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  • Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs

  • John Doerr: Hello, Hal!

  • Hal Harvey: John, nice to see you.

  • JD: Nice to see you too.

  • HH: So John, we've got a big challenge.

  • We need to get carbon out of the atmosphere.

  • We need to stop emitting carbon,

  • drive it to zero by 2050.

  • And we need to be halfway there by 2030.

  • Where are we now?

  • JD: As you know, we're dumping 55 billion tons

  • of carbon pollution in our precious atmosphere every year,

  • as if it's some kind of free and open sewer.

  • To get halfway to zero by 2030,

  • we're going to have to reduce annual emissions

  • by about 10 percent a year.

  • And we've never reduced annual emissions in any year

  • in the history of the planet.

  • So let's break this down.

  • Seventy-five percent of the emissions

  • come from the 20 largest emitting countries.

  • And from four sectors of their economy.

  • The first is grid.

  • Second, transportation.

  • The third from the buildings.

  • And the fourth from industrial activities.

  • We've got to fix all those, at speed and at scale.

  • HH: We do.

  • And matters are in some ways worse than we think and some ways better.

  • Let me start with the worse.

  • Climate change is a wicked problem.

  • And what do I mean by wicked problem?

  • It means it's a problem that transcends geographic boundaries.

  • The sources are everywhere, and the impacts are everywhere.

  • Although obviously some nations have contributed much more than others.

  • In fact, one of the terrible things about climate change

  • is those who contributed least to it will be hurt the most.

  • It's a great inequity machine.

  • So here we have a problem that you cannot solve

  • within the national boundaries of one country,

  • and yet international institutions are notoriously weak.

  • So that's part of the wicked problem.

  • The second element of the wicked problem is it transcends normal timescales.

  • We're used to news day by day,

  • or quarterly reports for business enterprises,

  • or an election cycle -- that's about the longest we think anymore of.

  • Climate change essentially lasts forever.

  • When you put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,

  • it's there, or its impacts are there, for 1,000 years.

  • It's a gift we keep on giving for our children, our grandchildren

  • and dozens and dozens of generations beyond there.

  • JD: It sounds like a tax we keep on paying.

  • HH: Yeah, it is. It is.

  • You sin once, you pay forever.

  • And then the third element of it being a wicked problem

  • is that carbon dioxide is embedded in every aspect of our industrial economy.

  • Every car, and every truck, and every airplane, and every house,

  • and every electrical socket, and every industrial processes

  • now emits carbon dioxide.

  • JD: So what's the recipe?

  • HH: Well, here's the shortcut.

  • If you decarbonize the grid, the electrical grid,

  • and then run everything on electricity --

  • decarbonize the grid and electrify everything --

  • if you do those two things, you have a zero carbon economy.

  • Now, that would seem like a pipe dream just a few years ago

  • because it was expensive to create a zero-carbon grid.

  • But the prices of solar and wind have plummeted.

  • Solar's now the cheapest form of electricity on planet earth

  • and wind is second.

  • It means now that you can convert the grid to zero-carbon rapidly

  • and save consumers money along the way.

  • So there's leverage.

  • JD: Well, I think a key question, Hal, is do we have the technology that we need

  • to replace fossil fuels to get this job done?

  • And my answer is no.

  • I think we're about 70, maybe 80 percent of the way there.

  • For example, we urgently need a breakthrough in batteries.

  • Our batteries need to be higher energy density.

  • They need to have enhanced safety, faster charging.

  • They need to take less space and less weight,

  • and above all else, they need to cost a lot less.

  • In fact, we need new chemistries that don't rely on scarce cobalt.

  • And we're going to need lots of these batteries.

  • We desperately need much more research in clean energy technology.

  • The US invests about 2.5 billion dollars a year.

  • Do you know how much Americans spend on potato chips?

  • HH: No.

  • JD: The answer is 4 billion dollars.

  • Now, what do you think of that?

  • HH: Upside down.

  • But let me press a little further

  • on a question that's fascinated me about the Silicon Valley.

  • So the Silicon Valley is governed by Moore's law,

  • where performance doubles every 18 months.

  • It's not really a law, it's an observation,

  • but be that as it may.

  • The energy world is governed by much more mundane laws,

  • the laws of thermodynamics, right?

  • It's physical stuff in the economy.

  • Cement, trucks, factories, power plants.

  • JD: Atoms, not bits.

  • HH: Atoms, not bits. Perfect.

  • And the transformation of big physical things is slower,

  • and the margins are worse, and often the commodities are generic.

  • How do we stimulate the kind of innovation in those worlds

  • that we actually need in order to save this planet earth?

  • JD: Well, that's a really great question.

  • The innovation starts with basic science in research and development.

  • And the American commitment to that, while advanced on a global sense,

  • is still paltry.

  • It needs to be 10 times higher

  • than the, say, 2.5 billion per year that we spend on clean energy R and D.

  • But we need to go beyond R and D as well.

  • There needs to be a kind of development, a kind of pre-commercialization,

  • which in the US is done by a group called ARPA-E.

  • Then there's the matter of forming new companies.

  • HH: Yes.

  • JD: And I think entrepreneurial energy is shifting back into that field.

  • It's clear that it takes longer and more capital,

  • but you can build a really substantial and valuable enterprise or company.

  • HH: Yes.

  • JD: Tesla's a prime example. Beyond Meat is another one.

  • And that's inspiring entrepreneurs globally.

  • But that's not enough.

  • I think you need also a demand signal, in the form of policies and purchases,

  • from nations, like Germany did with solar, to go make these markets happen.

  • And so I'm, at heart, a capitalist.

  • I think this energy crisis is the mother of all markets.

  • And it will take longer.

  • But the market for electric vehicle batteries -- 500 billion dollars a year.

  • It's probably another 500 billion dollars if you go to stationary batteries.

  • I want to tell you another story that involves policy,

  • but importantly, plans.

  • Now, Shenzhen is a city of 15 million people,

  • an innovative city, in China.

  • And they decided that they were going to move to electric buses.

  • And so they required all buses be electric.

  • In fact, they required parking spots have chargers associated with them.

  • So today, Shenzhen has 18,000 electric buses.

  • It has 21,000 electric taxis.

  • And this goodness didn't just happen.

  • It was the result of a thoughtful, written, five-year plan

  • that isn't just a kind of campaign promise.

  • Executing against these plans is how mayors get promoted, or fired.

  • And so it's really deadly serious.

  • It has to do with carbon, and it has to do with health, with jobs,

  • and with overall economic strength.

  • The bottom line is that China today has 420,000 electric buses.

  • America has less than 1,000.

  • So what other national projects are there that you'd like to see?

  • HH: So this is a global effort,

  • but not everybody's going to do the same thing,

  • or should do the same thing.

  • Let me start with Norway.

  • A country that happens to be brilliant at offshore oil,

  • but also understands the consequences of burning more oil.

  • They realized they could deploy their skills

  • from their offshore oil development into offshore wind.

  • It's a big deal to put wind turbines out in the ocean.

  • The ocean, the winds are much stronger,

  • and the winds are much more constant, not only stronger.

  • So it balances the grid beautifully.

  • But it's really hard to build things in the deep ocean.

  • Norway's good at it.

  • So let them take that on.

  • JD: Are they taking it on?

  • HH: They are actually.

  • Yeah. It's pretty brilliant.

  • Another example: India.

  • There are hundreds of millions of people in India

  • that don't have access to electricity.

  • With the advances in solar and advances in batteries,

  • there's no reason they have to build the grid

  • to all those villages that don't have a grid.

  • Skip the steps.

  • Skip the dirty steps. Leapfrog to clean.

  • But this all comes together, in my opinion, in the realm of policy.

  • We need dramatic accelerants, is what you're saying.

  • Accelerants in R and D, but also accelerants in deployment.

  • Deployment is innovation because deployment drives prices down.

  • The right policy can turn things around,

  • and we've seen it happen already in the electricity sector.

  • So electricity regulators have asked for ever cleaner sources of electricity:

  • more renewables, less coal, less natural gas.

  • And it's working.

  • It's working pretty brilliantly, actually.

  • But it's not enough.

  • So the German government recognized the possibility

  • of driving down the price of clean energy.

  • And so they put in orders on the books.

  • They agreed to pay an extra price for early phases of solar energy,

  • presuming the price would drop.

  • They created the demand signal using policy.

  • The Chinese created a supply signal, also using policy.

  • They decided that solar was a strategic part of their future economy.

  • So you had this unwritten agreement between the two countries,

  • one buying a lot, the other producing a lot,

  • that helped drive the price down 80 percent.

  • We should be doing that with 10 technologies, or a dozen,

  • around the world.

  • We need policy as the magic sauce

  • to go through those four sectors in the biggest countries,

  • in all countries.

  • And one of the things that animates me

  • is that this requires people who are concerned about climate change,

  • which should be everybody,

  • those folks have to apply their energies on the policies that matter

  • with the decision-makers who matter.

  • If you don't know who the decision-maker is

  • to decarbonize the grid,

  • or to produce electric vehicles in the policy world,

  • you're really not in the game.

  • JD: Hal, you're an expert in policy.

  • I know this because I've read your book --

  • HH: Thanks, John.

  • JD: Designing Climate Solutions.

  • What makes for good policy?

  • HH: There are some secrets here,

  • and they're really important if we want to solve climate change.

  • Let me give you two of the secrets.

  • First, you have to go where the tons are.

  • JD: Follow the tons.

  • HH: Follow the tons.

  • And this is such an obvious idea,

  • but it's amazing how many policies tinker around the edges.

  • I call it green paint.

  • We don't need green paint. We need green substance.

  • The second thing is when you set a policy, insist on continuous improvement.

  • So what does that mean?

  • Back in 1978, Jerry Brown was the youngest governor in California's history,

  • and he implemented a thermal building code,

  • which means when you build a building, it has to have insulation in it.

  • Pretty simple idea.

  • But he put a trick into that law.

  • He said every three years, the code gets tighter, and tighter, and tighter.

  • And how do you know how much tighter?

  • Anything that pays for itself in energy savings gets thrown into the code.

  • So in the intervening years, we got better insulation,

  • better windows, better furnaces,

  • better roofing.

  • Today, a new California building

  • uses 80 percent less energy than a pre-code building.

  • And Jerry Brown used his legislative bandwidth once to draft that policy

  • that produces fruits forever.

  • JD: He got the words right.

  • HH: He got the words right. Continuous improvement.

  • There's a counterexample, which should be instructive as well.

  • So you and I are both of an age where we remember the first oil embargo

  • and the energy crisis that caused

  • with stagnation and inflation at the same time.

  • Gerald Ford was president.

  • And he realized that if we could double the fuel efficiency of new vehicles,