(intense electronic music) (haunting music) – [Jeff] I've got a question. How long do you think we humans have? – How long does the human race have? – Ooh. – Um. – Oh, wow. – I don't exactly know, but might be soon. – I have no clue. – [Jeff] No? (laughing) – I hope I get me at least
50 more years. (laughing) – I think there's infinite amount of time. – Infinite. It's infinite, yeah. – I give us a million. A million years. – Being kind, I would say
probably about 10 years. – 10, 12 years. – Thousands of years. – 47 years, three months, five days. It's approximate. – We're kind of like
cockroaches on the planet, no matter how much damage we'll do, enough of us will survive to
procreate and keep it going. – Unless we can get to another planet, but then we're just gonna
fuck it up like we did Earth. – Well, I think that we will be here for a long time, but we will change. We're gonna turn back into apes. (suspenseful dramatic music) – [Jeff] Have you ever
wondered what would happen if a single species took
over an entire planet? Maybe they're cute, maybe they're clever but lack a certain, shall we say, self-restraint? (somber dramatic music) What if they go too far? What if they go way, way, way, way, way too far? (somber dramatic music) How would they know when
it's their time to go? (intriguing orchestral music) (intensifying orchestral music) (music fading) (old-timey music) – Due to our release through factories and automobiles every year of more than six billion
tons of carbon dioxide, our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer.
– This is bad? – Well, it's been calculated
a few degrees rise in the Earth's temperature
would melt the polar ice caps. (crashing ice into water) And if this happens, an inland
sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Foreign weather, we're not
only dealing with forces of a far greater variety than even the atomic
physicists encounters, but with life itself. (piano synthesizer music) – [Jeff] That was 1958. We've known about the dangers of climate change for six decades. Back then, there was so much air pollution it would actually block out the sun. There was so much water
pollution, rivers caught on fire. (synthesizer music) Forget throwing plastic
bottles into the water, we tossed our cars in there.
We also knew someday we'd run out of oil. – For millions of Americans, this may be the worst
weekend they've ever faced for finding gasoline to give
them the automobile freedom they take as their due. – [Jeff] I never doubted
humans would find a better way and I wanted to be part of it. A scientist sounded the alarm and the modern environmental
movement was born. – Unless we do bring these
chemicals under better control, we are certainly headed for disaster. – [Jeff] Students all across the country organized the first Earth Day. – This point in time, it's
very, very fashionable to talk about the environment but as everyday procedure, find very, very little concrete being done. – [Jeff] As for me, you might say I was an early environmentalist. When I was nine years old, a bulldozer began knocking
down the woods near my home. I retaliated by putting
sand in its gas tank. (mellowly dramatic music) When I grew up, I became
a tree hugger and moved to the wilds of Northern Michigan to build a sustainable homestead
and commune with nature.
I wired my cabin for solar panels and heated with wood
instead of fossil fuels. I wrote about sustainable living in environmental issues
for the Mother Earth News and several news outlets. (mellow singing) I traveled the country
documenting invasive species. (banging and clunking) (buzzing) Ecosystem collapse. (eerie music) And species threatened with extinction. – (tapping) Come on, girls, boys. (crowd chanting) – I covered protests against
destroying mountains for coal.
(people shouting and clapping) And was once even
confronted by the BP police. (car tires crunching) – Journalist.
– You're a journalist? – [Jeff] Yep, yep, yeah. – By all means, you can take
all the pictures you want. – [Jeff] Okay. – We'll write in our report
and then we have to send it to the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys Office. They'll call you. (traffic whizzing) (slamming) – [Jeff] Through all of
this, I kept wondering, why are we still addicted to fossil fuels? So I decided to begin following
the green energy movement. (mild rock music) What better place to check out how our renewable energy
revolution is coming along, than a solar festival in the Green Mountain state of Vermont.
Powered by 100% solar energy. (bass guitar and guitar music) – Solar. (laughing) – [Jeff] I was having fun. And got a chance to ask about getting solar panels installed. – You can keep adding, so maybe every time you get a tax return,
buy another solar panel? (singing rock music) – [Jeff] But then, a
little rain began to fall. (rock band playing and singing) ♪ Packed up my guitar ♪ ♪ Headed to the nearest bowling alley ♪ My camera man noticed some
commotion behind the stage. (thudding) – [Jeff] What'd you guys set up here? – This is for biodiesel generators in case we lose power due to the rain.
– [Jeff] So the festival's going on solar energy, primarily? – Primarily. We do need to bring some of this stuff in just 'cause we want to make sure we have enough power not
to kill our fancy toys that we have lighting the stage. – [Jeff] Right. – But the biofuel generator wasn't enough, so they wound up plugging into the electrical grid that we all use. – The other inverter operating, it's actually pulling
power in from the grid, charging the batteries. (background chatter) It's running backwards from the way we originally intended to do it, but. (guitar music) – [Jeff] That was disappointing. (singing) But after all, it had been raining. Maybe next time things would go better. (mellow rock music) Luckily for us, hope was on the way. – It's been a long time
comin' but tonight, change has come to America. (crowd cheering) (guitar music) – [Jeff] Green activists
across the country cheered when newly elected
president, Barack Obama, rolled out a trillion
dollar stimulus package with nearly 100 billion
dollars for green energy. (guitar strumming and people chanting) Green was finally ramping up and everyone wanted to be part of it.
President Obama brought in
environmental activist Van Jones, from the Apollo Alliance,
with shovel ready projects. – They've gotta put up tens
of thousands of wind farms, they gotta put up
millions of solar panels. – [Jeff] Former Vice President Al Gore, who had a few years earlier
released an Oscar winning film, shared his ideas with the president. – We have the opportunity now to create jobs all across this country, in all 50 states, to re-power America. – [Jeff] Al Gore had already encouraged billionaire airline owner,
Sir Richard Branson, to invest big-time in green energy. – Branson is pledging future
profits from his airline to the tune of perhaps
three billion dollars.
Three billion, that's with a
B, to fight global warming! – Is Al Gore a prophet? (laughing) – Ah, um, ah, how do you
spell "prophet?" (laughing) (all laughing) – [Jeff] Investors came forward. – [Newswoman] Investor Vinod
Khosla, known as the father of the clean tech revolution, has poured over a billion
dollars of his own money into some fifty energy startups.
– [Jeff] Major banks were
eager to get involved. – By 2020, we think,
renewables will require 395 billion on an annual basis. – [Jeff] Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., was both on the board of major
environmental organizations and was leading a green
energy investment group. – We build wind farms,
we build solar farms, once you build our plant,
it's free energy forever. (calm music) – [Jeff] The Sierra Club
received 50 million dollars from billionaire and
former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Their mission? Fight coal and promote clean energy. – So with the mayor's gift,
here's what will happen. We'll have a large and
aggressive presence in 46 states. – It's time for America
to find a new energy path. One that takes us beyond coal. – So funny– – [Jeff] And then Bill McKibben, one of the nation's
leading environmentalists and author of a breakthrough book called "The End of Nature," formed an organization called 350.org with the mission of igniting
a global climate movement. (calming music) – Can I show off my necktie for a minute 'cause they made it for me yesterday. It's got that 350 on it 'cause it's the most
important number in the world. – [Jeff] Things were looking up. And the green energy
revolution was under way. (wind blowing) Michigan had been hit hard
by the Great Recession and hundreds of millions of dollars in green stimulus money was arriving. Now, to do their part for
the new green economy, General Motors introduced a
new line of electric vehicles.
When the Chevy Volt was ready for release, I attended their press conference. – So, these electric vehicles are ready for public consumption and we're ready with the infrastructure, with the rates, with the communications. – I am extremely grateful to
be here today and in fact, this is a chance for me to
say, thank you, more formally. The Chevy Volt is upstairs. We'll be able to take a look at it. (banging metal) – [Woman] We got about 1,000 photos. – [Jeff] Yeah. – Here is the plug. (crowd laughing) (clicking) It's as simple as that. – [Jeff] The batteries are in the trunk? – No, the battery in this
particular design is a T-shape, right down the center and
across the backseat area.
(group talking) 'Cause everybody thought we
killed the electric vehicle. No, we didn't. It's alive and well. – [Jeff] So, what's charging
the batteries right now? What's the source of electricity? – Well, here, it's
coming from the building. – [Jeff] I mean, is it,
what's our mix of power? – Oh, actually, Lansing
feeds the building. – [Jeff] What's that? – Lansing feeds power to the building. So, I don't know– – [Jeff] They're– – I betcha they're a bit of coal? I think they're heavy on
natural gas, aren't they? – [Jeff] Right now, the
car's charging off your grid? – Right. It would be charging off our
grid, which is about 95% coal. – [Jeff] How long do you think it will be before there's a solar
and wind powered grid? – Oh, golly.
– To suggest that all of the power used for these cars will be
generated from wind and solar, in the very near future,
would not be correct. In fact, these, we're talking
about charging these up at night, so there won't
be any solar at that time. So, we're down to wind and very often, at night, the wind does fall off. – I don't think coal is bad. The what?
– The big val– Mountain top removal.
– Oh, mount… Oh yeah, oh yeah. (laughing) – [Jeff] Yeah. – It's got lovely BTUs, it's
got lovely energy value. How do you burn it more cleanly? I mean, do you see natural
gas getting bashed? – We will be delivering power based on natural gas very shortly. And even with that mix, we
intend to use biofuels if we can. – [Jeff] Have you gotten any support? – Oh, the environment groups
are extremely supportive. – We did install the
state's largest solar array at my company, The Board
of Water and Lights, just down the street from here a few miles if you want to take a look at it. What outfit are you with? – [Jeff] New World Media,
we're doing a segment on the renewable energy.
– Oh, excuse, I gotta go for a second. – [Jeff] Okay, sure. – Thanks. (people chatting) – [Jeff] I decided to
take him up on his offer to check out their football
field sized solar array right down the street. – What we're trying to do
with this kind of a tour is, get a sense for what they've already done, as an indication of what we could do to push the envelope even further. – We took a hard look at
wind and determined that, around here, there's not really
any real good wind coming through all the time. That's what we liked about solar. You would get the power
when you most needed it. Pass these around, look at 'em. They are pliable. Made in Michigan, that
was another good thing. Although, the efficiency of these panels is only
about, just under 8%. If you happen to be NASA and you happen to own a rover running around Mars, they have very efficient panels. But, we can't afford those at about a million dollars a square inch.
– [Jeff] How many homes would this array provide electricity for? – The standard answer
that we tell everybody is, that we're providing enough to meet the peak requirements of 50 homes. However, for most of the people that look at it a little bit closer, we generate about 63, 64
thousand kilowatt hours a year. Our average customer uses about six thousand kilowatt hours a year. Six thousand into 64, it's
just a little over 10. We can meet the energy
requirements for 10 homes. Over a year. (traffic humming) – Will that be an incentive
to put more solar on? – Well, if you wanted to make all of the energy required for the
city of Lansing over a year? – Well, how about– – You'd have a solar array that was three miles by five miles. – Right.
– We're not gonna do that. – But, but, I mean.
(woman's voice fades out) – [Jeff] My friend from
the Sierra Club wanted him to be more positive, but
he was not interested. (wind blowing) As a consequence of the
big push for green energy, wind farms were arising around the nation, including near my home
in northern Michigan. – We've done coal and nuclear for years. We've been trying to get in
more into the renewable side. These are the largest in Michigan, I think it's 482 foot total. – [Jeff] How many yards of concrete? – [John] It was 800 yards
of concrete in the base, right around 140 tons of resteel. – [Jeff] What are those
blades made out of? – That's all fiberglass and balsam.
They're about 36,000 pounds a piece. This tower will weigh 800,000
pounds when we're done. Then the cell is 220,000 pounds and the hub rotor assembly is another 160. It's pretty substantial. (wind blowing) – [Jeff] They were impressive machines. (wind blowing) But is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization? (wind blowing) (group talking together) In environmental leader
Bill McKibben's home state of Vermont, the Green Mountain state, a site was being cleared for the installation of wind turbines. A group of citizens was concerned about how the construction might affect the mountains they love.
I joined them for a tour. – It's going to be 21 turbines. – [Group] 21? – Yeah.
– On this project? – In this project, yeah. The estimate was maybe there
would be three full-time jobs. – If the goal is to try
to make Vermont the leader in climate change, I appreciate looking to the sky in the hopes we can do that. But more importantly,
I'm personally looking at the ground thinking, this
is not the kind of legacy I want to leave to my kids.
When I was a kid we'd go
hiking in these woods, we would be able to drink from the waters down the hill here, and now
you have to question that. – [Jeff] And how long are
these towers supposed to last? – [Man] 20-something years, 20– – I know, it's just a nanosecond. – [Jeff] 20 years? – Oh, it's a nanosecond
in the time of energy. – [Jeff] Has anybody considered that this is mountain top
removal for wind instead of coal? – Yeah, and we've even had people say, "If you can do mountain top removal "in Kentucky and West Virginia for coal, "then it's about time the
rest of the country shared "in mountain top removal, too." Uh-oh.
– [Jeff] You think he's
gonna tell us to move out? – [Man In Hat] Probably. The thing is that you've got to have a fossil fuel
power plant backing it up and idling 100% of the time. Because if you cycle up or cycle down, as the demand on the wind comes through, then you actually generate
a bigger carbon footprint than if you just ran it straight. – [Jeff] Do you ever go to
things where they just go, "That's not true. "It doesn't matter, we're
gonna have a smart grid." – Doesn't make any
difference, they still gotta– – They're using it.
– Have it idling. Because, let's just say
the wind stopped right now. Just stopped for an hour.
You've got to have that power. – [Jeff] What do you do? – I'm an environmental
health and safety consultant. I usually work with businesses
to help them do things, but I would never work
with scum like this. (leaves crunching) – You didn't get me on
camera doing this, did ya? Not being judgmental
or trying to play God, but we've got to deal
with population growth and sustainable resources,
we've all gotta cut back. All this energy's supposedly
going to heat a water park. We can find unique and
different ways to waste energy. This is not a Vermont company. Green Mountain Power will
be bought out by Gaz Metro and Gaz Metro is owned by
Enbridge, as I understand it, which is a big resource company in Canada which is exploiting the PowerSands that wants to build the XL pipeline.
See, it's– – [Woman] And they're all in bed together. – Still we don't know the whole story. – [Jeff] Have you asked Mr.
McKibben to come see this? – He thinks anything renewable is good. – [Jeff] Yeah. – So that's what I've heard people say. (wind blowing) (up tempo music) – [Jeff] I am in a strange position. I'm against our addiction to fossil fuels and have long been a fan of green energy. (crowd talking) But everywhere I encountered green energy, it wasn't what it seemed. – This is like a perpetual energy battery. – [Jeff] And where do you
get the hydrogen from? – The hydrogen that's in,
the hydrogen is sourced from any hydrocarbon material.
So, you can get it from
natural gas, you can get it from any petroleum oil based product. – [Jeff] I read about a zoo that was said to be powered by elephant manure. But it turned out the elephants didn't even produce enough
manure to heat the elephant barn. – Yeah, we don't even really make enough and what we had, elephant
wise, couldn't even do that. We would need a lot more. – [Jeff] More elephants? – [Zoo Keeper] Yep, (woman
laughing) more elephants or manure. – [Jeff] Ethanol plants also seem to have a secret ingredient. – This is the most productive
farmland in the world and we're not that far west
of the biggest coal mines in the world, as well. So, bring the two together
and have an ethanol plant. – [Jeff] Great, so ethanol
was reliant on two things. A giant, fossil fuel based,
industrial agricultural system to produce corn and
even more fossil fuels, in the form of coal.
All of this in the attempt
to replace fossil fuels? It was enough to make my head explode. (pulsating music) I was getting the uneasy feeling that green energy was
not going to save us. And I wasn't the only one. – I've counted something like 25 different
alternative energy options. So surely, among all of those, there are enough sources of energy to keep us living basically the way we are in perpetuity. That's not the reality. Currently, we're getting, in some cases, no energy from these potential options. – [Jeff] Richard York, of
the University of Oregon, published a study in the Journal of Nature in which he posed a question,
"Do non-fossil energy sources "actually replace fossil fuels?" – What we implicitly assume, often, the substitute pushes out the thing you want it to substitute for.
What you find is, nations that add non-fossil
energy sources do not seem to see a particular
suppression of fossil fuels. – [Jeff] That's pretty mind blowing. You've got billions of
dollars beings spent and green energy is not
even replacing fossil fuels? – They don't even know that
that's a question, yes. – The story that we're
in, right now, is okay, we're in ecological hot water, but there are technological fixes and if we're just creative enough, if we're just ingenious enough and if we just work hard
enough, we will triumph.
fixes, one after another, is simply going to lead
us to another level of catastrophe sooner rather than later. – We wanna believe that these
things are gonna be available for us, so if we get a little worried and somebody comes up with
a new thingy and promises that this will do it for
us, we wanna believe it. (guitar strums) – [Jeff] Because we're a little worried, are we desperate to accept any
idea that sounds alternative? Or green? (guitar strumming) Are we avoiding looking too closely because we don't want to know the answer? Ozzie Zehner, a visiting
scholar at UC Berkeley and Northwestern
University was asking some of the same questions. – I mean, I thought that solar and wind were probably
very good solutions. It wasn't really even that long ago. One of the most dangerous
things right now is the illusion that alternative technologies,
like wind and solar, are somehow different from fossil fuels. What I hear a lot of times is solar cells are made out of sand. – [Announcer] Have you ever
thought about solar panels? The main ingredient that makes them work is silicon, or sand.
– [Announcer] This is
the raw material chips are made of, sand. – They don't use sand at all. I'll show you what… (chair clicking) So, this is one of the ingredients, it's actually mined quartz. (rocks clattering) (rock exploding) – [Announcer] Spruce Pine, North Carolina, regarded as the finest
source of high purity quartz in the world, the semiconductor, solar and communication applications. – You can't use sand because
sand has too many impurities. So, you start with very
high quality quartz and a very high quality
coal, and then you put those two together into an
arc furnace and you melt them.
– [Woman] The quartz is
then melted with coal in a large furnace at temperatures
of up to 1,800 degrees. – And so you need more coal to do that. I'll get another coal out. When we melt these together, we get silicon metal and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide just goes off and you got rid of the carbon and you're left with silicon metal. This is not clean coal. (laughing) – [Jeff] Not clean coal. Ozzie Zehner said it was an illusion that renewables were replacing
coal or any fossil fuel. Environmental groups continue
telling a different story. – We've already seen more than 25% of the U.S. coal fleet
has already either retired or is on a schedule to retire. – [Jeff] Coal plants were
closing, but Ozzie explained that well meaning people
were being misled.
– NV Energy's now gonna go
ahead and shut down the plant and go with renewable. One of the largest solar plants and that's gonna happen right behind me. – Since you can't replace
a coal plant with solar, they're actually replacing the coal plant with two natural gas plants. And natural gas is a fossil fuel. This is the Las Vegas
Co-Gen natural gas plant. This is one of the facilities that's replacing the coal
plant that's being shut down. This is the Sun Peak generating facility. This is the second natural gas plant that was used to replace the coal plant. And you hear the same story in Iowa. – [Woman] Instead of
using energy generated by coal-fired power plants, the solar farm will now avoid about 2.1 million pounds
of carbon pollution. – But then they're building
a larger natural gas plant. This is a 650 megawatt natural gas plant. That's four times more megawatts than the coal plant over
there that it's replacing.
And they're doing the same
thing in North Carolina, which was that subject of that Years of Living
Dangerously series. – Duke Energy operates a coal plant right outside of Asheville that
is the biggest source of climate pollution in
western North Carolina. And we are working to retire that plant and replace it with clean energy. – But what they don't tell you is that we're also building a
larger natural gas facility. – So, we'll be retiring a
two-unit 376 megawatt coal plant. We'll invest $750 million to build a state-of-the-art
natural gas plant. – When Michael Brune stands up
and talks about clean energy, he's using solar cells and wind turbines. – This is the new world. 100% clean energy. – When Michael Bloomberg
stands up and says, "Cleaner energy," he's
talking about natural gas. – Create cleaner energy,
solar, wind and natural gas. – [Ozzie] In fact, the Sierra
Club's Beyond Coal campaign actually coincides with one
of the largest expansions of fossil fuel production
that we've ever pulled off. Most of that being natural gas. – [Jeff] Ozzie's assertion that renewables were not
replacing fossil fuels, if true, would upend
all of our assumptions about green energy and
what was going to save us.
(tranquil piano music) What would happen if I
asked the same question to industry insiders? Like, where do solar panels come from? – Well, you do have to start with a mine. – [Jeff] Wait till you see my– (laughing) Or, what's stopping us
from running the world on 100% solar and wind? – Well, intermittency is
one of the major challenges. – Good stability. – The sun's everywhere,
except when it's not there. – There's a lot of
developers that were flocking to California, wanting to
connect their solar farms and wind farms. The utilities would turn to me and my team to help them look at what the
impact to their grid would be. – [Jeff] When we add solar cells or wind turbines to a grid, do we get to shut off a coal plant? – That's certainly the
goal, the problem is, or the difference is that
renewables are intermittent. All of the sudden, a cloud
cover could come over and your solar generation
could drastically decrease.
And if you don't have something else there to meet whatever the
load is at that moment, then you're gonna have power outages. – [Jeff] So, we don't get to turn a fossil fuel power plant off when the sun is shining
or the wind is blowing? – Well, it's not that easy. We need to be able to back up that power to keep the system steady all the time so it doesn't collapse. Most likely that's through
fast-acting gas plants, but also what we call
the base load plants, either nuclear or coal
that are on all the time but that maybe can be
dialed down during the day and dialed up when demand starts rising. – [Jeff] Does it affect the efficiency to turn fossil fuel
power plants on and off? – Oh, yeah. They don't like to be dialed up and down. It does make, that's
wear and tear for them. – Turning them on, turning
it off, there's energy used and lost and any time, kind of like when you
turn on your car and off, you use a little extra gas to get it turned on.
I do still think you have to maintain a base load of some kinds. – [Jeff] What's the solution then? – You need energy storage. – Without storage, you can't count on it. – If you can store the
energy that's created off of things that are intermittent
like solar and wind, you can store that, now
you're reducing your need for a base load. – [Jeff] But would adding storage like batteries increase
the carbon footprint? – Yeah, absolutely. In a big way, actually. And as more energy
storage gets on the grid, it has a mass scale implication. (piano music) – [Jeff] When I looked up
how much battery storage there is, it was less than one-tenth of one percent of what's needed. In a couple years, they begin to degrade and need to be replaced a few years later. I learned that the solar panels
don't last forever, either. – Some solar panels are
built to last only 10 years. So, it's not as if you get
this magic free energy.
I don't know that it's the solution, and here I am helping
to sell the materials that would go into photovoltaics. – [Jeff] And so to overcome
profound limitations of solar and wind, rarely
discussed in the media, a new generation of technology was rising in the California desert. – [Woman] What is this? – What we're using is a field of mirrors to focus sunlight onto a tower. The power plant itself, at 377 megawatts, will be the largest of
its kind in the world.
– This will become the biggest
solar plant in the world! (crowd clapping and cheering) There's some people that
look out in a dessert, they see miles and miles of emptiness. I see miles and miles of a gold mine. – [Jeff] But this next generation had a fossil fuel secret, too. – This solar facility burns
natural gas pretty much every morning in order
to get it started up. – [Jeff] How long do they
have to burn it for it? – Hours, usually.
This is the incoming natural
gas for the facility. This plant would work about
as well without natural gas as I would without coffee
in the morning. (laughing) – [Jeff] Or maybe how you
would be without food. – Without food, yeah. (laughing) They have to file for acid rain permits, permits for nitrous oxide emissions, they have to apply for
carbon offset permits. Because they're producing
carbon dioxide here, so they have to offset that. The whole thing is built using
fossil fuel infrastructure, from the concrete to the
steel to the mirrors, to the backing on the mirrors. The sun is renewable, but
the solar arrays are not. – [Jeff] Oh, come on. There's got to be something renewable.
Glass is renewable. – Glass. (laughing) Glass is not renewable. – [Jeff] Iron's renewable. (laughing) Aluminum? That's renewable. I recycle my soda cans. (laughing) I know it's renewable. – Yeah, the problem with
all of these materials is that it takes an incredible
amount of energy to mine and process all of the materials that go into building something like this. You use more fossil fuels to do this than you're getting benefit from it. You would have been better off
just burning the fossil fuels in the first place,
instead of playing pretend. – [Jeff] That green energy has nothing to do with fossil fuels
is apparently a story only meant for you and me. Here is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., speaking to oil and gas company insiders. – It's a combination solar gas plant. It's a turbine that we
just take from a gas plant, suspend it from a big
scaffolding, a tower, and surround it by giant
mirrors in the desert. The plants that we're
building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.
– [Jeff] What kind of
game is being played? – Well (gusting wind) we're
basically just being fed a lie. For instance, you'll hear about Germany running on wind and solar. – 35% right now. – 50% of their power. – They were days this past summer when the Germans were generating 80% of their power from the sun. – [Ozzie] But Germany is still Europe's
largest consumer of coal. – (speaking in foreign language) – Uhh. – [Ozzie] Only a small fraction of their energy actually
comes from wind and solar. In fact, Germany's pushing
forward with a large terminal that could import natural gas
from the United States. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, when he announced his
Gigafactory battery plant, he said it would power itself
with wind and solar energy. – Through a combination of
geothermal wind and solar, it will produce all energy that it needs. – [Ozzie] But in fact, it
has lines connecting it to the same electrical grid
that we're all connected to.
(fast paced dramatic music) Electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels use rare earth metals. And in fact, the rare earth mine is right up the street from here. In mining these deep deposits, about 90% of what they pull up out of
the ground contains uranium, thorium and low level
of other radionuclides. Radioactive waste that has
to be disposed of somehow, they kind of turn into
a paste and spread it over the desert floor. – [Jeff] Well, that's good
for the desert, right. – Yeah, the desert loves that. (laughing) Tesla's electric cars
are built with aluminum, which uses eight times more energy to manufacture than steel. They use lithium, which
also rely on toxic mining. And even more graphite, which is one of the rarest forms of carbon.
In fact, the investors wanted to open several new graphite mines after Tesla announced the Gigafactory. Apple claims to be 100% renewable. – We never stop thinking about
what's best for the planet. We now run Apple on 100% renewable energy. (clapping and cheering) All
of our facilities, worldwide. – [Ozzie] And they did chop down a forest to put up solar panels near
their North Carolina plant. But they didn't disconnect
from the grid and they can't. – Duke says energy hungry companies like Apple can never go
entirely off the grid.
– They're still hooked up to our grid. (fast paced energetic music) – [Ozzie] Despite all the claims, I haven't found a single
entity anywhere in the world that's running on 100%
solar and wind alone. (suspenseful music) – [Jeff] It turns out, you
don't just need fossil fuels to run a place like Ivanpah,
you need the devil himself, or in this case, themselves. – [Ozzie] All of the mirrors
that you see there are built by the Koch brothers,
Guardian Glass Industry, a company that they control. Koch Carbon creates a lot
of the inputs that are used to create the cement and
the concrete and the steel. And not only that, they build the plants that builds polysilicon for solar cells. They have, actually, their own solar line called Solar Molex. From every step of the process,
the Koch brothers are there. – [Jeff] But, they're the evil doers. – Yeah (laughing), the funny part is that when you criticize
solar plants like this, you're accused of working
for the Koch brothers.
(laughing) That's the idiocy in all of this. This absolutely can not
extend civilization's life. This relies on the most toxic
and industrial processes that we've ever created. (drum rolling) (small triangle dinging) (pulsating dramatic music) (music building in intensity) (up tempo dramatic music) (music building) (music tempo increasing) (music ending dramatically) – The beauty of a solar facility, and particularly this technology, is that it is so environmentally benign. (roaring of large machinery) [Jeff] I, too, had once thought that deserts could be sacrifice zones. (powerful drum based music) I was wrong. Deserts are not dead. They are, in fact, full of ancient life. (powerful music) In the desert, the Joshua
tree stands, waiting, waiting for the giant ground sloths and the mammoths that shall never return. The Joshua tree depended
on the giant mammals to reach up high and eat their seeds, and thus disperse the Joshua tree. (mystical vocal music) But now, stranded in time and space, the Joshua tree awaits a new fate. To be sacrificed in the name of progress. – Joshua trees are torn down
to make way for solar projects.
23ABC's Cassie Carlisle travels to the Mojave Desert to talk to neighbors. – [Cassie] They're not your usual tree. More like something from fiction, but these Joshuas are
causing quite an uproar. – No, it makes me sick that
they're clearing them off, killing them real quick. And now they're grinding them up, getting rid of all the evidence. (powerful dramatic music) – [Jeff] Not far from Ivanpah Solar, Daggett, California was home to several generations of solar arrays.
Including some of the first on the planet. (loud machinery) Ozzie and I thought we would take a trip to see where it all began. (wind blowing loudly) – This is one of the sunniest
places in the planet, really, and it's the center of the solar industry and they've been building and dismantling and building arrays
here for about 40 years. (man's voice on loudspeaker) – [Jeff] Then we happened to run into the mayor of Daggett. – And then the solar plants
out there, my husband, back in, I'd say '83, '84,
they worked out there building that solar plant out there. – Yeah, the SEGS. – And everybody here worked. – How's that hold up? Is it, are the jobs still here? – No. Jobs went bye-bye. They have their normal
people that run the plant, plant operators and stuff like that, the big wigs, you know, they have that.
Where that energy's going, I don't know. – [Jeff] Were you originally optimistic that the solar would bring more jobs and development for people? – Yeah, we really did, we really did. A lot of things come into
this town, they come and go. They go really fast. (loud wind blowing) – Do you see this? – [Jeff] Then Ozzie and I discovered that the giant solar arrays
had been razed to the ground. – Oh, my God. (wind whooshing) – [Jeff] I mean, this was huge. It suddenly dawned on me
what we were looking at. A solar dead zone. Look at the blowing sand. – Yeah. There's sand everywhere, there's sand dunes
forming around this area. – [Jeff] Wow. (humming of solar factory) (solemn music) So, after all the mining, the fossil fuels, the toxins, the environmental destruction, here's what happens next. (somber music) Only a few years after it was built, things at Ivanpah began to fall apart. Broken mirrors littered the desert. (music intensifying) Yes, these giant solar and wind technology installations may last only a few decades, (somber music) then tear it down and
start all over again.
(somber music) If there is enough planet left. (somber music) It was becoming clear that what we have been calling
green, renewable energy and industrial civilization,
are one and the same. Desperate measures not to save the planet, (thunder crashing) but to save our way of life. (somber music) Desperate measures rather
than face the reality, humans are experiencing
the planet's limits all at once. – Every different perspective I look at and imagine, well, we
could do more of this, or go to a larger area
or use more of that. Well, it turns out, there isn't more. I looked at marine production
and fish production and found that peaked 20 years ago. More and more of what we
eat is from fish farming.
The current acres of actively farmed land, that has peaked also. The rivers are already being irrigated to about the limits of
what they can sustain. The Colorado River doesn't
get to the ocean anymore. Well, then you start
looking at ground water, the southern great plains, and I think they can almost
predict when they will run out of ground water and
it's in a decade or two. (somber music) A human vulnerability at the global scale, that any one of them we
could maybe compartmentalize, but we're seeing them propagating across topic after topic of
society and the earth system. And I don't think the people in charge are near nervous enough. – [Jeff] Though each of them takes climate change seriously, every expert I talked to wanted to bring my attention to the
same, underlying problem.
– They're too many human beings
using too much, too fast. – As a global community,
we really have got to start dealing with
the issue of population. – Population growth continues to be the, not the elephant, the herd
of elephants, in the room. – [Jeff] Can a single species that's come to dominate an entire planet– – Be smart enough to voluntarily
limit its own presence? – [Jeff] Is there any
precedence for that in nature? (laughing) – Wow. – We have to have our
abilities to consume reined in. Because we're not good at reining them in if there are seemingly
unrestrained resources. – Species hit the population
wall a lot and then they crash. I mean, that's a common story in biology. If that happens to us, in a way, it's the natural order of things. And I don't think we're gonna
find a way out of this one. I don't. – [Jeff] As a scientist, what leads you to that conclusion? – Well, because right
now, a large percentage of that number is supported
by industrial agriculture, which is heavily subsidized by oil.
And it's not sustainable. And there's no going back. Without seeing some sort of
major die off in population, there's no turning back. – [Jeff] What's the thing
that nobody ever asked you that you want– (laughing) – Nobody's ever asked me if I'm scared. – [Jeff] Yeah. – And, I am. I actually am scared. I lose sleep over all of this. (somber music) – [Jeff] It took modern
humans tens of thousands of years to reach a
population of 700 million. And then we tapped into millions of years of stored energy, known as fossil fuels.
Our human population exploded. It increased by 10 times
in a mere 200 years. Our consumption has also exploded. On average, ten times per person, and many times more in the Western world. You put the two together, the result is a total human
impact 100 times greater than only 200 years ago. (mellow music) And that is the most terrifying
realization I have ever had. We humans are poised for a fall
from an unimaginable height.
Not because of one thing. Not climate change alone. But all the human-caused changes the planet is suffering from. (slow tempo music) So, why are bankers, industrialists and environmental leaders only focused on the narrow solution
of green technology? Is it the profit motive? And why, for most of
my life, have I fallen for the illusion green
energy would save us? (waves lapping on shore) (squeaking door) Clearly, to answer this question, I needed professional help. – Keep my stuff. No, I never heard… – I'll just be honest
with you about my dilemma. You can be my clinical
social psych– (laughing) It's like, the right has religion. And they have a belief
in infinite fossil fuels. Our side says, "Oh, it's gonna be okay, "we're gonna have solar panels. "We're gonna have wind towers." Soon as I heard you talk
about our denial of death, I'm like, "Could that be it? "Could it be that we can't
face our own mortality? "Could we have a religion
that we're unaware of?" – Absolutely.
I think you've hit the
proverbial nail on the head. What just differentiates
people from all other forms of life is that, we're not only here but that we know that we're here. If you know that you're
here, then you recognize, even dimly, that you'll
not be here someday. And on top of that, we don't
like that we're animals. So, we don't like that
we're gonna die someday. We don't like that you could walk outside and get hit by a fuckin' meteor. What human beings did back in yesteryear is to envelop ourselves in culturally constructive belief systems. You know, call them cultures, call them world views, schemes of things.
Whatever you call them, every
human community has them. Every culture has an account
of the origin of the Universe. Every culture has a prescription for how you're supposed to
behave while you're here. And every culture offers its
denizens hope of immortality, either literally or symbolically. Then the question is, well,
what happens when you bump into people who don't share those beliefs? Whether you know it or not,
whether you like it or not, but that's undermining the confidence with which you subscribe
to your own views.
And exposing you to the very anxiety that those beliefs were constructed to eradicate in the first place. If we're to make progress,
whatever that word means, or even to persist as a form
of life, we're gonna need to radically overhaul our basic conception of who and what we are, and
what it is that we value. Because the people that
you referred to earlier, both on the left and the right that think we're gonna be
able to discover more oil. Or solar panel ourselves into the future, where life will look pretty
much like it does now. You know, only cleaner or better. – [Jeff] Either with
more oil or greener oil. – Or both. I think that's just frankly delusional. – What I'm hearing is that,
if I haven't come to grips with my own anxiety about death and life, and presented with a reminder
of that, I'm highly likely to make some tragic
decisions for the community. – Yes. The only solution in principle
is, as Albert Camus put it, he said, "There's only one
liberty, to come to terms "with death, thereafter
anything is possible." I find that downright inspiring.
– [Jeff] As for our environmental leaders, who dwell in comfortable illusions, how tragic of decisions
were they capable of making? I was about to find out. (humming of machinery) (leaves crunching) – [Josh] They claim they're
just using forest residues, but actually a great deal
of what the McNeil facility, and lots of biomass facilities
burn, is whole trees. As you can see by this
pile that's stacked right outside of the facility, these are trees. – [Jeff] It turns out
that the biggest source of green energy in Vermont
is something called biomass. Burning trees to create electricity. – This is definitely not the way. At the first step is actually
looking at our lifestyles, how we can reduce our energy consumption.
This is all the ash that has
varying levels of toxic metals, a great deal of radiation because these trees have been absorb… Oops, there's the… (machinery humming) – You're in unforbidden territory there. – [Jeff] Are we? – May I ask both of you to
come up to our office, okay. – [Josh] Is that something
you're interested in doing? – It's not an interest,
you've got five seconds or I'm calling 911. – [Jeff] Okay. – [Security Guard] We've
got two individuals here– (loud crunching footsteps) Police will be down here
in about two minutes. – [Josh] You asked us to
leave and we're doing so.
– [Security Guard] I'm
not asking you to leave. I'm asking you to come up to the office. – [Josh] Okay, thanks for the offer. Maybe next time. (electronic beeping) (machinery humming) You got everything here. You have the number one
polluter in the state that people think, and
it's magical fairy dust from the smokestack. Reality is what you have is a facility that burns 400,000 green
tons a year of trees.
This facility burns thirty
cords of wood per hour. – [Jeff] That's a hell of lot of wood. – [Josh] And on top of that, it actually burns natural gas, as well. – [Jeff] And to think
you would have to have 10 of these to replace one
average coal-fired power plant. It's just not gonna work. – It's just nuts. It takes great deal of fossil fuels to cut down all these trees, to truck 'em in, to use the big machinery to dump the wood chips everywhere. So, the idea that somehow
this is not anything to do with fossil fuels just
doesn't even make any sense. It couldn't happen without
fossil fuels, in fact. – [Jeff] How did the environmental groups get pulled into this? – Obviously, the main factor is delusion. A lot of these environmental
groups have been saying that all we have to do is, for instance, switch our fossil fuel economy over to a few solar panels and windmills, and we can continue living life as normal. Some of the environmental
groups have been, for years, touting facilities
like this saying that, number one, it's carbon neutral.
That this will actually help
us fend off climate change because there are no CO2 emissions. It actually emits over 400 thousand tons per year of carbon dioxide. Oh, but once we but
them, they'll grow back. They'll grow back over a
period of decades to centuries. We cut every tree in the United States, it would be able to power
the country for a year. Then what happens when
those trees are gone? (wind blowing) – [Jeff] I discovered biomass plants were not even always biomass plants. – It's actually a solid waste incinerator that's posing as a biomass plant. The impact in this community is severe. The plant is right next Head Start school for preschool kids. There is Green Hill Manor and that's an assisted
living senior residence. And there's also a
Catholic elementary school right next door. – [Jeff] How do you
know they're polluting? Can you see it ever? – We can see it.
The snow at the elementary school and at the preschool
is covered with black, some kind of black soot. We just had it analyzed and it came back as mostly tire chips. They have to add tire-derived fuel to raise the temperature of the fire, because anybody whose tried to
burn green wood or wet wood, knows that it doesn't burn very well. – [Jeff] But this biomass plant had yet another surprise. – They admit that they
burn 20.1 tons per hour of creosote treated railroad ties. Besides that, they are allowed
to burn 500 pounds per hour of PCP treated railroad ties. These are shipped in from Canada. It's not green, it's not
renewable, it's not carbon-neutral, it's not anything that
they claim it to be. Yet, they got $11.5 million grant because it was classified as renewable.
The plant owner told us that they were having trouble
getting enough wood chips. And he even asked us if
we had any scrap wood where we lived, would we call the plant and let them know so they
could come up and pick it up. – [Jeff] We're not talking about some old industrial site, we're next to one of the most
beautiful places in the world. – We re next to Lake Superior,
this is Keweenaw B… This is actually L'Anse Bay,
it's part of Keweenaw Bay. It's Lake Superior, our
lake. (voice breaking) So, it's a very sacred
place to many people. (clopping horse feet) – Are you with the news? – [Jeff] No, there's supposed to be a climate change rally. – Oh. – (group chanting) – [Jeff] Michigan State
University students, inspired by 350.org, were holding a rally for the clean energy future
they'd been promised. – (crowd shouting and cheering) – Imagine when I found out that it is the largest on-campus
coal plant in the nation.
The goal is to get the whole world moving beyond fossil fuels. (crowd cheering and clapping) – [Student] Who wants to do
a 350 sign on the steps?" – [Jeff] But it turned out
Michigan State had a form of green energy in mind the
students did not support. – The university contracted with a energy contracting company. They put together a modeling tool. First two or three months that the steering committee
was using this modeling tool, it didn't even contain
data for wind or solar. So there was (voice fading out) – [Jeff] Adam told me
they were planning on substituting coal burning
with biomass burning. – But the permit that is
currently being considered by the state is a permit
for 24,000 tons of biomass, I think per year. And the plan is to do
that in all four boilers. Unfortunately, the steering
committee considers biomass renewable at the moment. Which we're not happy with. (students laughing) – [Jeff] Michigan State
wasn't the only university to go green.
– I'm happy to announce
that Carolina will be going beyond coal in the next decade. Now, as we begin to wean
ourselves on coal, we are about to try another alternative
energy source, biomass. – [Jeff] And who was here to help the University
of North Carolina switch from burning coal to burning trees? – So, it is a great
pleasure to be here today to celebrate the remarkable step that the university is taking to say, "We're gonna do our part." (solemn music) – [Jeff] A remarkable step, indeed.
We're to do our part by getting out of bed with coal companies and into bed with logging companies? Where did the idea of colleges going green by burning trees come from, anyway? A little college called Middlebury
in the heart of Vermont. – Welcome to the
celebration of the opening of Middlebury's new biomass
gasification system. It's now my great pleasure to introduce this afternoon's speaker, Bill McKibben.
(audience clapping) – What powers a learning community? And as of this afternoon, the easy answer to that is wood chips. It's incredibly beautiful
to stand over there and see that big bunker
full of wood chips. You can put any kind of
wood in, oak, willow, whatever you want. Pretty much anything that
burns, we can toss in there if we can chip it down to the right size. And there are very few
similar cases anyplace in this country of that kind
of change over that scale. But it shows it could happen anywhere and it should happen anywhere. In fact, it must happen everywhere. – [Jeff] It must happen everywhere. (dramatic piano music) And now it's time for a nature break. Enjoying our sustainably
managed Michigan forests. (classical piano music) – If you walk through here and you look, there's virtually nothing growing. A little bit of grass occasionally.
(increasing classical music) – [Jeff] And it seemed that
biomass plants, indeed, were suddenly everywhere, like this one in Cadillac, Michigan. (truck engine rumbling) In Detroit, an incinerator that burned garbage was considered green. (classical piano music) – The Detroit incinerator is
known to emit horrible smells and pollutants that neighbors
say make them feel sick and put their health at risk. – It's a stink, it's a horrendous stink.
– [Jeff] A proposed biofuel plant for the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan would consume trees from tens of thousands of square miles. – In order to create 40
million gallons of ethanol, they are going to have to use up over a million tons of green wood. We pointed out that
they were gonna be using more natural gas than they
were gonna be creating ethanol to displace the natural gas. If you continue to do this, you're gonna be fertilizing the forest. – [Jeff] Fertilizing forests with? Fossil fuels?
– Fossil fuel based fertilizers. – [Jeff] Made from natural gas? – Yeah. (frenzied piano music) [Jeff] Then came a ballot proposal backed by Bill McKibben and nearly
every major environmental group, requiring Michigan to get
25% of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025. – [News Anchor] This year,
Michigan voters have a choice: keep burning dirty coal
and oil or move Michigan to clean, renewable energy
like wind and solar. Vote yes on Proposal three. – [Jeff] Surprisingly, Proposal three, also known as 25 by
25, was the brain child of an organization that was
100% biofuels and biomass.
– Allowing America's farms,
ranches and forest lands to be active participants in contributing to America's energy future. – [Jeff] These are the biomass and biofuel plants across the U.S. (popping) How did this happen? And it wasn't just the U.S.A. It was all around the world. Wood chips, which is just
a euphemism for trees, are being exported to Europe from America, British Columbia, Brazil and Indonesia. Wherever they can get them from. (classical piano music) Biomass, especially when
you add in biofuels, is by far the largest
portion of green energy around the world, even in Germany, source of the solar miracle. (classical piano music) But maybe I was missing something. Maybe I had it all wrong. (woman's voice on loudspeaker) I decided to ask people
protesting fossil fuels how they felt about biomass
and biofuels as green energy.
Would you say we don't need to do biofuels and food and forests for energy? – No, no, definitely not. Of course not, of course not. – Burning biomass, any kind of combustion, is something we just
need to move away from. – The more trees we have, the better. – A lot of that didn't grow overnight. If we cut it down, we don't
know the impact of that. – [Jeff] You're here as an oak tree? – Yes. – If I had a chainsaw, that wouldn't be saving
the planet, would it? – No, it's painful. It's a painful way to go. I can tell you that right now.
– [Jeff] It would take
you a while to regrow. (laughing) – Yeah, oh yeah. But it wouldn't be me,
it'd be an off-spring. – With so many people doing
it on such a massive scale, all of a sudden at once,
that's pretty serious. – No, I think we should
not be burning trees. – [Group] No, no. – Why would we cut down trees? – We shouldn't replace one
terrible way of getting energy with another terrible
way of getting energy.
Because it's one thing. (girl's voice fading) – [Jeff] Clearly, most
citizens are opposed to biomass and biofuels. (calming guitar music) But what about environmental leaders? At times, they have promoted
biomass but other times, they sound like they are against biomass. Like this Sierra Club policy, "We are deeply concerned
about the implications "of wood-to-energy for native forests." Or this statement signed on
by 75 environmental groups, "Burning forests for
energy will destroy one "of our best defenses
against climate change." But then again, their
language leaves loopholes that enable biomass.
The NRDC says you must use
the "right types of biomass." The Dogwood Alliance says maybe small biomass plants are okay. And the Sierra Club flat out states, "Biomass can be sustainable." (pensive guitar music) Which side are they really on? I thought for sure with
the camera rolling, environmental leaders
would speak for the trees. – [Group] No frackin' way. – Where's the science,
where's the science? – We're here to tell a
story about what the forests of this state, of our
commonwealth, mean to us. – [Jeff] Does your organization
have any stance on that? – I'm not sure I would
say we support it as much as we can wrap our heads around it.
We've almost made a peace
with the timber industry. – [Jeff] I'm just curious,
what's your group stance on using forests for biomass? – Biomass is renewable,
biomass is sustainable. – And I'm with Clean Water Action, we don't really have a stand on it. If the director of the
Sierra Club was here, she'd be able to talk
your ear off about it. – I'm the director for the
Sierra Club in Pennsylvania. – [Jeff] Does the Sierra Club support or not support biomass? – I'm not totally prepared to talk about our policy on biomass today. Our position is somewhat nuanced, so I just want to be careful not to… (crowd talking) – [Jeff] So, you're with 350? – I am. – Do 350 have a position on biomass 'cause I'm kind of actually– – I can't really speak for 350. – Do you personally have an opinion about whether we should be burning
green trees for green energy? – No, I don't have an opinion on that. I like a fire. (laughing) – [Jeff] One of my biggest concern as an environmentalist is that
we're trying to burn trees.
There are tree burning power plants. Are you aware of the problems
with biomass or biofuels? – Yeah, yeah, I'm not as aware of that as I could be or should be. – Jeff Gibbs, working on a documentary. In Michigan where I live, where I'm from, there's large plants that
burn trees for energy and pretty much whole trees chopped up. Do you have a thought about whether that should be a part
of green energy or not? – The great thing about green energy is you don't have to pick a favorite. – Jeff Gibbs. – Oh, hello. – My biggest concern is that
in Germany, for instance, they're moving toward solar and wind but 60% of their actual
energy is coming from biomass. 60% of what's considered renewable energy. Burning trees for energy? – I don't know the details out of Germany. What Germany's really doing is a lot of sun related and that's
really powerful to see.
– [Jeff] I'd like to see us come out against any burning of trees. – All right, well go and do it. – For clean energy Would you? – Although I confess I stoke my wood stove almost every night of the winter, so I'm not really the right person to ask. – But designating green
energy for power plants. – Yeah, yeah, I don't know. It's not what this day's about. – [Jeff] But if we're burning trees instead of fossil fuels. – (crowd drowns out) from Taiwan. – Oh, good. – We're wondering what role do you want to play in this (voice fading out)? – [Jeff] I think the biomass
question's a non-starter. (somber music) I found only one
environmental leader willing to reject biomass and biofuels.
– So we are talking of the old oil economy trying to maintain itself now through another raw
material, the green planet. The only reason corn and soy
has been planted for biofuel in this country is the
subsidies make it profitable. I think the big crisis of our time is our minds have been manipulated
to give power to illusions. We shifted to measuring growth, not in terms of how life is enriched but in terms of how life is destroyed. (peaceful guitar) – [Jeff] Her honesty was refreshing. But as for the rest of them, I wondered, what are they hiding? And why are they hiding it? Is it their ignorance? Or is it something else? (music increasing in tempo) What if they, themselves,
had become misguided? (intensifying dramatic music) What if they've made some kind of deal they shouldn't have made? And are leading us all off the cliff? (light upbeat music) It was long past time
for me to come to grips with the other elephant
in the living room. The profit motive. The only reason we've
been force fed the story, climate change plus
renewables equals we're saved, is because billionaires, bankers and corporations profit from it.
And the reason we're not
talking about over-population, consumption and the suicide
of economic growth is that would be bad for business. Especially the cancerous
form of capitalism that rules the world. Now hiding under a cover of green. – Today Bloomberg
Philanthropies is making, I'm happy to announce, a new investment of $30 million in the
Beyond Coal campaign. (crowd cheering and clapping) We have more. I'm glad to say that more than a dozen additional
funders have committed to match that $30 million. (clapping and cheering) – [Jeff] And who were these new partners? One of them was Jeremy Grantham. Billionaire, world's leading
timber investment advisor. (man speaking in background) They were not investing in trees to turn them into nature preserves. Which might answer another riddle, why is this name redacted on
the Sierra Club's tax return? Would they be embarrassed to
take three million dollars from a man who made his
living selling the forest to the world? Bloomberg, bringing a timber
investment billionaire to the party, was no coincidence. Bloomberg sponsored a U.N. climate session to discuss wrapping up biomass and biofuels around the world.
Billionaires were in love
with the idea of turning what was left of nature
into green profits. Remember when Al Gore had
gotten Richard Branson to invest billions into saving the planet? – [News Anchor] Richard Branson,
founder of Virgin Atlantic, powered a Boeing 747
from London to Amsterdam on a coconut oil mixture
to highlight the potential of this amazing oil as
a clean energy biofuel. – [Jeff] Branson had actually
invested in biofuels. He was attempting to replace the jet fuel damaging the planet with biofuels that required the consumption
of the living planet.
And it was game-on for
the airline industry. – [News Anchor] Dozens of researchers from all over the northwest gathered in Missoula the past two
days to explore the idea of converting the
region's mass of reserves of wood into jet fuel. Especially with the demand
for aircraft fuel expected to grow by a billion gallons
in the northwest alone. – [News Anchor] United Airlines
will buy a $30 million stake in biofuel company, Fulcrum BioEnergy. The airline used 3.9 billion
gallons of fuel last year. – [Jeff] What technology was
Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla hoping to profit from? – Nature takes a million years
to produce our crude oil. KiOR can produce it in seconds. – [Lesley] The company took
over this old paper mill where logs are picked up by a giant claw, dropped into a shredder and
pulverized into wood chips.
Clean gasoline? – Clean, green gasoline. – There must be a downside. – There is no downside. – [Jeff] The bank that
crashed the economy, ruined millions of lives
and has their tentacles on the levers of power, what would their favorite
form of green energy be? – One of the very interesting markets that we deal with is Brazil. It's unlike any other
market in that today, alternative energy isn't
really alternative energy. It's so much a part of
the fabric of the society. The country began to
utilize its vast resources of sugar cane to produce ethanol. – [Jeff] There was a
man from Goldman Sachs who was particularly in love with turning forests into profits. – Has everybody got enough coffee? Might want to get some more. – [Jeff] Meet David Blood, former CEO of Asset Management for Goldman Sachs. How much money did Mr.
Blood believe should be invested in green energy? – A natural alignment for
something in the order of $40-50 trillion worth of capital. – [Jeff] $40-50 trillion.
And who was going to help
the man from Goldman Sachs? Help him raise that
astronomical amount of money? – A gentleman some of you may recognize and know, Bill McKibben. – It's entirely dependent on what kind of political will we can muster. And if we do not get this done very fast, then we're not gonna get it done. – [Jeff] And so Bill McKibben went forth to generate the political
will for trillions of dollars in green investments.
– Our next guest has been called our nation's leading environmentalist. – And you are, in some sense, the Grand Poobah of the
environmental movement. – My guest tonight is on a global crusade. – [Jeff] On a global crusade for what? – Commit to divesting from fossil fuels. We can't justify investing
our money into companies that are basically
running genesis backward. – [Jeff] So when you
divest from fossil fuels, and invest in green funds,
what are you investing in? I took a deep dive into Securities and Exchange Commission
filings to find out.
For instance, in the Green Century Funds, recommended by 350.org and Bill McKibben, I found less than one
percent solar and wind and 99% things like mining, (increasing dramatic music) oil and gas infrastructure companies, (dramatic music) including a tar sands exploiter, McDonald's one of the companies
driving meat consumption across the planet. Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest
producers of biofuel, Coca Cola, the largest creator of plastic pollution on earth, logging and paper companies including one that brags about biomass
burning and banks.
(dramatic music) Lots of banks. (dramatic music) Including BlackRock, the largest financer of deforestation on earth. – The business that they're engaged in is actually destroying
our life support system. (dramatic music) – [Jeff] The Sierra Club, also partners with a green fund called Aspiration. Aspiration also includes
dozens of companies profiting from the destruction of the planet. Including Chevron,
ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy. – [Announcer] In order to
maximize the production potential of the well, the shale formation will
be hydraulically fractured. – [Jeff] The Russian gas giant, Gazprom. – [Announcer] Gazprom
owns the world's largest explored gas reserves,
36 trillion cubic meters. – [Jeff] And in perhaps the
most bizarre twist of all, the Sierra Club's green fund's
biggest holding is in Enviva, the world's largest consumer of forests, to be incinerated in green
energy biomass plants.
(somber piano music) Of course, one investment
option is a green fund, run by Bill McKibben's buddy, David Blood. And who was the chairman of this fund? Someone familiar. – Use capitalism, it gives incentives for people to do their best. – [Jeff] Al Gore and David Blood partnered to form a company called Blood and Gore. No, scratch that, Generation
Investment Management. And within this fund,
Blood and Gore designated a special investment category
targeting $650 million of biomass and biofuels. Funny thing was, they partnered before Al Gore's film came out. (dramatic music) Was that movie just about
climate change or something else? – On one side, we have gold bars.
Mm, mm, mm. (audience laughing) Don't they look good? I'd just like to have
some of those gold bars. On the other side of the
scales, the entire planet. (audience laughing) If we do the right thing, then we're gonna create a lot of wealth. – [Jeff] And when it came time for Al Gore to choose between the entire
planet and getting him some of them gold bars, what
choice did he make? Here's Al Gore earning his
keep by pretending to care about the rain forest
while lobbying Congress on behalf of the sugar
cane ethanol industry. – Let me come in on the
Brazilian effort here with the issue of the
possibility of expanding into that Amazon River basin
with further deforestation to produce more ethanol out
of sugar cane is a worry. And apparently you're not
as concerned about that. – No, no, I am, I simply forgot. (motor roaring) (children screaming & crying) What's been going on there,
it is really very troubling.
(speaking in foreign language) And with your permission, I'll
show you a very quick example of it over a period of 25 years. (loud tapping) – [Announcer] The invasion
of sugar cane on the cultures in the region clashes with the indigenous
people's right to land. These are images of a last ditch attempt by the Guarani-Kaiowá to resist eviction. – Important to note that the exploitation of the sugar cane growing
areas in Brazil does not have to inevitably have the
knock on consequence of causing destruction in the Amazon. – Sugar cane fields are burning. They're set alight before the harvest to eliminate the leaves
and tops of the plant, which makes cutting more efficient. (somber music) Environmentalists blame the seemingly endless sugar cane fields,
the air and water pollution on an epic scale.
And along with deforestation,
the threat it poses to the environment is becoming clear. (dramatic music) Once the indigenous
families were expelled, the land owners set their homes on fire. (dramatic music) – [Jeff] Is there anything too terrible to qualify as green energy? – Thank you very much, Secretary
Mabus and U.S. Navy for, once again, inviting me
to speak with you today. The Navy's work to help launch this new fuel industry is invaluable. (roaring plane engine) – [Announcer] The U.S.
Navy has a special message this year. It is time to turn green. Joining the vessels is
what the U.S.
Navy calls, it's great green fleet of warships, powered by fuel from
renewable sources like algae, grass and animal fat. – [Jeff] Animal fat? (thudding and pounding) – The next time you fill up at your neighborhood gas station, you might find yourself
pumping a little alligator into your tank. That's right, U.L. Lafayette researchers have developed alligator fat into a renewable source for biofuels. – [Jeff] And once we run through
the animals, what's next? GE, who brings you nuclear
energy and wind turbines, is ready with a plan. – I believe that liquid fuels, chemicals, are eventually gonna have to be made from sustainable raw materials. We believe that seaweed is one of the most attractive opportunities.
(majestic music) – [Jeff] Better hurry. One year after it was filmed,
the seaweed forest was dead. (somber music) You might ask yourself,
how could men destroy what remains of nature
to enrich themselves? Well, that's why they're
billionaires and you're not. (laughing) The takeover of the environmental movement by capitalism is now complete. Environmentalists are no
longer resisting those with a profit motive, but
collaborating with them. The Nature Conservancy is
now the logging conservancy. – We will capture the most
important pieces biologically and there will be another large block sold to timber investment groups. The Union of Concerned
Scientists has become the union of concerned salesmen,
having taken millions, not for science, but to create markets for electric cars. The Sierra Club sells electric cars and solar panels right from their website.
– The best thing about Sungevity is that they make it easy for you. All that you have to do is to say yes. – [Jeff] The New York Times
partners with ExxonMobil to bring you the good news about biofuels. – [Announcer] Algae derived fuel could help us meet growing demands. – [Jeff] Treehugger.com, which claims to be the largest single
source of environmental news, was founded and funded by Georgia Pacific, a logging company.
In fact, they are neighbors. Georgia Pacific is owned by
our friends, the Koch brothers, who are likely the largest recipient of green energy biomass
subsidies in the United States. (somber music) Yes, the merger of environmentalism and capitalism is now complete. But maybe it's always been complete. – How is 350.org funded? – Well, not very well. – (laughing) Who are your funders? – To the degree that we
have any money at all, it's come from a few
foundations in Europe and U.S. – [Karyn] Which ones? – Ah, let's see. The, I'm trying to think
who the biggest funders are. There's a foundation in,
based in Sweden called, I think it's called
the Rasmuson Foundation that I think has been the biggest funder. – So you don't get money
from Pew or Rockefeller or any of those big foundations? – [Bill] No, we did.
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
gave us some money right when we were starting out. That's been useful, too. – But they no longer fund you? – I don't know, I don't have this sort of- – [Karyn] (laughing) Really? – Funders sitting in front of me. – [Karyn] That's usually
something that people know. – Rockefeller's been one
of our, is one of our, is a great ally in this fight. – [Interviewer] You just sold
your TV network to Al Jazeera. – Right. – [Interviewer] And that
government is basically nothing but an oil producer. – Gas, mainly and oil. – Your take on that, about a
hundred million dollars pre-tax from a country that bases
it's wealth on fossil fuels. Isn't there a bit of hypocrisy in that? – Well, I get the criticism,
I just disagree with it. I'm proud of the transactions. – You couldn't find, for your business, a more sustainable choice? – What is not sustainable about it? – Because it is backed
by fossil fuel money. – I get it, I get it, I get it. – [Jeff] And so, if you got yourself an environmental movement
and environmental leaders, why not buy the holy day itself? – [Man] (crowd screaming) Happy Earth Day! ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ You make me want to say ♪ ♪ Ah, you make me want to say ♪ – Now we are facing the
greatest sets of issues that we've seen in my lifetime.
It's time now for a new
generation to jump up on the stage and create
a habitable country, a habitable planet, that we can all enjoy. Are you that generation? (crowd screaming and cheering) I need to thank Building Energy which provided so much solar power to this that we powered the entire
event with solar energy. (crowd cheering and screaming) – [Jeff] But when I went backstage to see what was really going on. – It ain't running this
whole thing on that, Jack.
I can tell you that. For a toaster is 1200 watts. So, that run right there
could run a toaster. – [Jeff] I found the installer. – Hi. – [Jeff] Are they running the festival on these solar panels? – The concert is run by
diesel generation system. They didn't ask us to
energize the concert. – [Jeff] Oh, okay. – And we'd also like to thank our incredible corporate sponsors have been behind the movement
to end extreme poverty and tackle climate change
since the very beginning. I want to thank Toyota. (loud roaring engine) Citibank. (clanging bell and cheering) We want to thank Caterpillar. – We're standing at the destruction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It looks like there are at least three bulldozers
actually bulldozing the land. (group yelling and cheering) People have gotten through the fence, the bulldozers are still going (people screaming) and they're marching over the dirt mounds. (loud angry screaming) – [Man In Orange Shirt] Get the fuck off! Get the fuck out of here! – Without these partners,
it wouldn't be possible. Let's give them a round
of applause, everyone. (crowd cheering and clapping) (slow solemn music) – [Jeff] Now I know this
all might seem overwhelming.
It's a kind of thing that we normally don't
try and think about. (slow solemn music) But by not thinking about it, it stands a good chance of doing us in. (slow solemn music) I truly believe that the path to change comes from awareness. (slow solemn music) That awareness alone can begin
to create the transformation. (slow solemn music) There is a way out of this. We humans must accept that infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide. We must accept that our human presence is already far beyond sustainability. And all that that implies. (slow solemn music) We must take control of
our environmental movement and our future from billionaires and their permanent war on Planet Earth. (slow solemn music) They are not our friends.
(slow solemn music) Less must be the new more and instead of climate change, we must at long last accept that it's not the carbon dioxide molecule destroying the planet, (slow solemn music) it's us. (slow solemn music) It's not one thing, but
everything we humans are doing. A human-caused apocalypse. If we get ourselves under
control, all things are possible. (slow solemn music) And if we don't. (ominous music) (chainsaw buzzing) (crashing trees) (sad mournful music) (trees crashing) (slow solemn music) (trees scrapping) (orangutan chirping) ♪ Ah-Ooh ♪ (mournful orchestral music) (music fading) (snapping tree branch) (slow solemn music) (roaring crackling fire) ♪ Ah-Ah-Ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh-Ooh (increasing in intensity) ♪ ♪ Ah-Ooh ♪ (orangutan chirping) (female singing mournfully) (orangutan squealing) – Yeah, yeah, yeah. (low talking) ♪ Ah-Ah-Ah ♪ ♪ Oh-Oh-Ah ♪ ♪ Oh-Oh-Ah ♪ ♪ Ooh-Ah ♪ ♪ Oh-Oh-Oh ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪ (somber music).