Jake: Hello, my name is Jake, and as you know I'm doing this interview for the liberal blog, OpenLeft. My screen name on OpenLeft is JewishJake.
Mayor Debbie Cook: All right.
Jake: Now, for my first question, this is in fact Debbie Cook, correct?
Mayor Debbie Cook: (laughter) Yes.
Jake: (laughter) Ok, just making sure. I guess let's just start out with some introductory questions. So, what have been your political activities up to this point?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Well, you know, some people say putting a postage stamp on a letter is political, so I don't know exactly what you... you mean my involvement in community?
Jake: Well, yeah, what things have you been involved in civically up to this point?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Oh, well, I mean I could go all the way back to being PTA President. You know, volunteering for the Red Cross, being in Neighborhood Watch, those kinds of community activities, or if you want a little more activist involved, in 1989 I lead a group that changed our city charter. They were trying to build, and they had approved a golf course for a park we have in Huntington Beach, and three previous polls had shown that the public had wanted the park to remain protected, so we got together and decided to try to change our city's charter (we're a charter city) to require the city to get a vote of the people every time they wanted to sell, lease, or commercialize the parks and beaches. So, we wrote an initiative that got over 18,000 signatures, to qualify for the ballot, we qualified, and the city put up an opposing measure to try to trick the voters, but we got 74 % of the vote.
Jake: Wow, that's great.
Mayor Debbie Cook: So our measure became law, but just before we had passed this new law, the city had approved a massive development on the public beach in Huntington Beach, so it would have been a major construction project, a commercial project between our pier and the lifeguard headquarters, which is a major focal point for this city, and I had to sue the coastal commission in order to stop the project. They ended up settling with me, agreeing that the Coastal Act did not allow this project.
Then, my husband suggested I go to law school, which I did, and when I graduated from law school and passed the bar, I was asked by the Bolsa Chica Land Trust to join their legal team to try to protect the Bolsa Chica Mesa, which was at risk of development. I worked on that for five years, and we were successful in saving almost all of that mesa, which is also a very significant archaeological site, and at the same time set California precedent, because the Court of Appeals ruling set precedent which was important for protecting the entire length of California's coast that is environmentally sensitive habitat area.
So then I was asked to run for city council in 2000, and I did that and ran for re-election in 2004. Around the beginning of my second term, or maybe around the end of my first term, someone I knew who I didn't know had a geology background found out I had one, and we kind of found out we both had geology backgrounds (I have a degree in Earth Science). He mentioned this term I'd never heard of called a "rollover," and I didn't know what it meant, so I went home and googled it, started learning more about it, and it's actually more commonly called peak oil. And I became obsessed with this whole issue of resources, and how quickly we might hit a peak in our production. You know, people love to talk about peak oil and about production of oil, and whether it can match our demand for oil, and how we're running out of oil, and I just became really involved in that issue, and now I serve on two nonprofit boards. One is the Post Carbon Institute, and the other is Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. We do conferences, and I've lectured and traveled the country for the last three years on oil.
Jake: So you'd say that environmental issues are some of the chief issues you've been working on?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Oh yeah, I've worked on a lot of water quality, ocean desalination, you know, these kinds of issues.
Jake: Well, that's definitely good to hear. I'm curious, what inspired you to get involved in politics and then to run for office?
Mayor Debbie Cook: You know, it's unfortunate that sometimes, being disappointed in what local government is doing is often the inspiration for people to get involved, as it was with me, because we all would love to just do our own thing and not have to worry about what our elected officials are doing, but at some point I guess I just became more sensitive than others. You know, when you don't see other people getting up in arms about things that happen, then you just kind of... you can either do it yourself or you can just let be the responsibility of others, and I'm one of those people who chooses to actually do something about it.
Jake: So it was kind of a frustration thing that first caused you to run for office?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Oh, well, I don't know. I mean, frustration means it's something that simmers for a while, but for me it's like I see it, I don't like it, I get involved. You know, I don't let, I don't allow myself to get frustrated, I just actually do something about it.
Jake: That's a good reaction.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Yeah, and this energy situation has been enough of an inspiration to get me to run for Congress, because I look at what's going on back there, and I see this clueless energy policy approved by both Parties and recognize that they need somebody back there who understands the situation and is not going to just blame people. We need to get past the blame. We're the consumers, we consumed it, we can't produce it fast enough for our addiction, and so we're the solution.
Jake: Moving on a little bit to your Congressional race and Dana Rohrabacher, who is the current representative from the 46th District, which you're running in. What inspired you to run for Congress in the 46th District and against Representative Rohrabacher.
Mayor Debbie Cook: You know, I really don't see myself as running against him. I'm running for the people in this district, the interests in the district. It's been 20 years, really of a lot of people not feeling like they're represented, and it's such a gerrymandered district that there was so much feeling of, well, it's impossible to change it. Well, you know, people may be right, but they may be wrong, and again, I'm just one of those people, I'm just not going to go to my grave wondering, "What if?" or regretting something I should have done, so I figure, we are at such risk right now, that I have nothing to lose.
Jake: Well, what are the chief issues you're running on?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Well, energy! I don't think there's anything more important than this energy challenge. We've had flat oil production for three years, and if you understand energy the way I do, then you know it's directly related and linked to everything else: our ability to fund health care, our ability to fund education, our ability to get out of the war, inflation, high food prices, global climate change, all of those things are directly related this one issue. You know, when FDR, in his First Inaugural Address, said we need to focus on first things first, and I sincerely believe this is the first thing, because without energy, you have nothing. You have no economy, you have no quality of life; all those things are so directly impacted.
The cost of energy now is going to put so many families in a position where they can't even afford to stay warm. I got an email from a friend who lives back east. She said her neighbors just spoke to the heating oil guy, and he said, "Well, if you lock in today, it will only cost you $8,000 to heat your home next winter." That's going to cripple millions of American households. Electricity, it's all going to go up. The UK is expecting a 40% increase in electrical costs next year, so it's not just oil, it's also natural gas, and coal, and uranium! All these things are going up dramatically because our consumption of energy is insatiable. If you just plot, just go to one of the EIA websites and you calculate the per capita consumption of the world, it's going through the roof. We see the exponential growth of Air, but we don't see the other energies coming online, because when it boils down it, it's all about how man BTU's you can produce. It's not about how much wind, or how much solar, or how much any of that you can put out.
Jake: Now, even though you've said you're running for the district, you are still running against Rep. Rohrabacher, so what would you say are the major differences between Rep. Rohrabacher and you, especially in regards to energy?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Well, he clearly doesn't understand this challenge. His solution is to just drill more. Well, drilling is not going to help us. We have found all the big stuff, we've extracted all the easy stuff. The small stuff that's going to come online is not going to make up for the declines that we're seeing around the world. Russia just this year started a decline in their production. You know, Russia was the largest oil producer. A lot of people think it's Saudi Arabia, but actually they overtook Saudi Arabia in oil production just barely. But when you've got these large producers starting to decline, and add on top of that the 50 other countries in the world that are past their peak and are in decline, you just can't fix it by drilling for oil. This doesn't mean we won't drill more oil, but it's just such a huge issue. The fact that the all the ships that practice off-shore drilling, deep-see drilling, those are reserved for the next five years. So even if you open all the leases in the whole world, it won't matter. For the next nine years we have to replace 37 Million barrels a day, because that's the decline rate, and that's the equivalent of four Saudi Arabias. Nobody thinks we're going to find one Saudi Arabia, let alone four, so it's kind of absurd to think that drilling this little stuff like ANWR is going to do anything.
Jake: Yeah, and especially because this problem just seems to exacerbate the whole Global Warming problem that we're having right now.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Yeah, but with the politicians, that going to go on the back burner. That's the issue de jure, but as soon as people start freezing in the dark, politicians are not going to care about Climate Change. It'll be whatever they can do to keep people with electricity, with cheap fuel, all of that stuff. They're going to do whatever. You know, if we can't get people educated about the scale of this problem, and the need for everyone to participate, rather than having the media come out everyday with some other placebo, "Oh, hydrogen cars!" or "Corn ethanol!" you name it, and then all of a sudden people go, "Oh, this is just around the corner. I can continue on my merry way. I don't need to worry about it," rather than a leader who comes out says, "Everyone has to be a part of this solution. Everyone's going to have to limit their consumption, and on the supply side, we're going to have to put major investments into research and development. Everything: wind, solar, geothermal, you name it. Whatever you can think of, the best minds in the world researching it. That's were we need to be going." And so on that perspective, Rohrabacher's never been someone who's interested in investments in infrastructure.
Jake: Yeah, from what I've read, despite the fact that Rohrabacher's been on the Science and Technology Committee for so long, he seems to just not understand, or frankly care about these things. I read a quote somewhere where he completely denied any human impact on Global Warming, and joked that in the past it had been caused by "dinosaur flatulence." What are your thoughts on that?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Well, it's certainly not helpful. I think there's a level of frustration in our area, where people are saying, "Those really aren't the values I hold." You know, most people do understand that Climate Change is a major issue, and they really do want government to work on responding to it, but it's important for people to know that government isn't going to solve this problem, it's all of us who are going to have to solve the problem. They can do things to help, like funding the National Renewable Energy Lab, fully, completely, every single year, so that the lab can hold onto these really high quality scientists. The government can do a lot to facilitate us moving forward, buy Rep. Rohrabacher has been more focused on dragging us down and holding us back from making those next steps.
Jake: Ok, so just one more shift real quick. I'm going to go onto a few questions on issues that are really important right now to the OpenLeft community.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Ok.
Jake: What are your views on the recent bill which passed in the House regarding FISA, especially in regards to the de facto retroactive immunity it gives to telephone companies which broke the law in allowing this Administration to tap telephones without a legal warrant?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Our country is founded on checks and balances, and we have gotten so out of balance these last eight years. I don't think anyone should be immune. If they break the law, they break the law, whether you're a telephone company or whatever.
Jake: Good to hear. All right, next, what do you plan to do about the Iraq War if elected to Congress.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Well, I signed onto the Responsible Plan. I like the fact that it takes a holistic view, actually takes the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, and is overall a smart approach. Plus, after November, with a President Obama, we'll be able to talk to everybody. There will not be certain people that you can't speak to.
Jake: So you'd basically try to enact the Responsible Plan in Congress?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Oh yeah, and I'm sure Barack would do that as well.
Jake: Yeah, I agree, since he has run pretty hard on Iraq. Another question. What are your views on Net Neutrality and what do you plan to do in regards to this issue in Congress?
Mayor Debbie Cook: What exactly do you mean by Net Neutrality?
Jake: Well, essentially banning a tier system where companies get to choose which website run fastest and which run slowest.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Oh no, I don't support a tier system like that. You know, I've often wondered what would I have done the last number of years without the internet, being able to access so much information. Everybody should have access to that information.
Jake: So you'd support legislation to enforce Net Neutrality?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Yeah.
Jake: Ok, finally, one more question. Would you be willing to come onto OpenLeft and talk with its members, perhaps even post a diary?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Uh, yeah, does that mean I have to be on for a whole day?
Jake: Well, basically you just have to sign up, make a screen name, and then you can post comments, a diary, etc.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Yeah, sure, it's just a matter of time. I'd be happy to do that.
Jake: Well, that's about it for me. Thanks a ton for doing this interview, Mayor Cook. Is there anything you'd like to say to the OpenLeft community as a whole?
Mayor Debbie Cook: Well, I would encourage them to understand this energy situation. Spend some time at theoildrum.com, for example. It's a great blog for energy news. Also, energybulletin.net and globalpublicmedia.com, they're great resources to learn more about sustainability as well as our energy situation. It's going to be real important that we stop just pointing fingers and actually start taking action.
Jake: All right, thanks again for the interview, Mayor Cook. I'm sure I speak for the whole OpenLeft community when I say we wish you luck in your run for the 46th District.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Thanks, Jake.
Jake: Hopefully we talk with you again, if you can come onto OpenLeft if you have time.
Mayor Debbie Cook: Definitely
Mayor Debbie Cook: Bye
So, to review, Mayor Cook has a long history of leadership on environmental issues, is opposed to Telecom Immunity, supports the Responsible Plan and Net Neutrality, and plans to oppose more drilling in favor of improving the energy crisis through funding of alternative fuel research. She is not just a Democrat, but a Better Democrat. Sadly, she couldn't make it for the comments today, since, the hard worker she is, she is currently speaking at a conference in San Francisco I for one am donating to her campaign, and would encourage the rest of you to do the same, lest we have two more years of Dana "Dinosaur Farts Cause Global Warming" Rohrabacher representing the 46th District.