Bill McKibben Addresses TVA Board at Public Listening Session Ahead of TVA Board Meeting

Reed Winckler | July 2, 2024 | Videos

The following is a transcription of environmentalist writer and organizer Bill McKibben’s address to the TVA Board at a public listening session on May 8, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. The listening session was ahead of a TVA board meeting the following day. 

“Third Act [McKibben’s organization] organizes older Americans for action on climate. It’s about 100,000 of us now across the country. We may be old, but we are spry, so do not sleep on us. 

I am not from here, I come here today from Vermont. We had the worst flooding we’ve ever had in our state last summer, the kind of flooding you could only have in our global warming world. Partly as a result, our legislature voted yesterday to move to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, which is a good thing, but it won’t do much good for us or anybody else in the world if others around continue to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions. 

In this case, gas is the enemy of climate progress. I’ve been writing about climate since 1989, when I wrote the first book on the topic for a general audience. In 2010, perhaps that kind of gas buildout that you all have contemplated might have been a sensible idea – but things have changed dramatically since then. For one, we’ve learned about the role that methane plays in heat trapping, and now we know that a gas-fired power plant is as climate dangerous as a coal-fired power plant. Palpably, the other thing that’s changed since 2010 is that engineers have dropped the cost of power from the sun and the wind and the batteries to store it by about 90%. 

I don’t think everybody has quite yet caught up with that; we still tend to think of renewable energy as some kind of alternative energy – the “Whole Foods of energy.” We live on a planet where the cheapest way to produce power is to point a sheet of glass at the sun – this is the “Costco of energy.” And you can tell because of the place that they’re paying attention or making use of it: California has produced 140% or more of its electric need almost every day this spring from renewable energy. And at night, batteries become the largest single source of supplying the grid. Europe has dramatically dropped its gas use since the Ukraine invasion because they’ve moved to renewables. We learned that as of today, 30% of electric generation plants include renewables, and about 90% of new generation around the world last year was renewable energy. 

So how did you all end up out of step with that? Is it because you somehow know more about the future than everybody else? Or is it because you need to step back and take another look? Please do not undercut the effort to protect this planet and the effort of the Biden administration to move us quickly towards renewable energy generation. There’s nothing you can do more important than move off gas and towards renewable energy.”