FORTUNE’s Brainstorm Green began Monday afternoon (less than 24 hours ago as I write this) and my head has been spinning ever since. We’ve talked about Washington and the politics of climate change, Andy Serwer did a a great interview with Bill Ford, and I had a relaxed conversation with Paul Hawken during dinner that generated lots of nice buzz. This morning, we’ve done panels on nuclear power and cars. I can’t keep up with it all—you can find lots of coverage, including video, at Fortune.com. I’m about to interview execs for a panel that we are calling Green Superpowers—GE, Wal-Mart and IBM. For now, I’m just going to dump some quotes from my laptop into this blog to give you a flavor for what’s going on.
Better Place’s Shai Agassi, the dynamic electric-car entrepreneur who is making headway in Israel, Denmark, Hawaii and San Francisco: “If you’re wiling to give me what you pay for gasoline, I’ll give you a free (electric) car.” Electric cars will be dramatically more efficient that gas-powered ones as battery costs come down, he argues
Bill Ford, chairman of Ford, on the history of the auto industry: “We haven’t had a lot of revolutions but boy are we now. I love it.”
More from Ford, on how times have changed: “When I joined the (Ford) board, I was asked to stop affiliating w/ known or suspected environmentalists.” Ford now works with Paul Hawken and Environmental Defense Fund.
Hawken, on why a small-is-beautiful guy has agreed to advise Wal-Mart and Ford on sustainability: “I’m a slut for change.”
Ford to Ian Clifford CEO of Zenn Motors, an electric-car startup: “You guys are leading the charge, so to speak!” Ford really won over the crowd with his low-key charm.
PG&E CEO Peter Darbee, yet another electric car fan: “I believe the electric car will be one of the great areas of breakthrough that will change our industry.
More from Darbee: “The smart grid will be the key enabling technology for the electric cars.”
Peter Corsell, CEO of GridPoint, on the smart grid: “Current system was designed in an era when information was scarce, fuel was cheap and pollution was free.”
David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, another utility guy who likes electric cars: “The electric car is our savior, It is the air conditioner of the 21st century.”
Alan Hanson, exec vp of nuclear power company Areva, saying concerns about nuclear waste are way overblown: “I don’t know of any part of the electricity generating world that treats its waste as well as the nuclear industry does.”
More from Crane: “I’m convinced that there will e three nuclear power plants built in the U.S. in the next 10 years.” Whether they will be anomalies (supported by a limited pool of federal loan guarantees) or lead to a nuclear renaissance remains to be seen.
Crane, explaining why there is no political constituency for nuclear energy in Washington, where Waxman, Boxer and Browner are anti-nuke but eager to accommodate the coal industry: “Right now the dominant wing of the Democratic Party knows they need to accommodate the coal wing of the Democratic Party in order to get energy and environmental policy passed.”
More to come when I can come up for air….and I hope to dig into the nuclear issue in a more thoughtful way within a week or so. I’m convinced that environmentalists need to think anew about nuclear, in light of new circumstances and the threat of climate change.