Acknowledging that he was toeing a fine line as a foreign diplomat, Friis Arne Petersen told Kansas City-area business leaders during an energy policy symposium that the issues transcend borders.
"This isn't health, this is climate and energy policy that are global issues and are all interdependent," Petersen said. "We would do the same kind of speech in China or Japan or India."
He said the U.
S. has become much more open in recent years to fighting global warming and reducing dependency on foreign oil. But he said the nation is still "lagging behind" many of its European counterparts and the world needs U.S. leadership on the issue.
In particular, Petersen expressed concern that Congress has yet to pass some form of climate control legislation ahead of December's global climate conference being held in Copenhagen to complete a global approach to reducing greenhouse gases.
The House passed a bill in June that calls for a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and the Senate is considering legislation to cut emissions by 20 percent over the same period. But an adviser to President Barack Obama said it was unlikely a bill would be passed by the end of the year.
"If this country, in the Senate, fails to bring about new legislation and this president, with all of his courage and leadership, does not succeed, I'm very much afraid the fight will lose its momentum and you'll stop even talking (about it)," Petersen said.
Denmark, a Scandinavian country of 6 million, is viewed as a success story on energy policy, going from importing virtually all of its energy in 1973 to being completely energy independent today. Petersen acknowledged his country has achieved this through a mix of high taxes and direct government involvement that would be almost impossible, politically, in the U.S.
But he said not being dependent on global hotspots like the Middle East and Africa for its oil allows Denmark to focus more on domestic issues.
"This is not to say this was easy, but we have not had the fundamental, existential, political discussions of this in Europe (as in the U.S.) perhaps because people realized this is necessary," he said.
Earlier in the meeting, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson told the symposium that the development of electric vehicles will go a long ways toward solving the nation's dependence on foreign oil, but that researchers must find reliable and clean new ways to create electricity.
"Of all of the problems out there that are enormous, whether it's our budget deficit, health care, the aging of our population, energy to me is by far the most solvable," Parkinson said.