With anger building over the BP oil spill, environmentalists are wondering if President Obama will stand up to Big Energy and get to work on climate change. Melissa Block talks to Bill McKibben, one such person waiting for a more forceful message from the White House. He wrote an op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, in which he writes: “Obama’s barely broken a sweat on climate change … We need someone to stand up and tell it the way it is, and in language so compelling and dramatic it sets us on a new path.”
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
As anger builds over the BP spill, environmentalists are hoping to hear more forceful message from President Obama on climate change. They say this could provide the transformative moment for the country to commit to clean energy.
Bill McKibben has been writing along these lines. His most recent book is “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.”
Bill McKibben, welcome to the program.
Mr. BILL McKIBBEN (Author, “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet”): Good to be with you, Melissa.
BLOCK: You have written that President Obama has barely broken a sweat on climate change. And I’m wondering what it is exactly you have been waiting to hear him say.
Mr. McKIBBEN: We’ve been waiting for him, I think, to go stand there with his back against the Gulf and say: Look, as ugly as that is – that black mess that BP has left us in the Gulf – even if that oil had gotten safely ashore and been refined and put in the gas tanks of your cars and burned, it would have been an environmental disaster then too. It would have driven the even larger problem that we’re facing, this runaway global warming that’s really the largest challenge that he or any other president has ever come up against.
BLOCK: And on these three trips that he’s made now to the Gulf, you’re hearing something falling short of that.
Mr. McKIBBEN: Well, he’s beginning to make some noises about working towards clean energy transition and things, and that’s good. But if there was ever an opportunity to take this debate and change it once and for all, to do what John Kennedy did when he got us going to the moon, you know, this is that moment.
BLOCK: You use that example of President Kennedy’s 10-year timetable to land a man on the moon. But there’s a huge difference here, and that is that there are very powerful, entrenched interests that have huge economic stakes in this…
Mr. McKIBBEN: That’s right.