Monday, September 26, 2011

Robert F Kennedy on Solar v Coal v Oil



I heard this as part of a speech that Robert F Kennedy gave to the Commonwealth Club of California, broadcast last week on Radio Ecoshock, and loved it so much I thought I'd take the time to transcribe it. You can hear the full segment on the Radio Ecoshock website or their podcast.

"We need to build a smart grid, it costs very little, about 4 months of the Iraq war. To build the generation for that grid, let me give you an example. Right now, one of our portfolio companies...is building the biggest power plant in America which is in the Mojave desert and it’s a solar thermal plant. This is not solar voltaic of the kind your grandmother used to bolt to her roof! This is a mirror farm in the desert where they put a turbine on top of a tower...and the surround it by concentric rings of mirrors that...reflect sunlight onto that turbine. It’s a very efficient way of generating energy.

We’re building this plant in three years. It takes ten years to build a coal plant! It costs $3 billion a Gigawatt to construct, the same price it costs to build a coal plant. One-fifth the price it costs to build a nuke plant. And once you build our plant, it’s free energy forever!

Once you build that coal plant, now you’ve got to go to the Appalachians, cut down the mountains, ship them across the country on railroads, warp every rail in this country so that we can’t have high-speed rail, burn the coal, poison every fish, kill 60,000 people a year, cause a million asthma attacks, acidify the lakes and all the other costs.

Once you build an oil plant for the same $3 billion, and remember ours is then free...now you’ve got to go to Saudi Arabia, punch holes in the ground, bring up the oil, refine it expensively, genuflect to the sheiks who despise democracy and are hated by their own people, get in periodic wars that cost us $3 trillion, escort it across the Atlantic with a military escort that Exxon doesn’t pay for, you and I do, then you spill it all over the Gulf, spill it all over Valdez, burn the oil and poison everybody in our country.”

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