Bill Clinton: We must embrace clean energy or we will end vast prospects of civilization for our grandchildren

I am here liveblogging the clean energy and green grid summit sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund — see Watch Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Steven Chu, John Podesta on how to build a smart, green grid — 10 am EST Monday.

UPDATE: Hope you’re listening — it’s very heartening to hear so many top leaders and opinionmakers who are so knowledgeable about and committed to action on clean energy. And who get the need to focus on transmission.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) decried the $500 billion in imported oil last year.

Former Senator Tim Wirth (the moderator): Why didn’t we get action earlier?

Bill Clinton: “We didn’t have the votes before.”

Clinton said we had to act or we would “End vast prospects of civilization for our grandchildren” (see “How likely is it that Global Warming will destroy human civilization within the next century?“).

He urged everyone: “Don’t undersell efficiency.” He noted we create 6,000 jobs per billion dollars spent on efficiency, retrofits

But with using that money to fund the SBA loan guarantee we could achieve 10 to 20 times the impact (see “A blueprint for greening small businesses and SBA“).

Then former VP Al Gore spoke:

Al Gore: “My reading of the science over the past 20 years,” the IPCC reports “they always come out with ranges … best cases, worst cases” but when they look years later, it is always at or near worst level.

There are feedbacks in this system. The tundra has as much carbon as has been released to date.

On oil prices/peak oil: “This roller coaster is headed for a crash and we’re headed for a crash.”

We must have a price on carbon and renewable energy standard.

UPDATE — Van Jones: “Green stimulus dollars are the most fiscally conservative thing we have ever done.”

They do “triple time.” Put people to work, lower energy bills, take on global warming.

“We can fight pollution and poverty at the same time.”

We need to get kids in the inner city to “Put down hand guns and pick up caulking guns.”

Steven Chu: I hope you heard his remarks — very solid, very knowledgable on clean energy, transmission issues.

“All the news on climate in the past five years has essentially been bad news.”

“We’ve got to start acting.”

8 Responses to Bill Clinton: We must embrace clean energy or we will end vast prospects of civilization for our grandchildren

  1. paulm says:

    Europe is in for another sweltering summer…and the bush fires have flared again in Auz.

    Daffodils and snowdrops spring into bloom early as temperatures soar across the UK

  2. Nancy says:

    How can we convince Robert Kennedy (and his Uncle) that the Cape Wind project is the right project for our times? Did he listen to Steve Chu? We cannot waste another decade to build this very important project!

  3. Peter McEvoy says:

    Great article. Good to hear that you’re there, in the trenches!

  4. paulm says:

    These guys are scared, we should be too…

    Ministers get close look at Antarctic ice threat
    “There is the potential for several-meter rise of sea level,” Hansen told The Associated Press last week. The scenario is “frightening,” says the IPCC’s chief scientist, Rajendra Pachauri, who met with the ministers in Cape Town before their nine-hour flight here from South Africa.

  5. Nancy says:

    That was an amazing forum. It gives me hope for our future. Let’s hope these people really mean what they say.

  6. Andy says:

    This was great to have so much focus on these issues at a high level. However, the real issue here is political – meaningful transmission won’t get built without taking siting and more away from the complex state-by-state system status quo, as Gov. Pataki and many others pointed out here. The fact that NARUC reiterated their opposition to the federal role (the speaker welcomed federal involvement but said states had to lead the planning, whatever that means) is not surprising but this is where the real fight is on this issue. And I don’t get the feeling that anyone is really engaging this fight specifically. Am I wrong?

  7. Greg Robie says:

    First, thanks for the heads up and link to this Joe, This forum is now linked to its archive and those who missed it can catch it when they can. In my opinion it is worth the 2 to 3 hours of your time it will take to watch it. They have segmented it so you can watch it in pieces.

    Today, around 1 PM EST, I did a google news search on the title of this forum. I got 8 hits. Four hours latter I did the search again and CNN was a new arrival to this list: American Chronicle, CA – 19 hours ago; Business Wire (press release), CA – Feb 20, 2009; Fort Worth Business Press, TX – 7 hours ago; Earthtimes (press release), UK – Feb 13, 2009; North American Windpower – Feb 16, 2009; Grist Magazine, WA – Feb 18, 2009; InformationWeek, NY – Feb 3, 2009; Ely Daily Times, NV – Feb 4, 2009. In Google News’ news summary page, under the ”other top stories“ listing there appeared briefly a listing on the forum with supposedly 74 linked articles (though the link to a detailed listing has varied between 20 and 17 sources, 3 blogs–sorry Joe, yours didn’t make the cut, and 6-4 from DC sources. Wire services were the notable additions to the list of news sourses. The most important personage relative to the pre-conference news stories was T. Boone Pickens, and post-event it has been Senator Reid. It may be that both these men have press officers who are better connected than The Center for American Progress Action Fund

    Anyway, using such search results as an informal survey it would appear that several press releases were sent out by the Center for American Progress and related participants, and it was not a big story. While Joe has asserted here that a better bill might happen in 2010, this ”smart grid“ boondoggle is going to start happening this week. The reason I call it a boondoggle is that it isn’t until ‘Phase II” that a decentralized, consumer/producer dependent energy policy is effected; where the homeowner gets paid market rates for the electricity they contribute to the grid. This suggest to me that capital intensive approaches to “greening” the economy are being pursued to please the financial sector and the elite, and enslave, rather than empower, the commoner to be collaboratively energy self-reliant and make them the key player.

    To my ear, the closing summary remarks inferred this primacy of the importance of American citizen’s being the difference needed to create the change required to tip back out of klimakatastrophe. And this inference was made concurrent with an articulated strategy, which the smart grid is key to, that is framed to pander to our worst behaviors: our adolescent aloofness toward responsible sustainable and just living. IMHO, the energy independence argument for weaning ourselves off fossil carbon is a bad, if pragmatic, strategy. Our fossil carbon-based meme for the economy is part of a more inclusive paradigm. Not mentioned by any of the participants was the threat to the US dollar that exists with OPEC’s denominating its oil sales in US dollars. We can import 70% of our oil, and feel secure, because the world needs a US dollar to buy OPEC oil. The world will sell us whatever they have at whatever price we offer because of this arrangement. This arrangement is the primary source of our hegemony.

    International arrangements can change. Even a 20% dependency on OPEC oil would break this government overnight if there was a shift in the currency needed to buy OPEC oil. We are borrowing a trillion dollars a year now thanks to this arrangement and the President is hoping to reduce that in half in four years. Until the trade deficit is zero, and we are enough of a nation of savers to und our debt and obligations we are completely dependent on OPEC not changing this arrangement. Should OPEC (the Saudi princes) change their mind/be overruled, none of the parts of the plan the smart grid is part of could be effected in the ensuing social chaos. The vision that the proposed smart grid is key to is vulnerable because the value of US dollar is something OPEC ultimately controls.

    Regardless, fiat currencies denominated by credit based on a perception of wealth that is inherent to the paradigm of a fossil carbon based economy cannot be maintained nor exchanged into wealth in a sustainable paradigm. The old thinking and feelings about wealth must be checked at the door between these paradigms. This checking will either be voluntary, such that the old wealth is spent to make the transition as non-violent as possible, or the loss will be involuntarily and a violent transition, or failure to transition will be our choice. Such a limited choice has been the choice we have made for ourselves by how we have lived and the energy policy this living has represented for the last 40 years (T. Boone Pickens’ assertion to the contrary, withstanding).

  8. Donald B says:

    I hope everyone listening picked up Timothy Wirth’s reference to the articles in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday by Margot Roosevelt on the Arctic methane releases from the permafrost (methane time bomb):,0,2688260.story

    I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that it was reported in the BUSINESS section!