Lester Brown's Plan B
And how we might Rescue a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble?
Lester Brown came to Berkeley in early February 2008 to sell a book that you can read online. Having known about Lester for more than 20 years as the head of the World Watch Institute, I left work early and drove over to see what he would have to say. I got there late, spending nearly 30 minutes just trying to find a place to park. The bay area has become one of the most congested regions in the U.S. with parking anywhere almost impossible.
The church was almost full, with hundreds of people in attendance. As I arrived Lester had just launched into the role energy has in Plan B. In fact, that was all he talked about for the rest of his presentation. He spoke of how Franklin D. Rossevelt was able divert the entire U.S. private auto industry production for two years after Pearl Harbor. And Lester did so in the context of the global energy emergency we are facing today.
U.S. Energy Usage History (DOE)
The Latest Energy News
He spoke of the need to build millions of the latest windmills and do so on a scale never seen. Yes. Lester was suggesting that we act on an unprecedented scale to gear up our use of renewable energy, along the lines of the Apollo Alliance. The book's plan is well documented and relies heavily on the World Watch Institute's immense body of research. He told us about Texas billionaire T. Boones Pickens plan to build the largest wind farm in the world that was soon followed by the the UK's plan to develop enough wind to generate half of that country's entire electrical needs. I knew that the U.S. and the bay area was once the largest wind producer in the world but had fallen far behind Europe and Germany with more than 3 times as much installed wind power by 2002. But with the acknowledgement that climate change is real, there has been a sea change in the last year. The U.S. with its enormous economic potential announced plans to build over 5 giggawatts of new wind capacity in 2007, or over 30% of all new U.S. electrical capacity. With prices of new windpower construction continuing to drop, unlike any other non-renewable power sources, the U.S. wind industry is ready to play a central role in reversing our dependence on polluting energy sources. Next to solar wind power represents the largest source of new energy we could tap into, with studies indicating more than half of all our needs could be met by wind in a few upper Midwest states.
Solar Energy Potentials will soon drive the world economy just as computers and oil did in the past. New developments in solar design and efficiency have also ignited interest and growth worldwide as prices continue to drop and states like California start investing funds.
Lester also mentioned that of the 150 new coal power plants that have been announced in the last 5 years, 1/3 of them have since been withdrawn, and another 1/3 are being fought at the local level.
With the release of the Department of Energy's (DOE) 2009 proposed budget and the passage of federal energy legislation in December 2008, we are seeing one of the two last major energy battles. At the beginning of 2007, the Nuclear industry came out slugging with its claim to be the climate change hero with its clean, greenwashing machine spending millions of dollars in a national campaign that proclaimed that it could produce the cheapest green power on the planet. But the nuclear industry lost its wind by the end of the year, when their original pricetags for new generation jumped. by at least five fold Within days of the new construction estimates, plans to build new reactors were pulled, with a reactor proposed in Idaho by billionaire Warren Buffett abandoned. In a last minute desperation push to tie the country to billions of dollars of nuclear construction, the industry tried to pass legislation that would have guaranteed $50 billion in nuclear loans over the next two years at taxpayer expense. In what is probably one of the rarest moments in industry's history, it was forced to settle for less than half the amount as their slick campaign has also reawakened the anti-nuclear movement that played a key role in stopping the industry a generation ago.
Last time around the scandal plagued nuclear Simpson family(note that I would have been able to show you one of the many wonderful Simpson shorts here, but Fox News Corporation has had them all pulled off of the internet), which was dubbed by Forbes Magazine in 1985 to be the largest financial disaster in U.S. history. Even with hundreds of billions of dollars of federal fuel-cycle subsidies, nuclear's too cheap to meter promise died, only to see the vampire arise once again.
Chernobyl scaled disasters were unleashed on indian lands, primarily in the four corners area where to this day there are thousands of abandoned uranium mines that have contaminated water, the environment and people's health. A huge new battle to mine for uranium right into the Grand Canyon and other national parks, if not quickly stopped will result in even further long term environmental degradation. As of 1999 the DOE had spent over $1.5 billion on the cleanup of just 26 abandoned or contamination sites. Indigenous communities around the world have called for the end of all uranium mining which has and will impact their lands and health the most. Worse yet, is the global scale of disasters the uranium industry has unleashed around the world, not to mention France's imperial government corporations that have wreaked havoc in Canada and France.
That gas at the pump is really costing you $12 a gallon!
But electricity is just a part of our energy crisis. The real danger lies buried with the country's love affair with the car and the growing dependence on foreign oil. Lester brought up the fact that the U.S. which consumes 1/5 of the world's oil uses more than the next 20 countries combined. He then put this in perspective with the government's disastrous push to develop biofuels like ethanol, which has recently been shown to cause far more greenhouse gasses than even oil. Lester told the crowd that the oil crisis we are all facing is far larger than just what we are currently paying at the pump. He stated that hidden costs, like Bush's failed invasion of Iraq, not to mention huge environmental damages would peg the real price of gas today at $12 a gallon. Brown launched into support for alternative fuel vehicles like the Prius, but was quickly called to task by members of the audience who demanded a far more serious answer. The Prius, which is currently the most popular "green" car on the road is a far cry from the new compressed air car just on the market in Europe, that needs neither gas nor large environmentally damaging batteries.
One member of the audience questioned the whole technological approach to solving the current crisis. How could we rely on corporations that are the primary reason we are in this fix? Bill Joy, the cofounder of Microsun computers wrote a major article on the dangers the new technologies that are quickly spirally out of control. While another computer executive, Ted Nace has documented the corporate legal tactics that have all but taken control of our government and political system. Some of us may have seen Bill Moyer's program that documented our loss of national sovereignty by the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. Robert Reich the former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton has called for the removal of corporation's right to personhood. Meanwhile Exxon cleared $40 billion in profits last year, or over $70,000 a minute. No Joe, we aren't running out of oil tomorrow, but those prices have just begun to go up. Less than three months after the made for TV Oil Storm movie warned about the potential of a hurricane hitting New Orleans, driving up the price of gas and igniting a global energy crisis, we got to witness the real thing with Katrina! Even though Fox forced the producers to change the movie to have a happy ending, the real story continues to drive the cost of living out of orbit.
We all know what Plan A is. From Bush's 2001 invasion of California to Iraq in 2003, anyone with eyes can now see quite clearly that we are being driven into bankruptcy as a society by our reliance on oil and corporate profiteering with 50 of the largest 100 economies in the world being private corporations.
Lester quickly agreed with one member of the audience suggesting that community redesign away from the private car must be the top global job facing not just the U.S. but the entire planet. As the real problem we face is the reality that Hollywood has been promoting the Great American Dream (cars) to the entire world for decades. Now, newly emerging economies worldwide are buying that dream driving up the demand on oil, increasing environmental pressures like never before. Brown didn't get a chance to mention the new car free solar city being built in Abu Dhabi. As Americans come to realize that we have become a huge, inefficient bully that the rest of the world neither trusts or listens to, we have come to a turning point in this society. Plan A or Plan B.
As we speak, Plan A's top down nuclear security state, where the rich remove our constitutional rights, creating privatization forces that are building prisons for growing numbers of people who can't find jobs, get affordable education, housing or health care. Will the world put up with our push to ignite a new worldwide nuclear weapons race at a time when the Bush administration has nearly destroyed the entire world economy pushing the world towards a global Armageddon?
There is not a single politician currently running for high office who is willing to put Plan B on the table. We all know what Plan A is all about. And we know that those who are profiting from this have no real interests other than their own bottom line. Why do we know this? Because Plan B has been there ready to make a difference for over two decades, but has been ignored by corporate America and its media mouth piece. In 1992 the countries of world met in Brazil to talk environmental issues. In conjunction with the Rio conference half of the world's living Nobel Laureates signed a petition warning us that the world might have twenty years left to deal with the growing energy and population issues. Not a single major media outlet in the U.S. thought such a prestigious group of scientists making this call was news worthy. In fact, we have watched as U.S. policy makers have moved to addict the country in ever greater energy abuses, at the same time mounting a massive propaganda campaign attacking environmental organizations with virulent falsehoods from the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Exxon's own privately funded attacks on the climate change issue.
Check this out. With Greenhouse gasses growing from 290 PPM in 1900 to 330 in 1975, "Lamont Cole, of Cornell University, has suggested that an increase of the earth's average temperature of only a few degrees might be sufficient to cause melting of the polar icecaps and eventual inundation of coastal cities such as New York City, New Orleans and Los Angeles." The above quote was out of my 1975 college environmental sciences textbook.
Lester Brown's plan B is about a lot more than just energy policy. It is all about giving the world a 2nd chance. Will the U.S. wake up to the fact that we can no longer rely on plan A to get the planet through the 21st Century? Please. This is more than just a simple book review. Its time for you to awaken from the corporate Matrix driving the country and the world into bankruptcy. The only thing that saved this country from going back to the dark ages in 1932 were the democratically elected representatives that got off the Laissez Faire gravy train of the rich and took control of our federal government and gave this country a huge push away from the top down agenda of those who wanted most of us working on plantations.
Here's the key to entice rich americans. Don't rent your electricity. Own it yourself. This won't happen overnight. It took a whole century to create the most inefficient transportation system in the world. Get rid of liquid fuels and we remove the temptation to bully or compete with other people around the planet. Its time we all learned how to live sustainably in our own back yard rather than in somebody Else's.Note: Lester Brown didn't talk about Nuclear power or corporate responsibility issues during his presentation.