DENVER — He wants us to call him Tom.
And a week before Tom -- businessman Tom Steyer -- took the stage Tuesday night for the Democratic presidential candidate debate in South Carolina, he talked with Next with Kyle Clark via satellite from Las Vegas.
The billionaire businessmen talked about his plan to battle pollution, and climate change, as well as the future of fossil fuel industries, and whether billionaires should exist.
Below are some takeaways from our interview:
Tom Steyer recognized that Denver has some of the worst air pollution problems, compared to other American cities. His thoughts on improving the issue nationwide:
"I can tell you that the air pollution that I've seen that's the most, really comes from diesel trucks and concentrations of cars and trucks.So as far as I'm concerned when we talk about air pollution, we talk about asthma, what we're really talking about is getting rid of the transportation based air pollution. Its something we deal with in my home state of California a lot. I've worked really hard to replace diesel truck engines and also diesel school bus engines... I'm the only person that says climate is my number one priority as President. I would declare a state of emergency on day one."
91,000 Coloradans work in traditional energy, and many of those jobs are linked to fracking. Tom Steyer used to believe that fracking could be done responsibly, but here's why he changed his mind, and what Coloradans in this industry should expect for the future:
"Ten years ago I thought it was possible that natural gas would be the bridge fuel, but what we've seen is, with the amount of escaped methane, that natural gas really isn't much of an improvement over coal at all. And, in fact, what we really need to do is to move as fast as we can to clean energy. So we've got to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure, we've got to do everything we can to move as fast as we can... we can do this in a way that creates millions and millions of good-paying jobs and we're going to hold harmless people in the fossil fuel industry... to make sure that they don't suffer because we have a crisis on our hands that we have to deal with."
One possible solution to climate change is a theory that we can buy ourselves time by putting suspended particles into the air to block the sunlight. There would have to be global consensus on this, and doing this without permission is something Tom Steyer would not support:
"I believe in government. I believe in the American people. I think if we're going to solve this problem we're going to solve it together. And so I think something like that, which could have unintended consequences of vast proportion, I don't really think that that's a great idea for somebody to go out there and change everybody's life without their permission or acceptance."
The billionaire also talked about whether future Americans should have the same pathway he did to a massive fortune:
"I don't think we should put a ceiling on the ambitions of Americans. I do think I would change the tax structure dramatically and start to charge people fairly who are rich, and big corporations... I would have a wealth tax, I've proposed that for over a year now... I did start a business, I did grow it over 27 years into a multi-billion dollar international business, I also walked away from it and took the giving pledge to give the bulk of my money away while I'm alive to good causes, and I've been spending my time, full time, putting together coalitions of Americans to fight back against unchecked corporate power."
See the interview here:
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