By Maria Bartiromo Former President Bill Clinton has been spending his time drumming up funding and attention to combat many of the world's greatest ills. World poverty, AIDS, religious conflicts, and public health care are just some of the priorities of his Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), and the President's foundation so far has raised about $2.5 billion from business leaders and institutions. But Clinton has also been thinking deeply about American competitiveness in a global marketplace. He spoke favorably of an idea "floating around the Senate" under which the government would assume some of the health-care legacy costs weighing on U.S. auto makers.
What are the top priorities of the CGI?
No. 1 is defy global warming in a way that creates jobs. We are doing new clean energy projects. For example, Swiss Re committed to spending $300 million for windmills and clean energy around the world. Two, fight poverty. Deutsche Bank (DB) has started a $100 million small-business development project in Africa. Third, we are working on religious reconciliation...and have a number of projects to stop human-rights abuses. For example, Vital Voices is a group that Hillary started that brings together women around the world. They are working on stopping human trafficking.
Energy has been a big issue for the initiative. What do we do about Americans' addiction to oil?
We should do what I tried but was unsuccessful in doing [as President]: Go back to raising mileage standards on vehicles. [Some] 70% of our oil usage is in transportation. We should make a major effort to use a biofuel to replace diesel not only in cars and trucks but boats. When I worked...on Katrina relief, I ran into a guy who runs his boats on biofuel. So start with transportation, then make an aggressive effort to develop clean coal technology, wind, and solar, and do a better job of using less.
You have been a vigorous proponent of opening markets. Do you have any second thoughts about the rush to globalization?
No, not in terms of whether on balance people are better off.
Do you think the outcry against the CNOOC (CEO) bid for Unocal and the Dubai Ports deal and resistance within the European Union to cross-border takeovers signal a reevaluation of globalization ?
I didn't have a problem with CNOOC. I didn't see that as a national security issue. I thought the port issue was different. The Chinese oil proposal was seen by some as an isolated event because the Chinese government owned the subsidiary. The Dubai Ports proposal was different because there was a focus on our national security. [Still,] we need to watch our rhetoric because it has become a little more protectionist, and unfortunately this country has gotten into a situation where we need $2 billion a day coming in from foreigners to keep the ship afloat.
If Senator Clinton wins the Presidency in 2008, what's your role?
I don't know if she will run, but my attitude is I would do whatever is asked for my country. The same as if I were asked by President Bush. But I have no agenda and no designs. I am happy working on my foundation.
Maria Bartiromo is the host of CNBC's Closing Bell