Is there any viable solution for energy today, what with tsunamis hitting nuclear plants, offshore rigs spewing oil, natural-gas wells leaking fracking fluids, and wind turbines killing birds? To unravel the confusion, we turned to physicist Dan Kammen. As the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley and lead author of numerous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, 49-year-old Kammen has long been one of the clearest thinkers on renewable energy. Now, as the man in charge of clean energy at the World Bank, he’s taking on the globe.
HIGHTOWER ALLEN: As The New York Times put it, you’re the World Bank’s “clean-energy czar.” What does that mean?
KAMMEN: Well, I hope I don’t end up the way some czars of old have. Their track record in Washington, D.C., hasn’t been great. Czars have either a lot of power or no power, depending on who you ask. The World Bank’s lending for renewables is, depending on what metric you use, 50 to 65 percent of its entire portfolio of energy lending. So it’s a big deal by itself.
When it comes to our energy future, what’s the greatest myth you have to contend with?