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News: ‘Field Notes’ Archive

Senator Dianne Feinstein speaking on Climate Change, Energy, Water, at ClimateOne at the Commonwealth Club

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

April 3, 2013, San Francisco

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared at ClimateOne at the Commonwealth Club to discuss several topics, including attempts to ban assault weapons, the use of drones, and climate change. This video features her comments related to energy and climate change. During her appearance, Feinstein repeatedly stressed the importance of taking action to avert climate change and spoke critically of the Keystone XL pipeline, yet paradoxically acknowledged in a follow up press conference that governmental action on climate change was “not on the high priority list”. She said she intends to introduce a $10/ton carbon tax bill, with half of proceeds to be used to pay down the national debt.

Senator Feinstein: “The climate has already warmed at least one degree over a hundred years. And you know, people I think don’t really understand. They think the earth is immutable, they think we can’t destroy it, that it’s here to stay, and that it’s always been this way. It’s not so. You know, some two hundred million plus years ago, there’s geologic evidence to say that maybe there was only one land mass on earth and it all split apart. I don’t know whether that’s true or false, I’ve read a lot of science on the subject.”

Senator Feinstein
“The question is, can we really bite the bullet and make the decision that we’re going to save the planet, because if it warms … 4 to 7 degrees, it’s too late.” ~ Senator Dianne Feinstein

“But ever since the industrial revolution when we began to pump carbon dioxide through fuel into the atmosphere. The atmosphere is very limited, it’s maybe seven miles up, and that’s it. And it’s like a shell. And so every bit of this that’s pumped into the atmosphere stays, it doesn’t dissipate. So as we fill the atmosphere with pollutants, methane, carbon dioxide, other things, what happens is, it warms the earth. And it begins with, animal habitat disappears, it begins with the ocean beginning to rise, it begins with more violent hurricanes, tornadoes, funnel clouds in the pacific, where in my youth they never used to be, they are now, on occasion. And, lightning strikes, I remember one June where there were thousands of lightning strikes that started hundreds of small fires in California. When it rains the drops are bigger, the rains more violent. Drought is more prevalent. So I think, actually, what’s going to be the ultimate changer, is weather.”

“People see weather, they see hurricanes, they see the devastation, and so I think eventually, people are going to come around to support restrictions on carbon dioxide, maybe a fee on the use of carbon that goes in to replace our deficit, our debt. A twenty dollar fee I think is like 1.2 trillion in revenue over ten years. If you just take half that, it’s 600 billion. And it accomplishes something.”

Greg Dalton: “Is there much support for that in the Senate?”

Senator Feinstein: “I wouldn’t say there’s much, I would say this – people are coming to realize now. And we have a little caucus that meets and discusses, we’ve had I think three global warming bills up, they didn’t get, I mean they got thirty six or so votes, but, everything’s getting worse. The weather is getting worse, and the climate change is getting worse. Senator FeinsteinAnd actually since 2008, good energy has doubled, that’s the good thing. That you know electric cars are being more prevalent, hybrids are being more prevalent. People are saving money. So good things are happening, the question is, can we really bite the bullet and make the decision that we’re going to save the planet, because if it warms, and I heard your opening spot, 4 to 7 degrees, it’s too late. If we can confine this warming to one to two degrees, then, there’s big change, but it’s handle able. And that’s where we should strive to go. China in particular has a terrible, terrible problem. Deaths are now up from pollution. People are wearing masks virtually all winter long in Shanghai and Beijing.”

Greg Dalton: “And there’s been some recent reports putting price tags on all of that, the price of the health loss of life, etc. President Obama in his inaugural address and state of the Union pledged stronger action on climate. Do you think he’s doing enough? Specifically, what should he do?”

Senator Feinstein: “The President has so many things, and everybody says do you think he’s doing enough on this or that or the other thing, and he’s going to appoint a new EPA director. The EPA now has the ability to move ahead, so it’s very important that the EPA director be strong and be willing to take the action that’s necessary to help us all save this planet.”

Greg Dalton: “And you think Gina McCarthy will get confirmed?”

Senator Feinstein: “That’s a good question, everything is questioned these days. It’s the first time I have ever seen a president go through years of his presidency without being able to confirm members of his own cabinet.”

Greg Dalton: “And the judiciary?”

Senator Feinstein: “And the judiciary, well the judiciary is sort of a place apart. But for the executive branch to work, having your cabinet in place is a no brainer. You know, everybody says well elections matter, yes they matter. Whoever is president has to be able to govern and the way you govern is through your executives which are your cabinet secretaries.”


Greg Dalton: “Do you think the U.S. should approve the Keystone pipeline?”

Senator Feinstein: “I have just been reading a National Geographic article on tar sands, and everything I’ve seen in that article is bad. Now this tar sands project is up in Alberta. I’m told that the area is bigger than the state of Florida. I’m told that it’s a forested area which they mowed down and then began to dig the huge giant lakes, that they pour chemicals in to produce this form of tar sands oil. The earth is defaced forever. Now we have to make up our minds – do we want to deface large portions of our earth forever? I don’t think so, because we’re making progress on clean energy, and that ought to be where we go. And some people say well, you know, if that pipeline isn’t built north to south through the center of our country, they’re only going to do it east to west and send it to China. I think that is really not a very good argument because I think we really have to look at tar sands.”

Greg Dalton: “Another area of potential large oil development is here in California – the Monterey shale new fracking technologies making accessible about 15 billion barrels of oil which is equal to half the amount originally in the north slope of Alaska. Should that be developed and should California tax that? California is the only state that doesn’t tax oil extraction.”

Senator Feinstein: “Well I sure think we ought to tax it. Because I don’t think candidly that it’s all that necessary. There will be no drilling off the coast of California if Senator Boxer and I prevail, and we have so far. And the house delegation as well. The people of our state voted, and we voted against offshore oil drilling and I believe we ought to keep that vote. But my emphasis would be on clean energy, you know the wind farms, the solar facilities…and there’s so much research going on, on different forms of fuels. I’m amazed at what they think they can make fuel out of these days. So you know, I say, that’s just great, let’s do it. And leave these fossil fuels alone because they pollute the atmosphere.”


“I spend a lot of my time on water in California. There is no question in my view that we are on our way to a much drier climate, we are on it because of global warming. We are on our way to the major source of water, which is the Sierra Nevada snow pack, drying up. And it’s very serious, and so there are big water fights. Right now the water allocation for south of Delta farmers I believe is 20% of their contract amount, that is way too little. A farmer can’t plant, irrigate and harvest with twenty percent of his contract amount. He probably can’t go to the banks and get the loans that he might need with twenty percent of his contract.”

National Security

Senator Feinstein“If you have low lying areas, let’s take Bangladesh, let’s take some of the bigger islands, and they are flooded, where do people go, and what’s the result of that movement of people in low lying areas all over the world? What’s the result in oceans warming so that fishing stocks are killed or no longer as prevalent. So these are the kinds of national security concerns I think that emanate from that. And what was being done is having our satellites track various areas so that we could note changes over years- the melting arctic, the melting Antarctic. Greenland which is substantial melting, and from that you see the movement of people that’s gonna have to take place and then what happens with that. ”

Greg Dalton: “And some people are very concerned about Indonesia, largest Muslim country, heavily dependent on fishing. If fishing starts to go down in Indonesia, what does that mean for stability…”

Senator Feinstein: “That’s what I tried to say, I wasn’t as eloquent as you were.”

Greg Dalton: “Last question is, how do you think climate change will affect you and your family in years ahead?”

Senator Feinstein: “Well, I have seven grandchildren, and I really believe it will affect them. And I really hate to say this, but I spent forty years in this life in government, and to end it and not have secured a world that’s capable of sustenance and beauty and wonder for my grandchildren, is just a crushing blow. So, I hope that within the next six years, you’re going to see a climate change bill pass in the Senate and the House and be signed by this President.”

Q (press conference): “What action can we expect on climate change?”

Senator Feinstein: “I think that’s hard to predict right now. I think it’s not on the high priority list. I think that a carbon fee is growing in popularity. It’s my intention – I know there’s been a bill introduced at twenty dollars a ton, and it’s my intention to introduce one at ten dollars a ton, and we’ll see what happens to it.”

Report by James George

Video: Robert Reich at UC Berkeley’s General Strike & Day of Action

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Nov 15, Berkeley, California

Robert ReichProfessor Robert Reich spoke to approximately 5000 people in Sproul Plaza at the University of California Berkeley culminating a General Strike & Day of Action. The general assembly of ‘Occupy Cal’ voted earlier that evening to resume the tent occupation that had been torn down by the university police Wednesday night last week amidst videos of police brutality against students who had locked arms to defend the initial occupation. This video includes real time views of the plaza packed with demonstrators.

Partial excerpt:
“Forty seven years ago as you know we were graced with the eloquence and the power of Mario Savio’s words from these steps. And they were words that echoed and ricocheted across America, Words about the importance and centrality of freedom of speech and assembly and freedom of expression and social justice. And those words continue to live on. In fact, the sentiments and words that Mario Savio expressed forty seven years ago, are as relevant if not more relevant today than they were then. Because today unlike then we have a few Supreme Court decisions, such as ‘Citizens United’ against the Federal Election Commission.” [crowd boos]

Cal Berkeley General Strike
The general assembly’s vote and decision to occupy is announced and a tent is carried up the Mario Savio steps while the crowd awaits Robert Reich

Excerpt Continued:
“Did you just boo the Supreme Court of the United States? There are a few Supreme Court decisions that have said that essentially that money is speech and corporations are people. Now when you think that money is speech and corporations are people then it becomes extraordinarily important to protect the first amendment rights of ordinary Americans of regular citizens of students of everybody else who doesn’t have the money and who is not a corporation.”

KQED Reich video
CalTV Reich video

Report by James George

Video: UC Berkeley Nov. 15 Day of Action – March through Berkeley

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Nov 15, Berkeley, California

Students, faculty and staff at the University of California staged a Nov 15 General Strike and Day of Action against tuition fee hikes and recent policy brutality against student activists. After a large noon rally, thousands marched through the city of Berkeley.

Upon returning from the march to Sproul Plaza on the University of California Berkeley campus, the demonstrators were joined by a large contingent – and a tent – from the recently dismantled encampment of Occupy Oakland in Oscar Grant Plaza (Frank Ogawa Plaza).

Cal Berkeley General Strike
The marchers return to Sproul Plaza after a march through Berkeley
Cal Berkeley General Strike
Sproul Plaza filled with demonstrators

Report by James George

Video: Rep. Bachmann claims Iranian President threatened future nuclear attack against Israel and the U.S.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

October 20, 2011 San Francisco

Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, U.S. Presidential Candidate Representative Michelle Bachmann accused the President of Iran of having threatened both Israel and United States with future nuclear attacks. Minnesota’s Republican Congresswoman did not give a source or date for these alleged and potentially inflammatory statements, though she did mention her position on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. As Iran’s President has repeatedly denied that Iran seeks to acquire nuclear weapons, it would be in direct contradiction to those claims for him to make extreme threats of this type.

text excerpt:
“I’m very concerned about the threat from Iran and the Iranian threat in my mind is the premier threat that is dominating the Middle East today. It is the acquisition of a nuclear weapon. I say that because of the statements that have been made by the President of Iran as recently as three weeks prior to entering the United States to speak to the U.N. National Assembly. The statement was simply this: He sought the eradication of Israel from the Earth. That is in parallel and in tandem to statements he gave prior to that saying that once Iran attains a nuclear weapon they would use that nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth and use a nuclear weapon also against the United States of America. Those are highly destructive statements and ones that I believe should be taken seriously.”

Congresswoman Bachmann
“Our enemy is not the Iranian people. Our enemy is an Iranian leadership that has the stated intention of using a nuclear weapon against the United States and using a nuclear weapon against our ally Israel.” ~ Rep. Bachmann

“…We need to take the issue of the Iranian threat extremely seriously because of the benefit of time that Iran has had, they have been able to come closer to achieving their goal, and as was stated early, I am privileged to sit on the the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation’s classified secrets, we deal with the threats to the United States both within the interior of our borders and those that come to us externally. And I will say that while this election is about jobs and the economy, we cannot forget the fact that there are very real national security concerns that we also need to be part of this very important process in the 2012 selection process.”

Q: “How would you as President respond to that Iranian threat?”

“I would respond with absolutely everything that the United States can put on the line, because we cannot abide, we must not and we cannot abide an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Because of the stated intentions of Iran, we would be subjecting the American people to the deployment of a nuclear weapon against our own people, and also to the state of Israel. This is something that we need to consider. I believe when a madman speaks you listen. And the statements of the President of Iran have been those of a genocidal maniac.”

Congresswoman Bachmann
Congresswoman Bachmann

“…My statements are about the President of Iran, my statements are not about the Iranian people, I want to make that very clear. Because we know in 2009 there was a yearning for freedom from the Iranian people, and I believe at that point it would have been prudent for the United States to do everything that we could to foster that desire for the Iranian people to be free of oppression. Unfortunately that did not occur.”

“Our enemy is not the Iranian people. Our enemy is an Iranian leadership that has the stated intention of using a nuclear weapon against the United States and using a nuclear weapon against our ally Israel.”

Ironically, Iran could interpret Bachmann’s statement itself as a veiled threat of nuclear attack against Iran, because “absolutely everything that the United States can put on the line” might be taken to include the use of nuclear weapons by the United States. Bachmann has previously criticized Obama’s rules of nuclear engagement and has advocated a policy of nuclear retaliation in the event of a chemical or biological attack against the United States.

Report by James George

Video: Moving Planet San Francisco Rally Speaker Excerpts

Monday, September 26th, 2011

San Francisco, September 24, 2011

Several speakers spoke at Civic Center in San Francisco following a march through San Francisco as part of a global day of action to ‘move beyond fossil fuels’. This video features excerpts from speakers Bill McKibben of, Carl Anthony of Urban Habitat, and Gail McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond, California

Video: Moving Planet Climate Change Rally in San Francisco

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

San Francisco, September 24, 2011

Bill McKibben
“On November sixth were going back to the White House, and were going to surround it. We’re going to surround it with human beings. And depending on the kind of mood you’re in, it’s kind of an O to encourage the President to do the right thing, or sort of a symbolic house arrest. You know, those are the options. And we need, since he has the power himself to stop this pipeline, for him to do it. We need all of all leaders who have power and responsibility, like the people we’ve been hearing today, to step up and do the right thing.” ~ Bill McKibben

Moving Planet demonstrations took place around the world today, calling for a move beyond fossil fuels. In San Francisco thousands of lively demonstrators marched along Market Street chanting “hey hey ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go”. The march was followed by a rally at Civic Center where several speakers addressed the crowd, including Bill McKibben of McKibben and several others present had been arrested about a month ago in the nation’s capital for protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline which would bring Canadian tar sands oil to Texas for refining.

Report by James George

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s Climate & Energy Comments in S.F

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

San Francisco, September 19, 2011

United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made an appearance at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco primarily to discuss water issues. In addition he made some comments regarding energy, climate change, and fracking fluids, excerpts of which are included in this video.

Selected Excerpts:

Secretary Salazar
Interior Secretary Salazar

Question by Greg Dalton: “When Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 he gave a speech with which he said people would look back on his presidency as a time when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. Since that time the administration has opened up 2.3 billion tons of coal mining in Wyoming, the Arctic potentially to drilling, and potentially on track to approve a Keystone XL pipeline which would bring some of the dirtiest fuel from the Alberta tar sands to Texas. So how does that record square with the presidents pledge address climate change?”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar:
0:40 ‘I think, Greg, what one must do is put the issue in the context of what it is that we’re doing on energy, and I think that when you look at the President and the energy team and the programs that we have put forward we are doing more that what has been done in the time of history.’

Secretary Salazar
‘The time will come when the Congress will awaken to the need to have a comprehensive energy and climate change legislative framework’

‘On fuel efficiency, our vehicles are going to be getting forty to fifty miles to the gallon we’re going to be saving billions of barrels of oil a year. That means less CO2 that’s going to been burned. We’ve embraced a whole new ethic on what we’re doing with renewable energy, from solar to geothermal to wind – that is moving forward. We’ve invested billions of dollars in efficiency and in new materials to try to deal with the energy issue which is really the nexus between what happens here on Earth and the changes in climate. Now, have we been able to do as much as we wanted to do? The answer is no. We wanted to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation bills, we worked on that very hard.’

‘…Our own view as an administration is that the time will come when the Congress will awaken to the need to have a comprehensive energy and climate change legislative framework. … the principles that will keep driving this agenda forward in the years and the decades ahead, are at the end of the day about national security and the fact that now we’re so dependent on countries that really don’t have our interests at stake, our economic security, because we are now sending 750 billion dollars a year overseas, and finally the environmental security of the planet. ‘

3:04 ‘The fact of the matter you know coal is one of the greatest emitters of C02, and there are ways in which you can deal with that, including the conversion … of coal plants over to natural gas which is much less CO2 emitting. But … almost 50% of our electricity comes from coal supplies so we need to find the right way to transition from coal to the new energy world, and in addition to that and something which we worked on very hard, is to find a way to find a future for coal supplies in the United States by finding a way of burning it cleanly so you won’t have the same problems of the past.’

‘And so it’s carbon capture and sequestration, and moving forward to those kinds of projects which hopefully we’ll be able to find that one of the most abundant energy supplies that we have here in America will have a place in the future energy portfolio of the country.’

Fracking fluids:

‘Seven or eight months ago we brought together a group of industry leaders and others, the Department of Interior to talk about fracking and disclosure. My sense is that many of the responsible actors in the industry want to make sure that there is disclosure of fracking fluids, because they see it as I see, they see it as David and I have seen it over the last several years, and that is that unless industry is forthcoming and is disclosing its fluids that it’s injecting into the underground, it’s going to become the Achilles heel that essential destroys any future for natural gas industry in shale here in the United States. And so, we’re in the process of making some decisions that we’ll be to be rolling over the next several months about how we’re going to deal with the issue of fracking fluids on the public estate, which is huge, because between lands that we control at Interior, as well as those that we control on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, there are about 700 million acres in the United States.’

Report by James George

Video: Bill Mckibben and Paul Hawken, ‘Blessed 350′ at Climate One

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Sept 8, 2011 San Francisco

Bill McKibben, founder of and Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest, spoke before an enthusiastic crowd at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club. The event, “Blessed 350″, focused on issues of climate change and systemic transformation .

Selected Excerpts

Bill McKibben
“So we’ve got to adapt to that which we can no longer prevent, but even more importantly probably, is to prevent that which there is just no way for us to adapt to.” ~ Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben 0:00 “The fact that we’re in a period of economic trauma probably is a good sign that we need to start thinking much more systemically about what we’re going to do differently. My guess is that the economy that we’re moving towards looks less to growth than to durability and resilience and security. And it’s probably going to be far more – the trajectory will be more in the direction of local instead of the ever expanding outward globalism that’s relying on an endless supply of cheap fossil energy to make it possible.. I think we’re in one of the really interesting moments that has a lot of promise and the only real worry is that climate change is happening so fast that it may knock the props out from under the whole thing before we can get where we need to go. ”

“Just to give you the easiest example: the place you can see this new economy emerging is in food. And it’s been wonderful to watch, as the local food movement has grown and the number of farmers markets have doubled and then doubled. That’s the fastest growing part of our food economy. Fast enough that last year the USDA said that there are actually more farms in America instead of fewer for the first time in a hundred and fifty years which is great. ”

“I live in Vermont, which is one of the headquarters along with the bay area of this sort of local food movement. When we had hurricane Irene dump more rain on Vermont than ever has fallen there – and direct consequence of the fact that the warm air holds more water vapor than cold – when that happened at the end of August it wiped out every farmer in the state. There’s nothing growing there now. I mean everything was flooded and submerged. Our best local farms underwater. We’ve got to take on these environmental challenges to have any hope of being able to do the kind of really interesting transformative economic work that’s possible now.”

Paul Hawken
“What we need from Obama is conviction, and spine and a clear vision of the future…. And no Congress can stop him from being a human being. And no Congress can stop him from being a father to two beautiful children and saying I am going to do everything I can to insure that my daughters have a livable world. Nothing stops him from doing that.” ~ Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken 2:13 “But what do we really need to change? What we need to change is the system, and the system cannot change until there is a manifest crisis that is shared and the pain is shared. That’s just the way human beings are; I’m not wishing it upon us. Whether it’s a climatic crisis like two force five hurricanes climbing up the coast in the same year that really makes an impression, or whether it’s economic or whether it’s both because they’re not unrelated, I don’t know what it will be. But in the meantime, what I see happening, and why I wrote Blessed [Unrest], and why I see Bill doing, is that it’s extraordinarily important for people to build and create the basis for a future; it’s more than resiliency, it’s what’s going to succeed in an ecological sense the system that’s in place now. It may look marginal, the small farm or NGO may look inconsequential. But as I said, there’s no such thing as inconsequential action – there’s only inconsequential non-action.”

Bill McKibben 4:44 “I think that we’ve got two tasks now to save society. The interesting and powerful fun one takes all our creativity, is to figure out how to build these beautiful resilient interesting local and regional economies that can roll with the punches. That’s really where I wish I could spend all my time, that’s what I mostly write about, and Vermont where I live is a place like California which is a leader in it, and nothing I’d rather due. I was home 50 days last year I think, because the second part of this task, the emergency part, is making sure that we don’t push so hard that that can’t happen. So far we’ve raised the temperature of the planet one degree, but the climatologists are quite robust in their consensus that that will be four degrees by centuries end unless we get our act together very very fast.”

Bill McKibben 5:37 “You can’t adapt to change at that level. So we’ve got to adapt to that which we can no longer prevent, but even more importantly probably, is to prevent that which there is just no way for us to adapt to. We’re already pushing the outer limits. We’ve moved out the Holocene, the ten thousand years of benign climatic stability that underwrote the rise of the human civilization and we’re into something else. And the question is how deep into that something else are we gonna go? And if you think it’s hard for us to adapt to those things in California that has plenty of money, I mean, one of the pleasures of helping start is that we work in every country in the world except North Korea. So I’ve been everywhere, and you know, this is already a matter of life and death, and all too often death for people in place after place after place around the world. And of course the horrible ethical irony of that is that the places that are hit hardest are the places that have done the least to cause the damage. We don’t just have a practical onus on us to do something, we have a profound moral one too.”

Bill McKibben 7:08 “Our problem is far and away caused by the fact that the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry on earth, has all the financial means at their disposal to keep us from taking action and clearly they are willing to us it. They are willing to keep going, the record profits they’re making for another five or ten years, even if it means the ruination of the planet. There’s nothing polite about the political fights that we’re now in… If we cannot break the power of the fossil fuel industry to delay change and action then we can’t do anything. And that’s the work that we’re about . And that’s why people are going to jail. And that’s why people are doing huge things, you know 350 we’ve had these great enormous days of action on every country on earth. It’s why people are stepping up. And that’s what the battle is, people versus very concentrated pockets of money”

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben 9:30 “Everybody who got arrested was in coat and tie or a dress, you know. And the reason was to kind of demonstrate to the rest of the world who the radicals in this scenario are. The people who work and Chevron and Shell and Exxon are radicals. They are willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere in order to get money. That’s as radical an act as any person who ever lived has undertaken. ”

“Those of us who are trying to preserve the world in something like the form we once know it are in this sense deeply conservative. And it’s importance to get that across. To understand what the ideologies around this fight really are.”

Bill McKibben
This is already a matter of life and death, and all too often death for people in place after place after place around the world. And of course the horrible ethical irony of that is that the places that are hit hardest are the places that have done the least to cause the damage. We don’t just have a practical onus on us to do something, we have a profound moral one too.” ~ Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben 10:21 “We know the thing that we have to do. Everybody who’s ever looked at it knows that if you put a serious price on carbon to reflect the damage that it does to the environment then we would begin to move much more quickly and gracefully in the right direction. The only reason we don’t do that is because of the incredible power of the fossil fuel industry to prevent that from happening. …Look Exxon made more money last year than any company in the history of money. In our political system that gives them way more power than they deserve.”

“And they’re using that power to prevent change from happening. And they’re using that power right now to try to make sure. You now, and all those companies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Which the bigger contributor to elections in the last cycle was the US chamber of commerce, and they put 94% of their money into the campaigns of climate deniers. They used that power to retard what scientists and economists and everyone else knows that we need to do and that’s the shameful part.”

Paul Hawken 11:31 “What we need from Obama is conviction, and spine and a clear vision of the future. And that is totally absent. And he has that bully pulpit any time he wants it. And no Congress can stop him from being a human being. No Congress can stop him from being a father to two beautiful children and saying I am going to do everything I can to insure that my daughters have a livable world. Nothing stops him from doing that. And that’s what’s missing from the Obama Administration. The dysfunctional politics, that’s another issue … a real issue and a terrible issue. But that isn’t preventing him from standing up.”

Bill McKibben 12:14 “And there are issues on which Congress doesn’t get in the way. That’s one reason why we focused so hard on the Keystone Pipeline. Congress has not a thing to do with it. The President will either sign or not sign something called a Presidential Certificate of National Interest, and if he doesn’t sign it, then they cannot build this pipeline. His call. I mean, you know, he’s a basketball guy. It’s a twenty foot open jump shot from the top of the key and he’ll either take it or pass off, you know. And we’re doing our best to help him sort of nerve up to do it. They’ve made – did a couple of good things. We’ve got better mileage than we used to and there was some money in the original stimulus bill for a green things. Not anywhere near as much money as say the Chinese put into their similar stimulus bill. They’ve done a lot of bad things on their own. Earlier this year they opened up 750 million tons of coal underneath Wyoming for mining, and it wasn’t something Congress made them do, Ken Salazar and the President decided to do it. And that’s the equivalent of opening 300 new coal fired power plants. We can’t afford to be doing this any longer. Everything we know about the science of climate change says we’ve got to keep carbon in the ground. And if you can’t do that , we really can deal with it.”

Paul Hawken
“There’s no such thing as inconsequential action – there’s only inconsequential non-action” ~ Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken 13:34 “..and I think the same thing holds true in terms of renewable energy. And I think that in some ways the progressive movement has given a hall pass to some renewable technologies that are not renewable, and solar is one of them. It’s not renewable because you’re using high intensity energy, in this case Chinese coal powered plants, to make a low intensity generator that can’t turn around and make itself, and so therefore it’s not renewable. And second, it is the most toxic form of energy per kilowatt hour on the planet besides the tar sands, save for a meltdown at Fukushima.”

Greg Dalton “That’s because the photovoltaic cells, what goes into them…”

Paul Hawken “Oh it’s a witch’s brew. You have hexaflouride gases that are 25,000 times more powerful than CO2. And they’re escaping from the sintering ovens in China. A quarter ounce escapes and you have a net effect on environment in terms of increased carbon emissions, not negative….”

Paul Hawken 15:14 “There’s no point in making a renewable energy generator that has a three or five to one return on energy. That energy return on energy invested is laughable. It’s close to what the tar sands have: two or three to one. We came from a hundred to one world, that’s the oil and coal world. For every unit of energy that you put into the earth, a hundred units of energy came back, and that’s what we’re accustomed to The fact is surplus energy is the feedstock of civilization, and when you do not have surplus energy, you do not have civilization, you have hard scrabble existence. So you’ve got to be thinking about renewable technologies that have a really magnificent return on the energy invested, not a paltry one. So for all these reasons all I’m saying is that incumbent solar—thank you for getting us to where we are—is not going to take us to where we want to go”

Bill McKibben 17:28 “Oh there’s gotta be sooner or later a global agreement of some kind. I mean I don’t think there’s any other – this is the first global problem that we’ve ever had. If we can’t get, and we’re not going to get America, and China, and other big problems to agree without some serious pressure from the other countries of the world. You know, everybody’s going for the next sort of international negotiations in Durban this fall. And hopefully one of the things that’s going to happen there is the entire continent of Africa, the top half of which is locked in to a devastating drought right now, will be putting serious pressure on the world. That’s one of the things we do at, is try to mobilize the whole planet, and most of the people on that planet use so little carbon that they don’t have any effective way in their own personal lives to change the outcome, but politically they can put a lot of pressure on those of us who should be changing things.”

“Copenhagen the movie did not end the way that it was supposed to end. I mean we had a hundred and seventeen nations that we managed to sign on to this 350 parts per million right. That’s good, but they were the wrong 117 nations, all the poor and vulnerable ones. And the rich and addicted ones, led by our country, undermined that meeting and have done nothing since. The State Department has been, under President Obama, a complete and utter failure at getting any kind of international momentum going towards an agreement. We’ve got to change that.”

Bill McKibben 19:10 “Eventually – and here’s the thing about climate change, eventually this is going to happen. Eventually there are going to be enough bad things that have happened that people all over the world will be saying we have no choice but to do something. Sooner or later we’ll do it. The problem is, ‘sooner or later’ is the issue, because the physics and chemistry of climate change do not give us a very long window to operate, and if we choose later instead of sooner, than we might as well really bother frankly, because the problem will have passed the point where it is any longer susceptible to our amelioration”

Paul Hawken 23:46 “You know I think it’s importance to understand that we live in a very violent culture. I mean violent every step of the way. It’s not just violence in Iraq and Afghan. It’s violence to our children the way they’re educated. It’s violence to women – women know this the world over. It’s violent the way we treat our soils in agriculture. We’re violent to our forests. Our thermo-industrial system is violent in terms of chemistry. I mean every single aspect of what we do in this culture is violent. And what we’re talking about is moving to a world and a civilization that starts to looks at nature as mentor, that basically imitates. What we see in nature is is that life creates the conditions that are conducive to life and you don’t do that with force, you don’t do it with coercion. You don’t do it with power-over strategies.”

Bill McKibben

Q: “The United States got wealthy off of fossil fuels, and is not really willing to go along with the Kyoto approach or offer any reparations for the climate damage that we’ve already done. What can we hope for in terms of an agreement, I mean if Obama goes ahead with the pipeline, and when the petroleum price was getting too high and he opened the reserves to lower it, is there any way the United States can get up to the bully pulpit and say let’s make a deal. What can we offer?”

Bill McKibben 25:14 “Look, at the moment there’s no possibility right now for a global deal just like there’s no possibility for anything happening in Congress right now. We’re clearly not there, that’s why our job is to build a political movement big enough to force our leaders to actually lead. And that’s not something that has happened around climate until recently. The reason why we started was because at a certain point after sort of having written the first book about this and gotten a watch for fifteen or twenty years while nothing happened, it dawned on me that the strategy of having scientists whisper in the ear of politicians about what the biggest problem in the world was, wasn’t working, because while they were whispering in one ear, the fossil fuel industry was bellowing in the other ear about what they were gonna do. ”

“We’re never gonna have the money that the fossil fuel industry has, so we better find an alternate currency to work in, and that currency has gotta be our bodies and our creativity and our spirit and our passion. That’s what political movements are about, that’s what we’re trying to build. When we build one, as we build one, new political possibilities open up.”

Report by James George

Canadas Oil Sands: Energy Security or Energy Disaster? Excerpts

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

San Francisco, August 30, 2011

Climate One at the Commonwealth Club held a panel discussion Monday on the Keystone XL pipeline, “Canadas Oil Sands: Energy Security or Energy Disaster?”.
Panelists (left to right): Jason Mark, Earth Island Institute.
Alex Pourbaix, President of Energy and Oil Pipelines, TransCanada
Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club, Cassie Doyle, Consul General, Canada

Representing TransCanada in favor of the pipeline, Alex Pourbaix argued that the United States will continue to rely upon imported gas for decades to come, and that Canada gas offers the U.S. increased energy security from a friendly source with similar values. Cassie Doyle, Canada’s Consul General also highlighted the Canada/US friendship theme, mentioning that Canada and the U.S. have similar environmental standards and the same greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. “Canada has adopted a GHS reduction target that’s exactly the same as the U.S”. Ironically, these common targets exist because Canada weakened its targets from its earlier Kyoto commitment and now matches the weaker U.S. targets offered in Copenhagen of 17% below of 2005 levels by 2020, which are said to be equivalent to a mere 3 to 4% below of 1990 levels.

Carl Pope
“If we burn all the conventional crude that there is in the world, we would fry the planet. If we burn all the conventional crude plus a lot of unconventional crude, we doubly fry the planet. We really can’t afford to become dependent on this much oil.” ~ Carl Pope

Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club, said that in addition to being dirty, the tar sands oil won’t even deliver on the promise of increasing the U.S. fuel supply, since most of the oil will ultimately be exported from the U.S. after being refined in Texas, so that the United States essentially assumes environmental risks and costs without benefit. Further, the construction of the pipeline extends a dangerous U.S. oil addiction rather than moving toward renewable energy.

Jason Mark of the Earth Island Institute, explained that tar sands oil has a higher carbon footprint than other types of oil in part because the extraction processes requires pumping steam into the ground, an energy intensive, greenhouse gas emitting process. He framed the issue as an important policy choice as to whether or not the United States will move away from fossil fuels. He suggested that U.S. fuel consumption may in fact drop as tighter fuel efficiency standards come into effect. Whereas Cassie Doyle highlighted the billions of dollars of contracts going to aboriginal companies in the tar sands region, Jason described communities in the region as being torn apart and mentioned lawsuits by the Beaver Lake Cree against the government for violations of treaty rights,

” If you’re a First Nation People, if you’re a Beaver Lake Cree and you’re seeing your homeland being destroyed and you’re being told, well you can either work in our mines, you can take a government handout, or you can starve. That’s just not very fair.”

When the mic was opened up for audience questions, Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity, stepped up and put the panel’s discussion into the context of the events unfolding in the nation’s capital, where there has been ongoing civil disobedience with hundreds of arrests in protest of the pipeline.

“As of today more than 600 people have been arrested in front of the White House … climate scientists, farmers, climate activists, communities of faith. People from all across the country, all ages …putting that line in the sand, saying no more expansion of this oil infrastructure, and really calling on President Obama who has this within his power. You know this is not a Congressional discussion, this is not something that has to happen in international negotiations. We are saying this is a line in the sand, this is a long overdue moment when we need to say no more to our carbon addiction. … the people really are standing and being arrested as we speak right now”

Those arrested, which now number over 1200, include well known actors, activists such as Bill McKibben & Naomi Klein, and indigenous leaders including Debra White Plume, granddaughter of Chief Red Cloud, and Tom Goldtooth.

“We need to say, the fossil fuel era was the twentieth century, it’s over, and we’re going to invest in the future. And we cannot afford for tar sands oil to be the future” ~Carl Pope

Selected Excerpts from the Panel Discussion:


Alex Pourbaix:
00:00 “Most of the forecasts that are out there, including the forecast from your federal government, would expect that that oil demand in the U.S. will likely remain stable for many years to come. So were at the point where it is very apparent that U.S. is going to need to continue to import oil for a number of decades and really were now down to the question of where you want that oil to come from.”

Tar Sands Oil Panel
“The oil sands really represent the engine of economic growth for Canada for at least the next five decades. If the U.S. market were to be closed off … they’ll continue to develop and produce that crude.” ~ Alex Pourbaix

“Canada’s already the largest importer of oil to the US. And we would expect … with growth of production with the oil sands, we have the ability to add significantly more imports to the U.S. So it’s a question of energy security. If you take a look at the other countries that import oil to the U.S., they are largely countries that in many cases do not share the values of Americans, and in certain cases are actively against a lot of those values, and to suggest that those other countries are more responsible environmental citizens than Canada, really begs comprehension to me. Canada has proven itself to be a very good steward of the environment. We have excellent transparent environmental rules for the development of our resources. And I think of when you get down the point of where do you want to get your oil from, it is far more compelling to be getting your oil needs from Canada rather than getting it from other countries such as Libya, Nigeria, or Venezuela.”

Carl Pope:
1:37 “So what’s going to happen with this oil, is it will be shipped to refineries in Texas and will be refined into diesel, some gasoline, some jet fuel, and a large part, perhaps all, of that diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline will be exported to Europe and Latin America. The United States will bear the environmental risk, the United States will face higher oil prices, in fact the state department estimates that building this pipeline will increase – in the official EIS which Alex is otherwise going to defend – the official EIS says that America’s export bill will go up 1.5%, 6 billion dollars a year, if we build this pipeline in any of its options.”

“So this is really not what it’s being presented as. This is not a way to give America more access to affordable secure tar sands oil, albeit dirty. That’s the story you hear, yes it’s dirty but you get these other benefits. We’re not going to get these other benefits. The oil companies are going to make larger profits, that’s who’s going to benefit – cause the oil is not going to stay in the United States to bring our prices down. They are very clear about the fact that they think prices in the Midwest for oil are too low. They don’t like the fact that we’re not right now paying OPEC prices for oil in the Midwest. We are on the coasts, because on the coasts, the oil that comes here is – OPEC can manipulate the price. OPEC is not able to manipulate the price in the American Midwest and that’s what they’re trying to change.”

Q “How does Alberta oil compare to other crude oil in terms of its carbon content…?”

Jason Mark
“The question is really, is the United States going to be complicit in burning megatons more of carbon dioxide that is going to fuel runaway climate change”

Jason Mark:
3:26 “It’s got a bigger carbon footprint. If you just take even some of the most conservative figures which come from Cambridge research associates, they say to get a barrel of oil from the Canadian Tar Sands to the retail pump is thirty to seventy percent more green house gas intensive than the average barrel of oil consumed in the United States. Now if you actually go what’s called wells to wheels, the whole life cycle, it’s still five to fifteen percent more carbon intensive. Now maybe five to fifteen percent doesn’t sound like a huge number, but at this point in time, I don’t think we can afford any increase in greenhouse gas emissions or greenhouse gas intensity. … and especially some of the new processes that are coming on line, which is called in situ extraction where they inject steam into the ground. That takes a lot of energy to do that. Canada is using one fifth of all of its natural gas just to extract tar sands oil. You have to use a lot of energy to create some energy. And so the greenhouse gas intensity is much higher than the average barrel of oil, and I think that to me that is one of the most compelling claims. I was really surprised, you know the U.S. State Department said that this pipeline will have no significant environmental impact. As a journalist I felt that was the classic example of the headline writer not actually reading the story. Because when you go into that report, you see that the state department itself says that … according to US Department of Energy numbers, oil from the tar sands are 17% more greenhouse gas intensive. That’s a significant environmental impact, to spill all of this oil into the atmosphere, and I don’t think we can afford it.”

Alex Pourbaix argued that the GHG emissions of oil sands crude was unfairly being compared with WTI, a light sweet crude, rather than the more commonly used, and more carbon intensive, heavy crude:
8:22 “The problem is, is that WTI in no way shape or form represents the average barrel of oil that is consumed by refineries in the U.S. The refineries in the US are increasingly using heavy oil in their refinery runs. That makes sense, heavy oil is a lot cheaper than light sweet oil. And light sweet oils supplies worldwide are decreasing because it was the highest quality it was the easiest to find. We’re seeing the slate of oil production across the globe moving increasingly to heavy. So when you think about what happens if no more Canadian oil is allowed to get to refineries in the U.S. gulf cost. Those refineries spent tens of billions of dollars to configure themselves so that they can run these heavier crudes. These heavier crudes are cheaper. If Canadian oil does not get to them, they will source heavy crudes elsewhere in the globe and you will get the same emissions being produced worldwide.”

“There is a big difference between assuming that by stopping Keystone XL you’re going to stop the development of the oil sands. The oil sands really represent the engine of economic growth for Canada for at least the next five decades. If the U.S. market were to be closed off for incremental barrels of Canadian oil, it is not a fair assumption to assume that the people in the oil sands will stop developing that crude. They’ll continue to develop and produce that crude. They’ll do it reliably and they will do it conscientiously. But it will go to other markets, but the globe and the atmosphere does not respect borders.”

Carl Pope:
10:18 “So the reality is that the world cannot long term – there’s enough conventional crude – if we burn all the conventional crude that there is in the world, we would fry the planet. If we burn all the conventional crude plus a lot of unconventional crude, we doubly fry the planet. We really can’t afford to become dependent on this much oil. You’re right, the issue is demand. But it is not necessarily the case that the only way to change course is just to go after demand. We’re going after demand, Canada is going after demand. I think that this is a bad project from a bad industry from a fundamentally good country, I want to be clear I don’t want to trash Canada. We’re not so great. But what we discovered was once you build these facilities, once you build this infrastructure for an oil dependent economy, it’s much more expensive to move off of an oil dependent economy.”

“Tar sands oil basically doesn’t really make economic sense unless the price of oil is north of $80 a barrel. The world cannot afford to continue to produce huge volumes and consume huge volumes of $80 a barrel oil. That will make Alberta rich, it’ll make Saudi Arabia rich, it’ll make North Dakota rich, it’ll make Alaska risk, it’ll make Venezuela and Kuwait rich, but it will impoverish the rest of the world. We need to be putting the dollars that are currently going in to developing the tar sands into – Canada needs to be developing an economy that is not dependent for the next five decades on the growth of the tar sands industry, because if the tar sands industry grows for the next five years, Canada’s permafrost will all melt.”

“We cannot afford in the United States to have Canada give us another fix – and this is another fix – for our addiction to oil. And we cannot afford to become the transit pipeline for continuing to feed oil to Europe and Latin America. The world needs to get off oil.”

Jason Mark
12:25 “I just simply don’t understand this argument that, well if we don’t take it [tar sands oil], someone else is going to take it, so we therefore should just take it? I mean, that’s not the question on the table. The question is really, is the United States going to be complicit in burning megatons more of carbon dioxide that is going to fuel runaway climate change. I mean if the Chinese want to jump off the atmospheric version of the Golden Gate bridge, that doesn’t mean that we have to jump off to the bridge as well. I mean , I just don’t get it. The choice here facing Americans, Alex, is fundamentally , do we want to be consuming more oil? And I agree with you, I don’t want to get lost in the weeds on a conversation about the fractions of a percent. The question really is, as Carl said, do we continue to make investments that leave us on the path of a carbon intensive economy, or when do we start to make the decisions – when do we make the hard decisions that say we’re going to stop using oil, or we’re going to decrease our dependence on oil. And this is one of those litmus tests. This is one of those places where we draw a line in the sand, we say we have to start someplace. And the place to start is by saying no to the Keystone XL pipeline. Because, otherwise we just keep postponing the future. Oh we’ll eventually get around to decreasing our dependence on oil. This is a place where we say, nope, we’re going to take a u turn and start pursing a clean energy economy.”

Alex Pourbaix:
13:40 “You know the U.S. is going to consume oil at some level which will probably require imports for a very very long time. The U.S. can choose to deprive themselves of this source of oil, but the oil is going to be developed as I said before, and I think there are a lot of easier targets if people really want to make a meaningful impact on reducing greenhouse gas consumption in the U.S.”

Carl Pope:
14:10 “Our coal footprint is enormous, it is criminal, it is toxic, it is coming down. But it is very interesting when we debate the coal issue with Peabody coal they make exactly the same argument that you make. They say if you don’t use our coal here in the United States, those people over in China or India are going to burn it.”

“That’s the argument they use to rebut our effort to get American investment dollars and American focus on clean energy substitutes. Keystone XL is making exactly the same argument. If you don’t take it, it’ll go somewhere else. If we don’t give it to you, you’ll take it from somewhere else. The argument we’re making is 1) We don’t need it, 2) We can get off oil. 3) There are actually lots of things that are cheaper as a way of transporting than oil at $8 a barrel. $8 a barrel is not a bargain, and that’s what tar sands oil has to cost at volume.”

“We need to move this country – and I would hope that Canada would move itself but I’m not Canadian so that’s ultimately up to you – we need to say, the fossil fuel era was the twentieth century, it’s over, and we’re going to invest in the future. And we cannot afford for tar sands oil to be the future.”

Tar Sands Oil Panel
Carl Pope:
@26:04 “We have already reached the earliest of the tipping points. The weather that you experience for the rest of your life will have been influenced by the increase of greenhouse pollutants in the atmosphere. There are more severe tipping points coming. We don’t know precisely what the level of damage is at a specific atmospheric concentration of carbon and methane. But we know that we certainly cannot have confidence that we are not getting close to what most people would consider catastrophic tipping points. And it is clear that the longer we continue to believe, that “oh we’re running out of sweet crude, but there’s all this heavy stuff, gunk in the ground, and we’ll just use that. That’s not sending us the right message. One of the important things about stopping the coal fired power plants that were going to be built in the United States was, it sent America’s public utilities a message, get serious about renewables. If we stop the Keystone XL pipeline, it will send America’s public industries a message, get serious about getting off of oil.”

Cassie Doyle
“The economic benefits for both Canada and the United States of the oil sands development can’t be underestimated. It is a major economic driver.”

Cassie Doyle
15:56 “The communities around the oil sands have received significant economic benefits from its development, in employment, in funding going into companies. For instance, Aboriginal companies in the oil sands have received billions of dollars of contracts, have gone into those communities around the oil sands. So, I mean like any kind of boom, this is a major energy play, the largest in North America, you’re going to get concerns around kind of an overheating of the economy. But the economic benefits for both Canada and the United States of the oil sands development can’t be underestimated. It is a major economic driver.”

Jason Mark

16:35 “Many First Nations feel that the tar sands development is systematically shredding the rights that they’ve been guaranteed under treaties with the Canadian government. And so, you know there’s some commentators in Canada that like to set up this dichotomy between supposedly ethical oil from Canada and conflict oil from other countries. And in fact there’s no such thing as fair trade gasoline. Conflict and strife follow oil you know like white on rice, I don’t know, it’s just part of the package, and you see that conflict in the First Nation’s communities, that are really torn apart, where yes some people have these companies that are doing very well… and at the same time, many people there feel and see that their traditional cultures and the ecosystems on which they have always depending are really being destroyed. You’ve got at least one First Nation, the Beaver Lake Cree, who have filed a lawsuit against both the Canadian Federal Government and the Government of Alberta, saying that their treaty rights have been violated by the tar sands development there. Now that’s going to slog its way through the Canadian courts for quite a while, but if the Canadian Supreme Court were to find that in fact this development has violated their First Nation Rights, it’s going to be very hard to say that this is ethical oil or that this is somehow better than other places. I agree with Carl that yes, the First Nations Aboriginal people of Canada have more rights, than say the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, or than say, women in Saudi Arabia.”

“But I don’t know that that’s really much of a consolation. If you’re a First Nation People, if you’re a Beaver Lake Cree and you’re seeing your homeland being destroyed and you’re being told, well you can either work in our mines, you can take a government handout, or you can starve. That’s just not very fair.”

Alex Pourbaix:
21:11 “We are comfortable with our state of the art pipeline that we’re going to be very safe in that area”

Carl Pope:
21:20 “I’m sure that BP was comfortable they could produce Macondo safely. I’m sure that Tokyo Electric was confident that their power plants would survive the earthquake and the tsunami. The fact is, there are some situations in which, yes you may have a very long track record of something catastrophic not happening, but when something catastrophic happens, you can’t undo it. And the question is, which is being raised particularly in the state of Nebraska, particularly in the context of the routing of this pipeline through a particularly sandy, an area of the state which is viewed by people of the state as being particularly at risk, why shouldn’t we adopt yet another layer of safety, and reconfigure the routing of this pipeline. Because whatever reassurances and confidence TransCanada may have, they have had pipeline spills, every pipeline operator has had pipeline spills, most of which don’t end up being catastrophic, but one of these days one of them will. The bigger the pipeline and the more vital the water source, the higher the risk of a catastrophic spill”

Cassie Doyle

23:40 “Can I just say that I think that whether or not the Keystone pipeline is built that will not have any impact on the amount of carbon that the United States as a country uses. So I think that there has been an unfair targeting, because as we mentioned there are still tankers coming in, you know, bringing millions and millions of barrels of oil into the United States via tanker which are a much less safe.”

Report by James George

Video: Dr. Eicke Weber’s Intersolar North America Keynote Address

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

July 12, 2011 San Francisco

Professor Dr. Eicke Weber, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute, discussed several topics including the present and future growth of photovoltaic (PV) solar power, the role of solar and clean energy in solving climate change, and Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power in favor of renewables during his keynote address at the official opening of Intersolar North America, part of Semicom West. Several other keynote speakers also addressed the assembly including the new San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee, and Prof. Ramamoorthy Ramesh of the DOE.

Slides with video time position: (you may click these links while video plays)

You can also download the slide show as a .pdf file. (Dr. Weber spoke again on July 14. Here’s the slide show of that Future of PV talk)
Partial excerpts: “But I think we all agree here in this room, that we need the radical transformation of our energy system to efficient use of renewable energies. And the two driving forces are clear to everybody, on the one hand side, the grave dangers of catastrophic climate change. I think the dangers are larger than just the danger of gradual global warming and the slowly increasing level of the sea. The biggest danger will certainly be that we lose the stability of our climate system, and as a matter of fact, nobody, not even the best climatologists can really predict what we are facing when we substantially change the composition of our atmosphere. So it’s a very risky experiment which we are just now undertaking with this planet earth, and I think we should do everything to avoid that it gets too unpleasant for us in terms of storms which blow away all the houses and I think some of the early indications of this we have seen.”

“The second equally strong – and for some people in the business area even stronger driving force – is we all face the shortage of fossil fuels. Peak oil has been already passed a few years ago when we had 92 million barrels of oil taken out of the ground each day. Now we are down to in the upper eighties, and I think we would never ever reach a hundred million barrels of oil which we would need if we want to continue business as usual. So business as usual is no option.”

“But the big problem is, If we only rely on the power of converting the energy system based on the starting shortage of fossil fuels, we will definitely come too late to solve the climate problem. So if we see that we anyway have no choice but to make the transformation of the energy system to a renewable energy system, why not make it quick enough that in this course we as well take care that the climate problem doesn’t get too serious. This is a challenge the world, our generation, is facing and I personally can say it is the most important challenge for many of us.”

“100% renewable energy is absolutely possible”

“Just one word to the nuclear power plant issue, it was raised in a question just shortly ago and you all know that Germany at the moment has gone out on a limb compared to all other countries and almost all other countries of the world. And why has it happened in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe. …”

“The first point is nuclear energy is a technology like some other technologies we are using which will never be a hundred percent controllable. You can control a nuclear power plant, you can predict if you know the starting conditions what will be possible paths of how this thing will behave … But if our fantasy is not enough to think about all possible combinations of starting situations in advance we might enter situations like we had in Fukushima with a combined failure of the external power grid and the emergency generators. And this combination happened as a consequence of a tidal wave and an earthquake, but this combination can as well happen for other reasons. In Sweden was a nuclear power which almost came to a meltdown when there was a failure of the power grid and the first emergency generator failed and the second emergency generator which was identical in construction to the first generator started for reasons nobody understands because these two guys were built in the same way. So if the second generator would have failed too, we would have had in Sweden a few years ago just a Fukushima accident. ”

“…in the case of a nuclear power plant you can endanger hundreds of millions of people. If the wind from Fukushima would have blown in a different direction right after the accident, who would have evacuated 35 million people? It cannot be done. So I think, and we in Germany came to the conclusion, for nuclear power plants, this principle risk of complex technology cannot be tolerated. We endanger potentially millions of people and the damages we are facing is not being paid by any insurance company, the damages as we see in Japan is created is taken care for by the taxpayers. Therefore the Germany policy and this is a very interesting date, just last week in the second chamber, decided to finally get rid of nuclear power in Germany for all time. To shut down eight reactors immediately forever and to shut down the remaining nine reactors gradually till 2022 and to replace most of it nuclear and fossil power as quickly as possible by renewable energy.”

One benefit of rooftop PV solar as part of the renewable energy future:
8:28 “The beauty of the decentralized installations is you need very little changes to the grid, because basically what you do is you take demand off the grid.”

A topic mentioned in Weber’s talk and in other talks at Intersolar, was the accuracy and efficacy of the common term “feed in tariff”:
10:39 “In Germany we have a very good way to show the progress, because in Germany we use a feed in rate. Which simply says anybody who creates photovoltaic energy gets a fair price paid for this. Some people have translated this with the word ‘feed in tariff’ which is a completely stupid translation because the feed in rate has nothing to do with a tax or a tariff. It is just a word-by-word translation of ‘Einspeisetarif’ in German, so someone just made a massive mistake. So the feed in rate is just the fair price for electricity which should be offered to anyone who puts PV or wind or other sources of renewable energy into operation.”

Nearing the end of his talk, the audience in the conference hall, largely comprised of solar business people, applauded Weber in response to his personal call for redirecting funding from military use towards renewables:
“Basically the transformation of the global energy system is the biggest economic stimulus program since the invention of tanks and weapons, because of course the whole defense industry uses exactly the same argument. So let’s get rid – I say this as a person and not as a representative of my institute – let’s get rid of the weapons and use the same thousands of billions of dollars for the generation of jobs in the renewable energy sector.”

Report by James George