"Renaissance Thinking About the Issues of Our Day"
Thom Hartmann: Can Obama seize the energy moment? Will we get our CO2 levels back down below 350 parts per million? Bill McKibben on the line. In fact, Bill, first of all, welcome Bill.
Bill McKibben: Good as always to be with you Thom.
Thom Hartmann: Thank you. 350.org of course the website. Bernie Sanders and I were talking about you last Friday. Both very favorably. He was referring to your book "Eaarth" and how the planet is different. Apparently he’s read it and he’s of course a big fan as you know.
Bill McKibben: Well us Vermonters stick together.
Thom Hartmann: There you go. And Bernie is a good guy.
Bill McKibben: He sure is.
Thom Hartmann: I’m seeing a number of headlines that are starting to get more and more spooky. This one, "Doomsday Scenario: Could the Oil Spill Reach Europe?", for example. NOAA is putting together a computer model showing oil going, you know, off the northern coast of North America heading in the direction of Europe. Seems to me that it would get caught in the great conveyor belt and just south of Greenland be sucked down to the bottom of the ocean and then transported at ocean floor level back around the southern tip of Africa you know in that great loop. Thoughts on that and thoughts on you know how President Obama is handling this and what can be done?
Bill McKibben: Well, it’s an interesting moment, yes. President Obama, two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blew up, lifted the longstanding moratorium on offshore drilling and explained that it was all now very safe, and so not to worry. This was a kind of concession to the oil industry in the hopes that they would, you know, go along with a very, very moderate plan to do something someday about climate change. That’s left him feeling exposed and rattled and a little vulnerable with …
Thom Hartmann: Well, not just feeling, being.
Bill McKibben: Yeah, and you can tell just watching him that he’s not as comfortable as he normally is. And, you know, it should be a moment, we need him for this to be a moment for him to really seize the opportunity. For him to say quite forthrightly, look, I was wrong and the thing that mostly we need to work on now is not so much just bidding, putting better blow out preventers on oil wells, which undoubtedly we will now do. But thinking far more seriously about energy than we have in the past.
You know, think about, Thom, what would happen if all that oil made it safely on shore to Louisiana, got refined, turned into gasoline, and put in your gas tank. It would then wreck the environment just as thoroughly as that black gunk spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.
Thom Hartmann: It would just be a different way.
Bill McKibben: Climate change is so out of control. We talked last week with our 350.org crew in Pakistan and in India. People in Pakistan and India don’t really complain about the heat very much, except that last week…
Thom Hartmann: Typically and historically you mean?
Bill McKibben: Last week in Pakistan they set the all time Asia record for heat. It got to 129 degrees. India is in the midst of an absolutely epic heat wave, the highest temperatures since the British started recording temperature sometime in the 18th century. Hundreds and hundreds of people dying every day, the monsoon still a month away. It is getting grim out there. The Arctic has just gone past the pace of melt from 2007, the heretofore record year. Last week NASA disclosed that the previous 12 months have been the warmest 12 months on record. Things are disintegrating fast. So we need leadership not just in the Gulf but on the much wider scale of issues.
Thom Hartmann: This, I agree, Bill. We’re talking with Bill McKibben, 350.org. This would be the perfect time for President Obama to give a 21st century version of Jimmy Carter’s famous 1979 speech in which he said we will never from this point forward, ever again import more oil into the United States than we did last year and by and he said by 2000 we’ll have 20% of electricity produced in this country by solar energy, we’re creating a solar bank. He actually, he was so prescient. And Ronald Reagan did so much damage to this country when he came in and he just blew away all of the things that Jimmy Carter put into place. I noticed in a news report last week, Bill McKibben, that the European countries, the European union, is now ahead of their 2020 goal of a, as I recall, a 20% reduction in carbon emissions?
Bill McKibben: Yep.
Thom Hartmann: And they’re ahead of their own goals. We have not yet begun to take on ours.
Bill McKibben: We haven’t’ even really set them yet. I was in China two weeks ago. You know, they’re burning a lot of coal but boy are they also putting up a lot of solar panels. They’re pretty keen on fronting this new industry.
Thom Hartmann: And most of the world.
Bill McKibben: It’s, you know, the other president that I think probably Obama should try to channel for a little while is Jack Kennedy. You know, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, when he started talking a little more solemnly about offshore drilling, Obama said, ‘well we’ve got to do something about fossil fuel but we’re not going to get off oil in ten years.’ Well probably not, realistically we’re still going to be burning oil in ten years. But we need a speech more like the one Jack Kennedy gave when he said inside the next ten years we’ll be on the moon. We need some kind of real commitment. Some kind of real passion to get us going. To get us moving.
Thom Hartmann: There’s some simple statistics that I would have so loved to hear the president of the United States come out and point out that more than half of all automobile trips in the United States are 40 miles or less per day. And that’s easily within the range of an electric car or an electric hybrid. That more than 90%, some say more than 98% of the oil imported into the United States is used primarily for transportation…
Bill McKibben: Yep.
Thom Hartmann: And that if we simply did like Denmark has just put aside 6 billion dollars for an electric car fleet so that their electric cars can actually act as a giant storage system for the electricity that the excess wind power that they’re producing at night with their windmills. Germany with their solarization program, that has now, you know, ten years down the road, created the equivalent of 8 nuclear power plants' worth of electricity that they didn’t need to build and they set out to just replace two nuclear power plants.
Bill McKibben: Well, and look, Obama could be doing, Obama owns the biggest car company in the country now, you know?
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, GM.
Bill McKibben: I mean this is right what we…. And GM’s actually introducing a car, the Chevy Volt, in the fall, a plug-in hybrid. It’ll be a good thing, but for some reason they’re going to charge people 40 thousand dollars for it which I’m afraid is going to limit its role.
Thom Hartmann: Right, although it’ll be a start. But rather than, but see he’s, he’s still wed, tragically, to the kind of Rahm Emanuel conservadem so-called free market idea that, you know, you’ve got to let these things work out and let the big corporate captains make the decisions and …
Bill McKibben: And the bad news is just one place after another it’s not working out. SUV sales jumped 30% last month. People are not getting the message.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, yeah. And in part because gasoline in this country is obscenely cheap.
Bill McKibben: That’s right.
Thom Hartmann: It’s absurdly cheap. And, you know, obviously there are some people if, if gasoline prices actually reflected the cost of gasoline, the hundreds of trillions, the trillions of dollars, or the half a trillion dollars a year that we spend on our military protecting oil shipping lanes, the hundreds of billions of dollars a year we spend on healing people who get sick, asthma and cancers and things from burning gasoline. Not to mention what you talk about over at 350.org, however you quantify the damage of global warming, if we took gasoline up to 10, 12 dollars a gallon, that would simply reflect those costs as it is in Denmark, as it is in many European countries, then I think we’d start seeing a change. But nobody’s got the political will for it, Bill McKibben.
Bill McKibben: Well, not right now. That’s why it’s good that there are people thinking of innovative plans like this Cantwell-Collins bill that would take that money from that gas, increased price of gas, and rebate it directly to Americans so it wouldn’t bankrupt people.
Thom Hartmann: Yep.
Bill McKibben: And it’s why it’s good that people, that we’re trying finally to do what we should have done 20 years ago and build a real movement around this. It’s very clear that the mere fact that the world is coming to an end won’t be enough to spur political action. We’re going to have to convince some of our politicians that their careers are coming to an end unless they do something about it.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. You betcha. And I think some of them are. Bill McKibben, 350.org is the website. His most recent book, “EAARTH,” with two A’s.
Bill McKibben: God bless, brother. Take care.
Thom Hartmann: Thank you Bill, keep up the good work. Good talking with you. Always good talking with you. Some remarkable stuff going on there. We’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.