Bedford inventor extraordinaire Dean Kamen was in the news this week for being named to the inaugural class of Granite State Legacy Award winners. Kamen solves difficult problems for a living. With that in mind, we were reminded of something he said this spring about solving environmental problems.
President Obama has recently said he wants the federal government to “double down” on investments in “green energy” (see Charles Lane's column today). He would do this by having the government rather than the private sector (where Kamen works) direct more of the nation's energy sector investments.
He probably did not read what Kamen said about our current fixation on global warming and so-called green energy during a March Wall Street Journal conference on energy and the environment.
“If all the passenger cars in North America stopped tomorrow, it would have a 2% impact on greenhouse gases globally. Methane is 21 times as bad for the environment as CO2. There's more greenhouse gas coming off cows in India and China. The assertion that we, this tiny rounding error of the global population, are going to start driving Priuses and solve the problem is like swatting at the flies when we're going to get trampled by the elephant.
“There are seven billion people out there now, most of whom have essentially never used electricity and don't have cars, and they live on $1 or $2 a day. If all of those people had the outrageous goal over the next 30 years of doubling that, to live on $2 or $3 a day, most of what that money will buy is power, energy and clean water.
“If those people do it the way we did, it doesn't matter what we do. We have to make sure that the seven billion people find a way better way to make, store, distribute and use energy.”
In other words: Your Prius is an empty gesture. So is our fixation on domestic “green energy” production.