate policies that not many states can match.

Jay Inslee
Jay Inslee

Inslee has one fight left, though. An initiative that will appear on the Washington ballot in November would repeal the Climate Commitment Act, the state’s “cap-and-invest” program, which is Inslee’s crowning achievement. In addition to a declining cap on emissions, the CCA provides the state budget with billions of dollars a year to spend on climate infrastructure; repealing it would throw the budget into chaos, among many other dire effects.

To make matters even more irksome, the initiative is sponsored and funded by a right-wing hedge-fund manager, Brian Heywood.

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At a live event on June 11th, at The Royal Room in south Seattle (co-sponsored by Climate Solutions and Canary Media), I chatted with Inslee about the irritating initiative, what remains to be done in Washington, his presidential run, and his plans for the future. Then the audience followed up with a wide variety of questions of their own. It was a good time! Enjoy.

Lisa Hymas

Who's excited to be here?

Gregg Small

Gregg Small with Climate Solutions. Now, I feel like I should do a stand-up comedy act. This is kind of weird. I won't, I'm not that funny. It would be hard to overstate my excitement about this. Couple reasons: Number one, Royal Room, best venue in Seattle. Love this place. So good.

Number two, well, not my favorite podcast overall, but definitely my favorite climate podcast. And one of my favorite podcasts. It's going poorly. No, seriously, the David Roberts podcast is amazing. I love it. I listen to it all the time. It's fantastic. And then to have a live podcast and be part of it is very cool. And then, of course, doing a live podcast at The Royal Room with David Roberts, interviewing this guy, it's a pretty cool night. Thank you so much for being here. I want to hand it over to Lisa, our partner in crime, for helping to host this. Lisa.

Lisa Hymas

All right, thanks. I'm Lisa Hymas. I'm with Canary Media. We are a publication that covers clean energy. David Roberts is an editor at large for us. So, we're excited to be here tonight with the governor and David for this great conversation.

Gregg Small

Awesome.

Lisa Hymas

And to be supporting that.

Gregg Small

Without further ado, David, please join us. Governor Inslee.

David Roberts

Hello, everyone. Hello, Governor.

Governor Jay Inslee

Good afternoon.

David Roberts

Super excited to be here. Like Lisa said, or Gregg said, one of them said, I run a newsletter and podcast called Volts. You can sign up and subscribe at volts.wtf. It's entirely subscriber-supported, so, you know, go support it. All right. I had to say that or else several people will yell at me. All right, Governor, let's start. I have a bunch of things I want to ask you about, but I know that you've probably got some stuff to get off your chest about a particular topic, so let's start there. A couple of years ago, the Washington legislature passed the Climate Commitment Act, a historic nation-leading set of climate policies for Washington.

This round, there's some hedge fund dude — thank you, Brian Heywood. Some hedge fund dude, Brian Heywood, has decided that this is a secret communist woke tax and has spent the $5 million required to gin up enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot 2117 that would repeal the Climate Commitment Act. So, let's just start by — why don't you just tell us what the Climate Commitment Act is and what it would mean for it to be repealed.

Governor Jay Inslee

Thank you, David. Thanks for that softball question. I appreciate it.

David Roberts

We call that a lob in the business.

Governor Jay Inslee

I appreciate that. But before we do that, here's what I want to get off my chest. I'm in a really good-looking bar here on a stage and I have never felt more like one of the Blues Brothers during my lifetime to be with you up here. So, I'm really, really excited about this and hopefully, it's as equally entertaining as Jake and Elroy. Well, look, Washington state is a state that really wants to protect its children from the ravages of air pollution. It's a state that recognizes we're such a beautiful state with trees and clean water.

It's a state that recognizes that we can use our brains to create clean energy technology, to create whole new job industries. And because we believe in those three things, we passed the Climate Commitment Act. The Climate Commitment Act basically starts with — in some degree, might be unfortunately named, it is a pollution reduction control act. It fights pollution. And anybody who doesn't like pollution should like the Climate Commitment Act. Anybody like this Brian Heywood, who wants unlimited pollution, he thinks that's wonderful, that that's what the creator really meant for the earth. He may not like the Climate Commitment Act, but the first thing it does is it does something very radical.

It helps our people, our children breathe. And our kids have an epidemic of asthma right now. And because it limits carbon pollution, it limits not only carbon dioxide, which of course, is causing the climate to go haywire, so to speak, but it also, at the same time, prevents small particulate matter from getting in our kids' lungs, which causes massive problems for our children, by the way, not just children. We have twelve counties in our state that we have found out have premature death of two and a half years. In twelve counties, because they have high particulate matter, high use of fossil fuels, they have premature death of an average of two and a half years.

Think about that. That's killing our people. So, the Climate Commitment Act is a very effective way to, first, the most important thing about it, it limits pollution. There's a concrete, enforceable, legally meaningful cap on pollution so you can get cleaner air. And then what it does is it helps Washingtonians make a transition to a cleaner system of our economy in hundreds, if not thousands, of ways. I mean, today I was just at a woman named Portia's house over in Issaquah, a low-income person. She got a new heat pump, right? So now she gets reduced utility bills.

We have electric school buses going to our schools. We have air filtration systems going to our schools. We have a massive amount of clean energy transportation investments being made. We have utility credits at $200 a month to help people. So, it provides now over a billion dollars of assistance to Washingtonians to help them make this transition in a very reasonably, economically reasonable way. So, it fights pollution, it limits pollution. It helps Washingtonians make this transition, and it grows the economy like crazy. Our economy is a rocket engine on clean fuel right now, from battery production to fuel cells to electric powered airplanes.

Man, we're rocking it. So, that's a thumbnail of what the Climate Commitment Act is — and this dastardly, low-life effort to take it away from Washington. I've said, "You're not prying the Climate Commitment Act out of our cold, dead fingers," okay? This is staying in the state of Washington.

David Roberts

I get the intensity of feeling about it. But let's talk political realities, real quick. Brian Heywood has said he's not contributing any more money to it. The oil guys, interestingly, have said publicly that they're not getting involved in it. Like the Western Petroleum States Petroleum Association has said they're staying out of it. Everybody and their sister is contributing to the no on 2117 campaign — Bill Gates and all sorts of clean energy champions. So, do you feel pretty good about beating it, I guess in November is what I'm saying? Like, it seems like the side that wants to preserve it is outraising its opponents, has more people on its side than its opponents. It just doesn't, it seems like a kind of a, almost like a kind of a half-ass effort on their part. Are you really scared of it passing?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I don't wake up being scared, but I wake up being cautious and aggressive. And we want to be both. Look, you just can't take anything for granted. We have to win this. And by the way, we don't want to just defeat it. We want to crush it. We want to make sure it never raises its ugly head again. And so it's really important that we not only defeat it, but we defeat it as convincingly as possible. And I do believe this is one thing that's important. And for the folks who are listening to this, wherever you are in New Jersey or Indiana, wherever you are, this is an issue in your neighborhood, because we have to win this.

We don't want a message from Washington State going to the rest of the political class of members of Congress and legislators to think this was potentially rejected. So, this is a very important national fight that we're having here in Washington State. That's why it's so important. Yes, we have a massive coalition. It's actually one of the strengths of our position that our coalition is so strong, from nonprofit housing community, to healthcare folks, through Physicians for Social Responsibility, to businesses large and small, to folks in agriculture. We have a huge coalition which shows you how healthy our position is on it. But we have to be very aggressive to make sure we're successful.

David Roberts

It does seem like one of the differences this time around is that there is not just the nonprofits and the sort of do-gooders, but there's a huge business community.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, listen, the business community, we got a lot of smart business people in our state, and they understand the future is in clean energy. They are seeing the development of these businesses, large and small, that are just exploding. If I may, just give me a minute. Just give you a rundown of what the state of Washington looks like. So we'll start in central Washington, Moses Lake, formerly pretty much just an agricultural community. What do they have now? They have two leading battery manufacturing companies that are making silicon anode batteries that extend the life of your battery in your car and the range by like 30%.

And, you know, I was talking to people in Europe. They are so excited about these companies in Washington state. Right around the corner is REC Silicon. They're making silane gas, which goes into solar panels and batteries and everything. And that's in central Washington. We're looking eastward where we have the proliferation of solar and wind. We have the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the western hemisphere in Bellingham. One of the largest trucks in the world is now powered by a fuel cell made in South Seattle. And the first airplane ever to fly, the first commercially sized airplane ever to fly in human history on batteries and another airplane on fuel cells, took off from the same airport in the last year and a half, which is Moses Lake airport. And so the business community is seeing this explosion of industrial support. And I predicted, you know, I wrote a book about this and nobody here read , you know, twelve years ago they said.

David Roberts

"Apollo's Fire" — look it up. Amazon.com.

Governor Jay Inslee

There's one volume left, I think so. But we knew this was going to happen, and the business community knows it is happening in our state, and it's both small, medium, and large. Obviously, Microsoft and Amazon are very active in this effort. So, I think it's a recognition of the economic reality and opportunity why we have such a broad business sport. You know, the chambers of commerce are coming, you know, and sometimes, you know, to have a coalition between chambers of commerce, nonprofit developers, the environmental community, the labor community, the builders building our future, who are actually doing this work.

That is — I've never seen this coalition since the days of Adam and Eve. This is the closest thing we've come to unity in world history.

David Roberts

Yeah, yeah. It's interesting not to be pushing the rock uphill against money, against big money. Right. It's almost like the money people have almost come around. Final question about this, which is, you know, there's this sort of one MAGA billionaire sees a Fox segment, gets upset, writes a $5 million check, and next thing you know, hundreds of people are having to spend hours and hours of their time fighting this. Millions of dollars have to be raised, basically just like this army has to rise in response to this guy writing a $5 million check. And he could easily just write another $5 million check next time.

And if not him, there's some other MAGA billionaire who would write a $5 million check. Is there something broken in the initiative process? How do you think about the initiative process these days? Because it does seem like it's, to some extent, been hacked by bad actors.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I understand what you're saying, but we have Dave Roberts.

David Roberts

Who needs $5 million?

Governor Jay Inslee

Look, you know, we have a very easily used access for initiatives in our state, and I would not speak against doing that. It is unfortunate that one person who's a follower to Donald Trump has put this on, by the way, in multiple initiatives, not just this one. He's trying to gut our school funding by gutting, eliminating a capital gains tax. He's trying to take healthcare away in another initiative that would stop us from having long-term care.

David Roberts

And there were three others that the legislature took up and passed.

Governor Jay Inslee

This is Donald Trump's dream that he wants to live in Washington state, and that's a nightmare, and that's why it's not gonna happen. So, I feel that I would not change the initiative process. It has been hijacked in this individual circumstance. But while we start to feel sorry for ourselves that we actually have to do some work in this regard, let me point out that nothing in human history that involves significant change that really leads to a brighter future has been done without massive effort over multiple, multiple years. And there's always some person who didn't get the memo of what century you're in who wants to go backwards.

That's always the case. So, this is a reaction by the mega folks. We got to understand that's our lot in life, to continue to fight this, and it's a noble fight. So, I get up and say, thank you. Hallelujah. We had a good fight on our hands. That's how I look at it.

David Roberts

Over the last five years, 10, 15, 20 years, we've been fighting this fight. But finally, over the last five years, we've gotten the Clean Energy Transformation Act, which is going to clean up the electricity sector in Washington. We got a clean fuels standard, finally, after many, many years of fighting for that. We got several bills on buildings, on building cleanliness and building codes, and we got the Climate Commitment Act. So, we've got, you know, this is sort of the wonks' climate package here. You've got electricity, transportation, and buildings. And then beneath it all, a price on carbon or above it all, a cap on carbon.

Governor Jay Inslee

By the way, I want to point this out, too. Because the fact that there's a price is actually the secondary part of this, the most important of it is the cap. The price is simply a way to allocate the permits for this situation. It's the cap that's really going to save people's lives. And I just want to point that out. It's not just the price.

David Roberts

I really love it for you that we finally got a cap because you've been fighting for a cap on climate emissions since the 1900s, as my niece would put it. So, given all that, it looks pretty good. So, I have two questions about that. One is, and I'm trying to bait you into saying something interesting here, do you ever think, maybe looking back, that it was for the best that the two high-profile carbon tax initiatives failed? Do you think we ended up in a better place than we otherwise would have ended up?

Governor Jay Inslee

I have a hard time thinking in those terms. But I will say that, and this is again, alluding to what I just said, the great benefit of what we now have in place, it is an absolute limit on pollution. It does not depend on some secondary cost associated with the product to reduce the pollution. It's an absolute binding limit. It can be enforced through the law of the state of Washington. So, having that is a great result. I don't want to say anything interesting here because I don't run my life looking at the rearview mirror to be able to answer that question.

And no, it is a shame that it has taken this long. I started working on this in 1995. It is a crying shame that we've had, frankly, the Republicans fighting us tooth and nail. It's been a crying shame that their candidates have been, you know, the flat earth folks to deny climate. And that has retarded progress. And it has been horrifically painful to me to know that my grandkids and our kids have been exposed to this because of this delay. But as you've pointed out, we are now rocking it and we're going at warp speed in Washington State.

By the way, I want to mention, come up with things you didn't list that are important. You know, one of the things is we want to ease the ability of Washingtonians to get access to clean energy, including electric vehicles. And the purchase price of EVs has been one obstacle at the moment. Now, it's coming down very, very rapidly. As you know, reported yesterday, it's darn near close to internal combustion right now. But we're very proud. We're the first state in the nation to start a leasing program where we will subsidize leases for people who earn less than $95,000 a year.

So, you can get access to an electric car and only have, like, a monthly payment of under $100. V ery proud of that. That's a very important thing to accelerate the EVs. And I'm proud of Washington state leading the country. And on the building code issue, I point out, you mentioned that the building code, we've got the best, most efficient building codes in the United States. This is an underreported issue, and we're very, very happy about that.

David Roberts

So, then you got transportation, buildings, and electricity and a cap. Is there a big agenda item that you feel like you're leaving without accomplishing? Is there a hole in that somewhere? Is there a big thing that you wish you could have done before you left that you weren't able to get to or we weren't able to get done?

Governor Jay Inslee

The issue now is the implementation of these laws and to make sure there's no backsliding, and you just don't want to allow backsliding. I'll give you an example of that. I guess there's maybe some risk of that. So, we've decided that we want to build this century's ferry boats with this century's technology, not the last century's technology, which was diesel. So, we're building them electric with electric propulsion systems. So, there's no pollution, zero emissions coming out of them. They're quiet, there's no vibration. They distribute —

David Roberts

They have the hydroplanes, the little skis on the bottom. They're very cool.

Governor Jay Inslee

Not quite got to the hydroplanes. That's for the two more governors, I think. But, so, we have five now — we just went out for bid a couple days ago for five new electric boats. Right. Well, some folks said, "No, no, let's just scrap the electric ones and go build diesel." Well, that kind of backsliding, first off, it's brain-dead, because if you did this, you would actually delay the production of ferry boats by, like, two years because you'd have to start the whole process of acquisition, redesign. So, it would actually delay things. But again, you always have these forces of kind of the past that just are clinging to the past.

And I think the most important thing is to continue our rate of progress on these things. Now, we want to continue to build as robust a program as we can to help low-income people throughout all of this transition. I'm sure there's more things that we can do. We started the planning process over time, over decades, so that we can have electric in our house instead of gas. And, you know, it's called natural gas, but it's deadly because it increases fossil fuel pollution and it contributes to climate change. So, over time, over the decades, we wanted to see to it that people have an option to move to electric heating and cooling, as this woman I met in Issaquah today.

So, there's a lot more work to do, but I think we're on the right course.

David Roberts

Do you feel confident that Bob Ferguson has this in his heart where it needs to be?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, as long as it's in his pen, the heart is peripheral on this issue, okay? We shall be judged by our actions and not our secret emotions. No, I think Bob has demonstrated that he wants to move forward on climate. He understands it. He's a person who gets the outdoors. He climbs the mountain every year with his son Jack, which is pretty cool. He understands what an incredible spot we have in the state of Washington. He's evinced a willingness to fight big corporate interests, like big time. He's been looked at as one of the most courageous attorney generals in the United States.

He actually doesn't get enough credit for this. But the attorney generals around the state frequently look to him for leadership on these actions against big corporations that are not respecting consumer rights and the like. So, I think he's demonstrated a willingness to stand up for basic core values, and I feel good about that. His opponent, not so much.

David Roberts

One of, in my mind, at least, one of the most significant developments in climate thinking in the last five years or so is this whole sort of nexus of issues around urbanism. So, we know we have a housing crisis. We don't have enough housing. We desperately need more housing. The price of housing is going up everywhere, even in rural areas now. On the other hand, we're still building too much in the wrong places. We're still sprawling out into green field stuff. We're still sprawling out next to fire zones, you know, the wildfire zones. And the reason we're doing that is because it's very, very, very difficult to build in the cities where we need to be building up infill because of NIMBYs, because of zoning, because of, you know, legislators that don't get it.

So, I just wonder — anyway, this is all my opinion, I'm editorializing — I'm wondering where you are on that nexus of issues, how you think about that and what you feel like Washington is and isn't doing well on that score.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, there is an enormous connection between our urban planning and our transportation planning and climate change. Huge. And it's underreported. It's under-discussed, and I think you're really right on the beam on this. The Climate Commitment Act — they are trying to take away our ability to deal with this issue. Let me give an example. Over $3 billion of this will go to transportation options, which help avoid that. So you can get transportation, bike, sidewalks in an urban environment, so you can live closer to work and not have to drive 50 miles to work on a crowded interstate.

That would take away the ability of Washingtonians to get those transportation assistance and gut our transportation budget, including the five ferries, which would have no way to replace these ferry fleets. So, this is a takeaway from our ability to do those kind of things. But we also have to do on our zoning planning, and that's why I've been very active trying to get the legislatures to improve our zoning so there's not so much restrictive zoning to prevent higher density in our urban environment. We passed a bill this year to move in that direction. I think there's more work that needs to be done in that regard.

This is absolutely critical. Because, you know, I think I've been a decent governor, but we haven't created one acre additional of Washington. This is a limited geographic area, and we got to figure out how to live in it. So, the Climate Commitment Act is very important in that respect, but it's not the only game in town. It's zoning issues as well, and transportation planning. We need to plan our transportation system to recognize we have to have higher capacity corridors, and we're doing that. I was very excited about the expansion of light rail from Bellevue to Redmond, which, by the way, people went nuts with.

There were like 17,000 people there the day this thing opened up. It's just wonderful to see that kind of development that's going on.

David Roberts

Yeah, one sort of thing people point to that's pushing in the wrong direction on this is lots of state departments of transportation are sort of viewed, I think, by the climate community as kind of like rogue agencies, just like highway-besotted agencies that don't seem restrained at all by the larger drift of policy in this direction. So, like in Minnesota, for instance, they passed a law that says the Department of Transportation, specifically when dealing with highway projects, has to take our climate commitment into account concretely when discussing highway projects. Would you support something like that? How do you feel about the Department of Transportation's role in all this?

Governor Jay Inslee

I think our department has done an exceptional job in building low-carbon infrastructure, exceptional, probably the best in the United States. And that's because I've put people in charge of that who have been dedicated to that. Lynn Peterson, our first Department Secretary, came out of Oregon who was very instrumental in active transportation issues. If you look at our budget for transportation, I should have this number, but a huge percentage goes to active zero-emitting transportation. It's got to be 30, 40% of all our money in our transportation budget. So, I would say that because we have good leadership at DOT, we don't need a statute because we're actually doing the work.

But again, all of that assistance, all of that help, all of that progress would be destroyed by this wrong-headed initiative. And so, the damage it would do to our transportation in the state of Washington maybe is not incalculable, but it is profound. And our kids ought to be able to have a safe way to walk to school. I don't think that's a communist plot.

David Roberts

Okay, I heard that 15-minute cities, though, are a UN plot. Are you sure of it?

Governor Jay Inslee

Maybe so. But, that is a huge issue, and I'm glad what we're doing in our state.

David Roberts

One of your fellow governors, the governor of New York, just a few days ago rode in at the very last minute and suspended a plan to implement congestion pricing in New York City, a plan that had been proposed, I think, in 2009 and worked on by hosts of people diligently ever since, was on the verge of implementation. She's now suspended it. So, two questions. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that decision and whether it was wise or not? And two, on congestion pricing, whether you are a fan of that and would support something like that for Seattle?

Governor Jay Inslee

Number one, I don't make it a habit of criticizing other governors, particularly Democrats. Number one —

David Roberts

Aren't you a former head of the DGA? I think you're not allowed by law to criticize —

Governor Jay Inslee

Yeah, there's a bylaw or something. No, I mean, seriously, I have not talked to her about this situation. I don't know what her thinking was. I don't know how much it might have been that operationally they just weren't ready to operationalize it. I don't know whether that was her concern or not. So, I'm leery about criticizing her decision on that. And so, I won't. On the issue of congestion pricing, I think it can have a place in certain places. It has had success in certain places. I have not proposed it in Washington State. I don't think our density has led that to be a solution to this.

I think the Climate Commitment Act is a more viable solution to this, to give people new ways to get to work in a way that is non-polluting, that doesn't also necessarily involve paving over the cities with super freeways. And so, we're taking an approach with light rail, electric buses, sidewalks, bike lanes, you name it. That's the approach we're taking in Washington State.

David Roberts

I know you just said a second ago, and have said many, many times that you don't live in the rearview mirror and you like to look forward and so on and so forth, but nonetheless, I'm going to try to induce you to glance in the rearview mirror, because not that long ago you ran a presidential campaign. And to my mind, it was probably, in terms of influence per dollar spent, one of the most influential presidential campaigns of my lifetime, even though the whole thing was relatively small in the grand scheme of things. I just wonder, looking back on that now, how you think about that, whether it went the way you expected it to go and wanted it to go, and whether you now view it as a success — I mean, obviously not "success" success, or else you'd be president right now — but whether it accomplished what you wanted it to accomplish?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, it's no secret that I ran for president, but it sure seemed like one at the time. By the way, that's an Al Gore line. I stole that from Al Gore, so he knew what it felt like, too. I'm not sure whether to call it a success or not, but I'm very glad I did it for multiple reasons. One, I do think it had some impact on the debate. I think it ultimately inspired other candidates to higher glory and setting the bar higher. I'm pleased, flattered, and would like to believe when Joe Biden tells me that it had an impact on his eventual thing, which has been fantastic.

Kudos to Joe Biden for giving us the best climate program in world history. This Inflation Reduction Act — might have been an inappropriately named act, but in any event — what it's doing for my state is so profound. The business development, the help for people to get heat pumps and electric, it's just fantastic. And, you know, my candidacy, I'm told, had some impact on moving the field in that direction. So I'm glad I did it. I also did it because it was a very inspiring thing to get a taste of democracy. And for those who want to be cynical about this process, and there's a lot of reasons to be cynical right now, but when you go to, like, Iowa and you sit down and you talk to these people who really care about their country and really want to make a right choice.

Unfortunately, too many of them made the wrong choice, unfortunately. But it was just very inspiring to me. So, I'm really glad I did it.

David Roberts

Yeah, and on the larger political climate right now, I mean, as you say, there are lots of reasons to be disheartened right now. Things seem to be going in the wrong direction in politics and in media. And it just kind of seems like all our institutions are failing us at the moment and we're careening towards something kind of horrible. Is there? You know, you're a congenital optimist. You've been diagnosed before. What do you say to people who look out at this sort of manifestly unfit, now serially indicted rapist, conman, grifter, whatever else?

Governor Jay Inslee

Wait, but you just got started.

David Roberts

I know. That's like one-fifth of the adjectives I have — at the very least, in a close race. Why is it close? I think a lot of young people, a lot of people just generally, are mystified and depressed by the state of national politics. And I just wonder whether you have any, whether you are also mystified and depressed, or whether you see some reason for hope? Are we going through something that we're going to get through or, like, what's happening?

Governor Jay Inslee

So, I think depression is our enemy because it leads to passivity, which leads to lack of action, which means you lose what you care about. So, that's very much a danger. And when I talk to people who are disheartened by the moment that we are in, I talk to them about two things. One, there is actually an antidote for that, which is action. Okay? If you want to feel better, if you want to get over that darkness and despair, go take some action.

David Roberts

You mean like tweeting?

Governor Jay Inslee

Anything. Like blogging, tweeting, talking to your neighbor, voting, anything. Any action you take is good for you and your mental health. And I'm really serious about this. This is a mental health issue for a lot of people, being in heavy despair right now. So, number one, get better, take care of yourself by taking action. That's the number one. The second thing I would say is that — my wife, when I was early as a governor, you know, when you're governor, a new governor, it can be a little challenging job, right? It's a new gig. You've never done it before.

There are certain challenges. On occasion, I'd come home and, you know, pop off to her about the difficulty of the day, and she got me a little coin dish. It's a quote from Winston Churchill when he was walking through London during the Blitz and he was walking through the capital, it's burning down and crumbling, and people have been hurt and killed. A guy walked up to him and said, "How do you get through these darkest days of — these are the worst possible days?" And he looked at the guy and he says, "No, no, these are great days."

And that's my little question. These are great days because these are days of consequence, where the time you live in has meaning of what you can do. Number two, we all can do something about it. And these are the greatest days, I would argue, even though with the challenges we have of human history, and I'm serious about this, and there's been a lot of human history, but there's no other time in the history of our species where so much was at stake, where the whole shooting match was at stake, where the whole future of all multiple generations are at stake.

We are the luckiest generation in human history to have something that is so meaningful to fight for. So, when I'm out there trying to help people on this misbegotten effort to take away climate change, I feel that's a blessing. And that's how I feel about it. Engendering those feelings. That's what I wake up in the morning thinking. I wake up feeling great. I hope everybody else does, too. By the way, Donald Trump, don't get me started.

David Roberts

I think we can take it as accepted in this room. So, I want to get to audience questions, but last question. So, I looked it up last night. The first time we met. The first time I met you was in 2011. It was just after you had declared your candidacy for governor. We drove up to northern Washington to a solar panel manufacturing facility in northern Washington. Those were much more modest days. I think we were in a — we were crammed in the backseat of a Honda Fit that one of your staffers owned.

Governor Jay Inslee

He's advanced. We got a Bolt now. So, we've gotten big time.

David Roberts

I'm sure you've moved up in the world. But even at that point, you had been in public life for 20 years, and now, 13 years later, you're the longest-serving governor in the country, by the way. I don't know if people knew that.

Governor Jay Inslee

By the way, you think these people think it's long. My enemies think it's a lot longer.

David Roberts

They're like, "This guy still?" But now, having, you know, I think, given the public and public life more than any human could reasonably be asked for. Are you going to do the sensible thing and go sip cocktails on a beach somewhere, or do you have other plans for your post-governorship?

Governor Jay Inslee

If I knew how to surf, I would be on a beach every single day. But I don't know how to surf.

David Roberts

It's never too late. It's never too late. That's what they say.

Governor Jay Inslee

I've tried it. It's just too tough for me, you know. I don't know what my future is, except that we'll be fighting this fight. There is no more noble pursuit. I have six grandchildren. I'm committed to doing everything I can. So, in the last day, you can say, I did everything I could. So, I'm going to find out the most effective thing I can do to help beat this monster of climate change and build a clean energy economy. I'm going to find out what's the most effective role that I can play in this regard. I don't know what that is yet, but I'm committed to it and I intend to be active in that regard.

David Roberts

All right, well, look forward to that. So, we have a mic back there in the corner. If you have questions, you can go line up. Just to say, the Governor is not allowed to be rude to people. But I am. So, if you have more of a comment than a question, I encourage you so strongly to not. Save it for after the event. We are here to ask questions of the Governor or me. I don't know why you would ask me a question, but either of us are open to questions, if anybody has any.

Patrick

Hi, my name is Patrick. I work on climate solutions in the storage space. My question is, I'm usually heads down, focused on a really myopic problem, like a really small part of even a smaller problem in the grand scheme of solving climate change. So, what would you recommend? Or what do you most often see that you wish people working on the solutions thought about in terms of the political side or the whole scale of the entire fight? Like, what advice would you give to someone like me who's really focused on small aspects of the problem so I don't miss the forest for the trees?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, first off, let me disagree with you a little bit. There's no small part of this solution. There really isn't. There's a thousand technologies that we're going to have to deploy and develop, and battery storage or storage in general is a hugely important part of this. Everyone knows to fully integrate the accessible renewable energy we have of solar, wind, and the whole nine yards, you have to improve and develop a storage capability to ramp up those waves in the curve. So, I would say there's no small thing in this effort. Whatever you're doing. Bless you.

We really appreciate it. The one thing I would suggest is to find a way to share your story with the broader public. I think this is really important because when I look at this whole climate change issue, you don't win arguments based on despair and gloom. You just don't. You win arguments based on confidence, optimism, and a can-do spirit of a cleaner and healthier future that we know we can build if we put our minds to it. And so, helping people to develop that vision where they can see the future coming, that's the most important thing we can do here.

The folks kind of get that the climate is kind of a problem nowadays, right? But we need to help them see the vision of the future of what we're going to do to avoid this problem. And people in your position can help on that. Go talk to your church, your Kiwanis, your neighbors, anybody you can find, and tell them what you're doing. Tell them why you believe this is going to be possible. And I think doing that is really, really important. And if we do that, people are going to embrace this because we essentially are a can-do state.

And if we adopt a can-do approach, we're going to beat this initiative. So, let them have it. Don't be quiet.

David Roberts

If I could add one thing, one thing I found that really helps people feel better about the larger movement and able to see outside their silo, is just hearing from other people like you, who are working on other small parts of the problem in other places. And you listen to enough of those and you're like, "Oh, there's an army. I'm not alone. There's an army out there of people doing all these small things." And the best way to hear about all those little people doing all those little jobs and around all those little places is to listen to Volts. So...

Patrick

Yeah, this was just a prop for that.

David Roberts

Yeah, yeah. Thank you for setting that up.

John

Hello. My name's John. I work in the climate finance space, and rumor has it that Washington may now finally be launching a green bank. Can you confirm these rumors, and can you potentially describe how a green bank could insert itself in the market and how it could help push CCA dollars into the market in conjunction with private capital?

Governor Jay Inslee

Got it. Well, thanks for your work. Finance is obviously very important in this. I cannot confirm the green bank situation because I don't get ahead of my staff on this, so I can't do that for you today. But over time, you and I can talk some more, which I will do as this situation develops. Look, the idea of a green bank is to have a steady flow of capital dedicated to this that is not dependent on appropriations from legislators, so that every year you have to fight in the legislative feeding trough for money for this. That's its basic value as a steady stream and a growing stream of capital.

That's its benefit. I'm glad we're doing it. I'm glad we're starting at a federal level, and I hope that it will be successful. But I will point out again, it's the Climate Commitment Act, stupid, and not you. That is the ability to do these things, because it has created over $2 billion of revenue. That's kind of like a green bank because it's not totally steady, the revenues will go up and down to some degree, but we have this enormous commitment of financing that you might call it the Climate Commitment Bank, in some sense, of revenues that are available. And as long as it's in place and hasn't been destroyed by a MAGA person from wherever, we're in good shape. So, I feel good about it.

David Roberts

And I'll add, which I'm sure you already know, being in finance, but just a month or so ago, the Biden administration handed out $6 billion to green banks and related institutions across the country. So, I'm sure Washington is going to get some small piece of that.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I made a deal with Biden that he will be fair to Washington State, and with fair means, it'll be half for Washington and half for the rest of the country. That's the deal I've made with him. So...

John

Thank you.

Governor Jay Inslee

Thank you.

Keith

Good afternoon, Governor. Thank you for being here with us. Keith, we're with IBEW Local 46 electricians in the region. And Volts, by the way, is a kick-ass name for a podcast, just gotta say, as an electrician. I've attended several conferences on wind energy, right? President Biden heard our message from IBEW. Hence, all the money flowing forward, which is great. 30 gigawatts by 2050. Washington is slated to perhaps right now play a role as a supply chain state for Oregon and Washington. Where do you see Washington and the tribes in Washington coming to agreement to maybe go a little further and actually have some offshore floating wind capabilities out of Washington Strait, rather than just being a supplier?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, first off, hats off to IBEW. Your leadership on this has been incredible. When you look at the success of the clean energy transition, the IBEW just is right in the front of the parade. And I could not be more appreciative of your leadership and Matt's leadership. So, thank you for what you're doing. Now, it's paying off because you're getting giant job creation out of this, right? Good, high paying job. So, this is wonderful for everybody. So, I think that offshore wind, we have the best, I'm told the best wind resources, like, in the world off of our offshore wind, because it basically blows twelve knots constantly off the wind.

So, it's kind of, we're the, you know, the gold mine of wind on our offshore situation, if we can find a way to actually develop it. So, I am hopeful that we can explore ways to do that in a way that allows the fishing industry to thrive, allows our precious salmon to continue and our whales not to be disturbed, and to find a way to do that. I think it's reasonably likely that we can do that if we put our heads together and do the research that is necessary to evaluate those issues and how to do that. I think the technologies are coming on very rapidly to improve our ability to do that.

Some of the new floating wind turbines are much smaller footprint, so they'd be less disturbing to the fishing industries, for instance. We now have GPS systems that can put your boat within 6ft on a line where you want to go. I have to believe that it is capable of going around an obstacle in the water. One of the benefits of not being first is we have the experience of other places where we've looked at the impact of things in the water, which include drilling platforms as well, to get experience about the impact on fishing and the like.

So, we have initiated our own state process to tee up a way to have input from everybody to figure out how to do this. The reason we did that is it sort of collapsed down in Oregon when they went through this sort of federal process. We want to have our own state process for people to come in and ask these questions. I think what we need is for people to come into this, to ask questions, rather than to shut the door before you know what the answer is. And we ought to get these answers. I think it's reasonably probable that we will find answers to these problems so that we can have both clean energy, and both salmon and orca, in our waters.

And the reason I believe that is because of the technological advances that we have had and because other places are experiencing that success. But to do that, we have to have a process where everybody gets a say. The science is actually credible. It's not just a postage stamp on an envelope. You actually have credible science, and then you have a consensus-building process. That's what we want to do. So, I'm hopeful that we go in that direction.

David Roberts

Before that can go forward, don't you have to ask BOEM to do an official assessment of the waters off Washington? And that's — I understand that's sort of somewhat controversial, but, like, if you don't do it, Bob's gonna have to do it, and then he's gonna catch the flak. Is somebody gonna do that?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, we don't have to do that first. We're going through the state process first, and then go to the federal government in that licensing program, frankly, because we have more credibility with tribes and the fishing industry. We're more local folks. We talk to each other more often. We know each other. We hope that will inspire more confidence to have a rational discussion. I was in Europe trying to get clean energy coming to Washington state a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to take people to go look at some of the offshore wind there. We couldn't pull it together, but I really think we need to explore this issue.

David Roberts

Yeah, one final thing I just wanted to tell you in particular. My 18-year-old starts an apprenticeship program in September. He's going to become a lineman.

Governor Jay Inslee

Really? Congratulations. The plumbers are so disappointed.

David Roberts

Sorry, plumbers. All right, next.

Sunita

Hello, my name is Sunita. I'm an educator, and I just wanted to ask a question about the HEAL Act and also decarbonizing the built environment out of natural building materials. Right now, we are lagging the International Residential Code by about two years, which means that building inspectors and those that are in housing aren't familiar with how to do natural building and how to calculate the total embodied carbon of a material.

Governor Jay Inslee

I think that's the next horizon for us. You ask what work is left to be done? I think that's the next horizon for the next governor to explore. As I said, we have the most aggressive building code standards to date, but I do believe there are new technologies around natural building that should be available that we have not wrapped our heads around in the building code system. So, I'm hopeful that can be done in the next several years. And I'm impressed when I see these multiple new technologies coming on. You go up and see the, you know, the straw buildings offered to low income on Lopez Island, and there's all kinds of new, you know, I don't know whether they call it natural or not. I went and saw the masons the other day. And this company's developed a robot to build houses out of this material that's much, much less carbon intensive than concrete. And it builds this with a robot, which is like a printed house, and it goes around and you can print a house, you can do curves. It's really an amazing technology, and it seems like the real thing to me. So, yes, there's more work to be done in that regard.

David Roberts

And surely, the Climate Commitment Act has money in it for — you missed an opportunity. I just wanted to get in.

Governor Jay Inslee

I don't even have to pan.

Julia

I'm Julia, and I work in technology. My question is really about balancing conservation goals with green energy. And my question is around how you're thinking about that? My understanding — maybe you could provide clarity on the recommendations. What was it? It was like the energy site recommendation. There was some recent proposal that you sent back to the committee to have them reevaluate how they were going to constrain wind and solar with respect to protected ecosystems, critical habitat. So, I'm curious how you think about that.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I'm limited on what I can talk about on that specific situation, so I really can't talk to you much about that. So, I'll make some more general comments. First off, these siting decisions on how we site clean energy are challenging. And they're challenging because there's nothing you can build that does not have some environmental consequence. You can't do it unless it's invisible and vaporous and has no mass. So, everything we do has some environmental consequence, whether it's visual or auditory or whatever. And that's just a reality. And so, I think one thing we have to do is steel ourselves to that reality.

If we are going to replace fossil fuels, we, by necessity, have to build things that will have some environmental impact. That's just a reality that we — I don't think we've come to grips with that, actually. We've thought that we can sprinkle pixie dust and these things will be up in a cloud somewhere, and then we'll replace all the oil and coal industry. That's just not going to happen. So the first thing we have to do, to my view, is recognize that reality, that there is going to be some environmental impact and our goal should be to minimize it, to place things if there are alternative siting that can reduce the environmental impact, that you look at that and fully explore that, and that everybody has a say on what the final decision should be in siting. I think that's the general parameters of what we should be doing. Now, again, I can't comment on that specific case. I'm in a quasi-judicial role, so I can't have dialogue with you about that. But I'll give you some general ideas. We need to make decisions based on real science. Like, for instance, if you're concerned about hawks, find out if there's really any hawks there.

Okay. And if you find out there's really no hawks there, you probably don't want to gut a wind turbine farm if it's not really a threat. That's not a comment about a specific program, but more generically, it's a theoretical statement, you know? And then you have these visual impacts. With wind turbines, there's a visual impact. But I guess my comment about this visual impact is, I think that the visual impact of wind turbines is somewhat like the first impact of people who first saw electric lines being strung across. And I'm sure that was bothersome to people.

It was like, "Wow, there is this wire sticking out in front of my view down — I was looking over that cornfield. Now I see a wire." It was probably very disturbing to people, but it was necessary to have a modern industrial society. I think wind turbines are a little bit like that. Before I was involved in any siting decision, I want to make sure that they don't loom over somebody's home or have a sound envelope that would really destroy their peace and serenity. So those are some general thoughts, but this will not be an easy discussion for us because there will be consequences, and we'll have to figure out a way to minimize that.

Julia

Yeah, absolutely. All right. Thank you very much.

Governor Jay Inslee

Thank you.

Burk

Hey, Governor, David, Burk. Forest issues. There's a company called Drax from England. It's also the name of a James Bond villain. But they're the company that has taken lots of wood out of the American Southeast in order to burn it for electricity in England. And that company now has purchased a lot of facilities in British Columbia and some land in Longview, Washington, and is planning a half-million-ton wood pellet export facility there. There's also another company that's proposing a similar thing for Hoquiam, Washington. Those folks got some state Department of Commerce clean manufacturing money, also some federal money.

All of this work is being done predicated on burning these wood pellets in Asia and Japan, counting it as renewable energy. As somebody who's an expert in this field, I'm just wondering, can you explain how it is that burning wood pellets at the industrial scale actually becomes "carbon neutral"?

Governor Jay Inslee

I will. But I love it when you call me an expert. Could you just say that again?

Burk

Jay, you're my expert.

Governor Jay Inslee

Expert. Okay. Well, thank you. I don't know if you'll still believe this after I give you my answer. I do consider this a renewable situation, and I'll tell you why. A tree is a carbon sink. It is sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. And here's one of the interesting things. I didn't really know this until just recently. Like, 80% of the mass of a tree does not come from the roots. It does not come from what you bring up from the ground. It comes from the atmosphere, like, 80% of it. So it's taking carbon dioxide, it's building wood fiber, and lignin.

Lignin, the structural material in trees, and so it's embedding it in the tree. So, it is taking bad stuff, which is carbon dioxide, in our view, out of the atmosphere, and putting it into a tree. Then, when you burn it, it is releasing that same carbon atom. Actually, it's really a molecule. I guess it is a molecule by that point. And it's going back in the atmosphere. So, it is a circular distribution of CO2. It is not adding geological CO2 to the atmosphere. And that's the real bugaboo, is adding geological CO2 to the atmosphere. So, I do consider it a circular return of carbon dioxide from where it was.

Now, when you burn it, it doesn't end up being a sink, which would be even better to sequester the carbon and never let it get back into the atmosphere.

Burk

Amen.

Governor Jay Inslee

Right. So, in that sense, it would be better, but I can't eliminate it. I don't think we should eliminate it as a source of energy, which we also need. And it is as renewable as a wind turbine or solar in that regard. Here's one way to think about it, which I just thought about, so I'm going to have the right to retract it.

David Roberts

We can edit this out later.

Governor Jay Inslee

Yeah, we edit out later, but I think it's similar to wind turbines and solar. We certainly think of them as renewable, but they don't permanently sequester CO2 either. What they do is they produce clean energy that doesn't add geological CO2 to the atmosphere. So, I would put it in that category, and I would defend commerce's position, although this is the first time I've heard about it. So, that's kind of my thinking. Now, there are respiratory issues when you burn stuff, too. Right? So, you want to make sure that the particulate matter doesn't expose disadvantaged communities.

Burk

Also, around the production of the wood pellets.

Governor Jay Inslee

That's true.

Burk

Drax has been sued by those environmentally aware states of Mississippi and Louisiana. That's how bad they have been. NAACP has a petition out to shut them down.

Governor Jay Inslee

Yeah, well, I'll try to learn some more about them.

Burk

Appreciate that.

Governor Jay Inslee

Yeah. But obviously, you want to have them in compliance with all your other regulatory measures of labor standards and particulates. Right. You don't want to put particulates. And unfortunately, we've had a lot of disadvantaged communities breathing all these particulates. You don't want to see that happen. With that caveat, that's how I think of it.

David Roberts

Next.

Kyler

Hey, there. My name is Kyler, and I work for a vertically integrated marketplace for home inspections. At least that's where we started.

Governor Jay Inslee

For what? I'm sorry?

Kyler

Home inspections.

Governor Jay Inslee

Home inspections.

Kyler

Yeah, so I love the focus tonight that we're not sort of glazing over the built environment. We're now expanding into energy audits.

Governor Jay Inslee

Great.

Kyler

And as I look across the country, I see certain municipalities and states that are requiring some sort of home energy assessment or audit in the sale of a building or a home, in addition to a home inspection and everything else that we do, you know, with termite inspections and so on. And I look at cities like Portland and Berkeley and recently, earlier this year, Ann Arbor in Michigan that are now requiring that, that be disclosed. Because in our space, there's an acronym that goes around that's AWE. And it starts with awareness, then weatherization, then electrification, in that order.

And I think too often we skip over the awareness and just kind of, and the weatherization, and go straight to the answer is electrification, but efficiency should be part of that, and it should be disclosed so that home buyers and sellers are aware of how energy efficient their home or their building is. And I wonder if that's come across your radar. Are you aware of it? Are you for it? How do you feel about the fact that there's nothing in Washington, either at the sort of local municipal level nor at the state level, that requires that in any way yet? And I'm curious just what your thoughts are, if you've thought about it, if you're for or against it?

Governor Jay Inslee

I think it can be a real positive thing to let a new buyer know what their energy costs are going to be going into a new acquisition. So, I think it can make sense. We didn't think it would have legislative support in the last few years to do something like that. I would not take it off the table in future years to be able to move in that direction. It's a pro-consumer issue, right? So, the consumer knows what they're getting. And obviously, it's awareness from a climate perspective as well. Good luck.

David Roberts

Gonna throw a political question on top of that. The building unions, unlike IBEW, are maybe not as supportive of all this as they could be. They're pushing back now on some of the building laws. They're trying to do an initiative of their own. What's their deal? Why aren't they on board? And what it would take to get building unions on board? Because it seems like a lot more work on buildings would be a lot more work for builders. So, I don't totally get that dynamic.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I'm not sure I'd categorize their activities as you have. First off, they're fully on board this battle against these MAGA people to take away work from them. This effort to repeal this initiative is going to take direct jobs by the thousands out of union and non-union workers in the state of Washington. And they understand that threat. So, they're big time with us. It's not just IBEW, it's the building trades who are with us big time and rather passionately as well. So, I'm very pleased about them being in this coalition. I haven't heard from them about direct changes on the building code.

If that's happening, I'm unaware of it. So, you know, it's not shocking to me that there would be questions about these things, but I haven't seen them really trying to fight a battle on this. And thank goodness that they're with us because it's a very important constituency for many reasons. And it is a fundamental shift in the political situation of this issue. We have a total coalition with the labor community right now and the business community and the environmental community and the tribal community to fight this repeal of these rights. That is a major earthquake and political change in the United States.

And again, this is a message to everybody in the United States. That's why we have to win this. That's why the battle for this is so important. We've made this great progress; we must maintain it.

David Roberts

To echo that, Washington state law was early and pioneering in integrating unions into, you know, you get more tax credit if you use union labor. There's all sorts of positive union integration into climate law in Washington, which spread, I think, which showed other states the way. And that's sort of like the default now, any state that comes to this now does that almost automatically. I think Washington was ahead on that.

Governor Jay Inslee

Yeah, well, I appreciate that. I think in a couple of ways, we're always proud of Washington, but I do believe our Climate Commitment Act is best for two reasons. One is the one you've talked about, because it really emphasizes apprenticeships to get young people in the trades to have project labor agreements that help the unions move forward. But it also has the best environmental justice measures in the United States. It requires 35%. 35% of all of the investment that comes out of it has to benefit these disproportionately impacted communities, which are larger, many times communities of color and certainly communities of poverty.

That is unprecedented in the United States, and it does set the bar. So, we're really happy that we've embedded environmental justice and great labor standards in this.

David Roberts

All right, next up.

Audience Member

Governor and David, staying on the workforce theme, just about a year ago, Volts had a great podcast on whether the clean energy transition would be hampered by a shortage of skilled labor. And so, maybe you could talk about that in terms of how we are setting up for what people are saying. We need a World War II mobilization of the workforce, 400,000 homes just in King County that are fossil fuel heated. How do we scale up the workforce so that we're not hampered with the goals of our Climate Commitment Act?

Governor Jay Inslee

Yeah, really important question. Number one: You embed these apprenticeship development programs in your climate bills, which I just talked about, which we did. Number two: We have a thing called Career Connect Washington, which is developing a whole new approach to skills development in Washington State. It basically has the view that having a career in these trades is every bit as important, every bit as valuable, and every bit as honorable as having a four-year degree and going into finance or something else.

This is a change in how we think of skills development. So, this career-connected program is really working across the state of Washington. And we've had tremendous cooperation between the community colleges and the technical colleges to make sure that when we get a new business, they get the skills they want. One of the reasons we've been successful in recruiting businesses to Washington state, and as I indicated, I was in Europe talking to business here last week, is that they know we provide boutique training. If you come in and set up, we'll have a boutique training program for your employee force to get that job done.

So, I think we're on the beam in this regard. I feel good about where we are on it.

Unnamed Audience Member 2

I have a slightly related question, but first, I just want to say thank you for coming today. I really appreciate your time. Governor, I'm a business owner that runs a company in California that does large-scale commercial, industrial, solar energy storage, microgrids, and things of that nature. And periodically, I get a question from our customers or investors, like, "Are you interested? Would you ever consider moving into Washington?" And often, I usually tell them, "Like, no, not yet, because the market isn't quite there enough to support moving here." There's little bits in here. There are some programs that are incentivized, but they're often small, and they're very focused on, like, making more community participation.

And that's good, but maybe at the cost of scale. And besides that, I think it's funny that energy policy is run by the Department of Commerce here. When I first moved up here, I thought it was hilarious. When I had to vote for digital fingerprint scanner funds for the local police department, I thought, "Should we throw some pencils in while we're at it?" I mean, is this really something we need to vote at? So, like, there's a unique context here that's a challenge. And so the question is, is solar part of the solution in this state?

And then in that context, that's unique to the political landscape and policy landscape, but the regulatory landscape of Washington state, how do you do that? Like, how do you build that market?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I would encourage you to keep looking at Washington, because there's $2 billion coming down the pike of work in the state of Washington associated with the Climate Commitment Act, and it is going to translate to a huge increase in demand, including in solar, which is an important part of our incentive program to increase the demand for solar. So, I think in the next few years, you're going to see an enormous increase in demand for a whole host of these products, including solar. And we're a supplier, too. You know, we've got Silfab, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the western hemisphere, up in Bellingham.

We've got all kinds of inverters production going on. We have such a cluster of new industrial componentry that's being developed here, too, that will help in that from the supply chain perspective as well, and also help in skills development. So, I would suggest to you, in the next several years, this is going to be a much more attractive place for you in this regard. Your second question about the political part of this, I'm not sure I fully could understand what you were getting at, but the point I would make is the politics of this are shifting very, very rapidly in the right direction, in the direction to a positive, clean energy economy. And that's happening for two reasons.

Number one, people are understanding climate change. Used to be, when I started this discussion, even ten years ago, climate change was a graph. You could put up this graph and say, "See, we're going to have a problem in a few years because this line is going to cross this imaginary 400 ppm and it's going to be really bad." People said, "What are you talking about?" Now, their kids can't go out and play in August because of forest fire smoke, the wineries are burning down. I've had to declare a statewide drought, associated with this. They can't grow baby oysters.

This is a real thing in people's lives today, and it has changed the politics of this dramatically. And number two, we have built the coalitions we need of the labor community because we got great labor leaders, of business community because we got great business leaders. Those coalitions are mature now and they're bearing great fruit. So, I think this has changed dramatically. And in part, that's one of the reasons we were able to get these bills passed. So, be of good heart, keep building. And I don't know why you want to be in that second-best state in the United States.

Unnamed Audience Member 2

I'll keep it in mind. Thank you.

Cal

Hi, Governor, I'm Cal. I moved to Seattle after living in Asia, where they build subways very quickly. And I was wondering, what do you think it could take to increase the speed that we build light rail in the subway here? Is it legal? Is it funding? Is it car culture? Do we need a grassroots political effort? Is it our contractors?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I think.

David Roberts

Why is everything so slow in the US and here especially?

Governor Jay Inslee

So, there's a good reason and a not-so-good reason. The good reason is we do have an extraordinary effort to try to get everybody to have their voice involved in the decision-making. We are a democracy, small d, and we really respect those traditions and we try to make sure that everybody's involved in that decision. That is a good, to some degree, that general benefit is a benefit. Compared to in China, where they just move in and say, "We're bulldozing your house next Thursday." That is a different, faster way of doing business. But to some degree, it's not consistent with what we want.

So there's some virtue in the process. But here's what we need to do. The process just gives every stage way too long to try to develop that. Everything that gives you six months to make a comment about something ought to be 30 days. Everything that says 30 days ought to be two weeks. We give way too much time to these decisions based on that situation. If you want to have your voice heard, get your voice heard. Don't sit around for six months to a year. And I think there is a tremendous progress that must be made in every single one of those processes included in our energy siting facility situation.

You know, we had the last one. Again, I'm not commenting on any specific program, but a three-year delay of getting a recommendation is entirely untenable because you just wait too long for everybody to get their say. So, I think there's a lot of progress that has to be made. I believe that it can be made, but it will always be frustrating.

Rachel

Hi, my name is Rachel. I'm from the Clean Energy Institute at the University of Washington. I'm so excited to be here. And I'm a Volts fangirl, so I'll try to keep it cool.

Governor Jay Inslee

You're a comrade. You're the commie comrades.

Rachel

Commie comrade is always —

Governor Jay Inslee

That's what the opposition — those communist things like Medicare, Obamacare, family paid medical leave. Ooh, evil.

Rachel

Spicy. Anyways, moving past that. So, I'm gonna ask a bit about the solar recycling take back program. So, I work in solar and lifecycle assessment at the Clean Energy Institute, and I was just very curious to hear your thoughts about — so, since Washington was what, the first state to require recycling of solar modules, is that correct?

Governor Jay Inslee

I don't know, for first.

Rachel

Maybe first. One of the first. And, as far as I understand, right now, we're sort of waiting to see what the different companies are going to do. There is like an extended timeline. So, recycling silicon can sometimes be more carbon-intensive than not recycling it and using virgin material. There are other components, right? Like, the aluminum frames can be recycled pretty easily. What I'm curious about is, what's your intention of delaying the process of having companies disclose what their take-back program is going to be like? And what are you hoping to see in terms of the solar recycling program?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I'd like to see good decisions. If that takes a little bit longer, I'd like to make sure we have the full science, including this issue of does it have a carbon footprint in the recycling process? We need to assess that. We need geniuses like you to help assess that and get a good decision. I have not heard from folks who have frustration about that. I'd love to talk to you about it to see if you have any suggestions to accelerate it. But I think —

Rachel

Call me, comrade.

Governor Jay Inslee

These are new technologies. It will not shock me if we have to take a little time figuring it out to look at the whole supply chain, and as you've indicated, looking through the whole supply chain at the carbon footprint is extremely important in assessing any of these decisions. So, I'm glad you're at it, and I hope we get the right answers.

David Roberts

I've gotten interested in the recycling story. I think people use end-of-life as a weapon against clean energy technologies a lot these days. A lot like, "Oh, it's dirty, it's in the landfill, blah, blah, blah." There's a lot of fascinating technology coming down the line for recycling, and we are much closer to genuine circularity than I think people understand. I think recycling is going to be a happy success story within five years.

Governor Jay Inslee

We actually have the first carbon recycling program in Port Angeles, actually recycling carbon fiber that's in our jet planes and our golf clubs and everything else. So, I agree with you.

Sienna

Thank you. My name is Sienna. I work in sustainability consulting, specifically greenhouse gas accounting. And I'm just curious if you could talk about your plans to transition and continue all this great work that you've done for the climate to your successor.

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, first off, the most important thing is you get the right successor. That's the thing I'm focused on, because we got one successor who I'm confident will follow science and economic expansion and is against this initiative because it costs too much to Washingtonians. And his opponent is going to try to take all those things away. So, since you've asked the question, I can, you know, I can tell you the Democrat nominee, it's gonna be Bob Ferguson. He wants to preserve all this. His opponents want to take it all away on the other side of the aisle.

So, that's what I'm gonna be doing. That's what I'm focused on. And after that, you know, always be active to work with the communities to make sure our voice is heard moving forward. But as long as the right decisions are made at the ballot box, our state's gonna be in good shape, and I think we will be in good shape. Listen, I've kind of alluded to this, but I'm just a kid in the candy store with what's going on in our state technologically. The explosion that's going on here is just unbelievable. You can't go around a block without finding out some new whiz-bang technology that's being developed.

And because of that, this is going to be a good news story for Washington State. We just got to make sure we have the right people in office.

David Roberts

All right, last question.

Unnamed Audience Member 3

The pressure. First, I just want to thank you for being such an incredible climate champion over your tenure of history. You have always talked about climate, even when all of your staff have asked you not to, out on the trail campaigning while you're governing all of it. And it takes a true climate hawk to do that. And you've been bold and brave, and thank you. We all need to be. And I'm curious. You talked before about hidden emotions, but let's not talk about the hidden emotions. You said, "Let's just look at the actions." But so much of our hidden emotions are what determine our actions. So for each of you, I'd just love to hear, what's your quick take on how do we create a desire for a life off fossil fuels versus fear of it?

Governor Jay Inslee

Well, I know this is going to sound saccharine, like I've been reading Vogue magazine or something, but it's basically about love. It's who you love and why you love them. That's what this is about. You know, I don't have a stake in some clean energy company or, you know, I have no stake in this. I won't be around for 100 years. But I have six grandkids that I dearly love. And to me, it's all about that emotion that I have for them. I got to get up early to take my third grandkid who turned eleven today, and I got to give him his birthday present, which was — he loves corgis.

He's an eleven-year-old kid and he's into corgis. We got him a t-shirt with a corgi and socks with corgis. The kid went nuts. He thought he'd just won the lottery or something. Looking at the look on his face was just, he was just angelic. That kid deserves a shot. He deserves an ability to have a Washington that I grew up with. He deserves to have clean water, he deserves to have a forest, he deserves to be able to breathe where forest fires don't destroy his life. He deserves those things.

And to me, it's just about love for him and his progeny. And that's a pretty powerful emotion. Now it's connected. It doesn't do any good unless you're connected to action, but it really drives it. And I think the more we talk about it in those terms, about what it means to why we are motivated to do what we're doing. And I've asked you to talk to 900 people and the way to talk to them is just to tell them why you are motivated. You don't have to beat them over the head with the intricacy of the Climate Commitment Act.

Just talk to them about why you're motivated on this. And I think that's what wins the day.

David Roberts

And I'll just add, and I think this is a perfect complement to that. One thing that motivates me, and this is why I do Volts the way I do it, is just aside from the risk and the danger and everything else of what's coming down the pike, this project of building a new thing is fascinating. It's like a puzzle. It's puzzles embedded in puzzles embedded in puzzles. And people are out there right now solving those puzzles in all sorts of clever ways. And the more you see of that, to me, it's just like, I want to get in on that.

I want to be involved. That is the project of our time. It's a big intellectual challenge, it's a big emotional challenge, it's a big political challenge, it's a technological challenge. And people are out there doing it. Now it's happening, like, for the first ten years of my career, it's all just like pounding the table, "Someone do something, please, someone do something!" And now they heard and they're doing it. They're out there doing it. And the more you tune in and connect with those people, to me, the more exciting it is to just like, what piece of the puzzle can I solve, right?

There are puzzles everywhere. Which puzzle can I get my hands on and help solve it? And I'm part of this big thing that's going on that is, as the governor says, we're lucky to be, you know, able to be the ones doing this, saving everyone. So to me, just the intellectual thrill of, like, how do we figure this out? To me, that is one thing that keeps me going. That's why I do what I do. Thank you.

Governor Jay Inslee

Thank you.

David Roberts

Thank you. Thank Climate Solutions. Thank you, Canary. Thank you. Subscribe to Volts. Good night.

Governor Jay Inslee

Appreciate it.

David Roberts

Thank you for listening to the Volts podcast. It is ad-free, powered entirely by listeners like you. If you value conversations like this, please consider becoming a paid Volts subscriber at volts.wtf. Yes, that's volts.wtf. So that I can continue doing this work. Thank you so much, and I'll see you next time.

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Volts
Volts
Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)