Question: Are other countries adapting their energy use better
than we are?
I mean almost every
country is doing it better than the United States right now. We’re
leading in nothing in this way. If you go to Germany you’ll find the
largest installed solar capacity in the world even though it’s a pretty
cloudy Wagnerian place. If you go to Denmark you’ll see a quarter of the
power coming from the wind. You’ll see almost everybody hooked up to
these combined heat and power plants that are very highly efficient. You
know there is a lot of places across northern Europe and central Europe
that are doing quite remarkable things. If you go to China you’ll see
the largest installed renewable base in the world. You’ll see cities of
millions of people where essentially everyone gets their hot water from
solarthermal panels up on the roof. You’ll see the largest wind farm in
the world. If you go to Abu Dhabi, where they’ve making lots of money on
oil for a long time but realized that oil isn’t there forever, you’ll
see the largest solar array on the planet. They’d like to make money in
the future as well. Question: Why are we so behind?
We’re so behind for two reasons. One, we’re the most
addicted to fossil fuel of any country and hence it’s hard for us to
kind of imagine change. It seems too scary. For some reason the
Europeans and others are just bolder in this way or more rational or
something. But we’re also behind because this is the headquarters of the
fossil fuel industry and they’ve used their enormous power to keep
change from happening. ExxonMobil made more money each of the last three
years than any company in the history of money. In our political system
that buys them a lot of power to prevent change from happening and
they’ve done it effectively.
Question: Do you
consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?
McKibbon: In some ways I’ve sort of given up trying to figure out
whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I just get in the morning and do
my work and see what we can. Scientifically, one has to be more
pessimistic. These changes are happening enormously quickly. That’s what
this new book of mine I’m afraid is kind of first to really catalog.
It’s a much darker scene even than we thought 20 years ago. Politically,
though we haven’t yet accomplished anything, the last year has been
good. This huge upswing of support for 350.org really means that for the
first time we have a movement going to kind of press for the political
change that we need. If we can make the movement large enough and
powerful enough then I think we have some chance of changing the
politics. But it’s going to be a close call at best whether we get the
change we need in the time we need. Clearly it won’t come fast enough to
prevent an enormous problem, that’s already underway. Hopefully it will
come fast enough to prevent sort of ultimate trouble.
on April 13, 2010