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Expert theorizes how Jeff Bezos could best spend his environmental $10B

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

With the news that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is donating $10 billion to stop the effects of climate change, Todd Myers, director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment, has a few ideas about where the tech tycoon’s money would be spent in the most effective way.

While the first instinct for Bezos might be to donate the money to a political advocacy organization, Myers cautions against this choice. Environmental political money is not sustainable, he said, because as different people and parties come in and out of power, they undo the policies of their predecessors.

“He is going to get a lot of pressure to put the money into politics, and I think that that would be a bad idea … where he needs to put that is technology,” Myers told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show. “Technology, no matter what happens with politics, can’t go backwards, and technology is what makes us able to do more with less, which is fundamentally good for the environment.”

Myers suggested that Bezos give to an organization like Plastic Bank, which pays people around the world, in particular in developing nations, to collect plastic waste before it gets dumped into the ocean. He also suggested investing in growing nonprofits that help people save energy — in particular ones with innovative technology. These are “sustainable and durable over the long run,” according to Myers.

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“One area that Jeff Bezos could really make a difference is taking those small-scale ideas — people who have tinkered, have come up with cool little things — and [help] them move from small-scale to major projects,” Myers said.

Myers warned that certain areas of environmental activism may be too risky for donations; Bezos will want to do his research so that he can make sure his dollars are going toward productive solutions. For example, Myers said, one German study found that an all-electric car actually can be more harmful to the environment than a combustion engine because of the fossil fuels emitted while mining the metals used in electric car batteries, creating those batteries, and producing electricity.

“You have to be careful about what you ask for, and make sure that you know what you’re doing … there are tradeoffs, and those impacts do occur,” Myers said. “And I think that if you take a more rational approach to climate change … you can’t just ignore those sorts of impacts.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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