One Thing Before I’m Fired

Bill McKibben Jan 21, 2013

Bill McKibben
Department of Energy

Now that I’ve been named secretary of energy, let me tell you my first order of business: no more kowtowing to the fossil fuel industry. We’re done being the enablers of the coal and gas and oil industry, and we’re ready to tell the truth to the American people about the damage they’re doing to communities, to landscapes, and most of all to the climate.

If I can get one thing done before I’m fired, it will be to help stoke opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. I know I serve at the President’s pleasure, but I serve at my pleasure too, and I simply can’t be part of an administration that will approve a project opposed by all the nation’s top climate scientists, a project that will help open up a vast new source of carbon, a project that will pour yet more money into the pockets of the Koch brothers.

Once the President has blocked Keystone, he’ll have real credibility with the broad environmental movement, which is good, because there’s an awful lot that we need to get done together. Powerful new EPA regulations to protect communities — especially poor communities — from the effects of soot and ozone and the asthma that comes with burning coal. A serious fee-and-dividend system that makes it clear we own the sky, not Exxon — and that finally puts a real price on carbon. A feed-in tariff system modeled on Germany’s, which has installed so much renewable energy that some days last summer half the country’s power came from solar panels. An end to research on oxymorons like “clean coal” and a massive increase in money for truly transformative research and development.

And as we’re dealing with our own troubles, we also have to get back into the international conversation. We’re not going to be leaders any time soon, but at least we can stop being the caboose on the train. (Speaking of trains, we need some of those too!).

As secretary of energy, I’ll be saying every single day: “Human beings have never confronted a problem as deep as global warming. If our hair’s not on fire, our planet soon will be. Let’s get to work.”

I’m assuming this will cost me my job, at which point I’ll get back to the real task, which is helping build the mass movement that is our only hope of forcing policy change!

Bill McKibben is the founder of, the first big global climate change campaign. It operates in 191 countries and has spearheaded the fight against the Keystone pipeline and the drive for divestment from fossil fuel companies.

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