ELI Primary Menu

Skip to main content

George P. Shultz

Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Secretary of U.S. Treasury, State, and Labor Departments

Three-time Cabinet Secretary George Shultz served with distinction in the Nixon and Reagan Administrations at the Labor, Treasury, and State Departments.  Since 1989, he has been a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution as well as chair of energy advisory committees at Stanford and MIT.  As a public official, engineering  firm CEO, energy expert, and citizen, he has contributed his renowned judgment and skill at getting things done to big environmental problems. 

As Secretary of State, for example, Shultz briefed President Reagan on the need for the international agreement that became the  Montreal Protocol  to protect the ozone layer from destruction by chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) widely used in air conditioning systems.  He persuaded the President that it made sense to take out an “insurance policy” because the risks of adverse health effects from a thinning ozone layer, including widespread skin cancer, were serious enough to justify action.  Shultz makes a similar case for action on climate change:  “And it seems to me we can say to people who are skeptical, ‘Look, shouldn’t you take out an insurance policy.  Maybe you’re wrong but the consequences are bad; And actually, the insurance policy isn’t that expensive.”

In 2012, Republican Shultz joined with Democrat and environmental activist Tom Stier to organize a successful campaign to defeat a referendum question aimed at halting California’s groundbreaking state program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Bristling at the idea that a bunch of Texas oil companies could kill the program, Shultz and Stier vowed not just to win, but also to “win big,” and they did. Their work mustered the most votes for any issue on the ballot, including reelection of the Governor!  The two men received the Environmental Law Institute’s annual achievement award for their partnership in persuading the public to support the California program.   Shultz is committed to showing people that problems have solutions and to be able to say:” there are things you can do,” the attitude that has been the hallmark of his extraordinary career.