Nov 13, 2017

Highlights: Trump team's event at climate summit

The forest near Bonn, Germany, where the climate summit is taking place. Photo: Rainer Jensen / dpa via AP

Bonn, Germany -- At a climate conference here, a pair of senior White House officials convened several executives representing coal, natural gas and nuclear power industries to tout why these resources should be part of the world's solutions to climate change.

About 20 minutes into the event, dozens of protesters taking up most of the room stood up and starting singing alternative lyrics to the song "God Bless the USA." They sang for almost 10 minutes before walking out, leaving a mostly empty room. Gradually new attendees filed in.

Here are the highlights:

  • George David Banks, senior White House adviser on international energy issues underscored the role fossil fuels will play: "Without a question, fossil fuels will continue to be used, and we will argue it's in the global interest to make sure that when continue to be used and we will argue it's in the global interest to make sure when fossil fuels are used, that it's as clean and efficient as possible."
  • After that one of the panelists, former Obama official energy envoy and current natural-gas executive Amos Hochstein, strayed from his prepared remarks: "If we really care about climate change, then we have to stop siloing ourselves into communities where we only talk to ourselves." Cautious claps came from a mostly filled room.
  • A top executive at coal producer Peabody Energy, Holly Krutka, said technology that captures and stores carbon emissions from coal plants is central to cutting emissions to needed levels. "Given the prominence of CCS to meeting climate goals, the technology is dramatically underfunded."
  • "Nuclear energy needs to be part of the conversation here at this climate conference," said Lenka Kollar, director of business strategy at NuScale Power, an advanced nuclear power company. "I believe everyone should have a seat at the table."
  • The audience Q&A was lively, with many asking questions from a perspective clearly opposed to the Trump administration's positions. A Chinese reporter asked about President Trump's tweet from several years ago when he said climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. Banks didn't directly answer the question, instead saying people should focus on the second half of that tweet where Trump said it was to make American companies uncompetitive. The last questioner asked each panelist if they supported Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal. The nuclear and natural-gas executives both said they didn't, while the coal executive declined, along with both White House officials.
  • A few attendees yelled out during the Q&A portion, with some saying clean coal doesn't exist and yelling that the panelists and Trump officials are all liars.
  • Democratic Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and Kate Brown of Oregon hosted a mini press conference ahead of the event: "We can say unequivocally that the world has rejected Donald Trump's denial of climate science," Inslee said.

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