July 18, 2008
Gore Urges Change to Dodge an Energy Crisis
JOHN M. BRODER
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President
Mr. Gore, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his environmental advocacy, said in an interview that he hoped to raise the alarm so that the next president, whether Senator
His approach, which would require abandoning old-fashioned, coal-fired power plants, goes beyond what even the most audacious scientists and entrepreneurs have proposed, as a means, he said, of jolting the world out of old ways of thinking. Without great dreams, he said, great deeds are never achieved, citing the quest for the Moon in the 1960s.
“I see my role as enlarging the political space in which Senator Obama or Senator McCain can confront this issue as president next year,” Mr. Gore said. He said the United States and the rest of the world were facing unprecedented problems, including growing demand for electricity, dangerous changes in the climate driven largely by emissions of carbon dioxide and political instability in regions that produce much of the world’s oil.
“When we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges — the economic, environmental and national security crises,” Mr. Gore said. “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that has to change.”
His solution was to do away with all carbon-emitting forms of electricity production in the United States within 10 years, replacing them with alternatives like solar, wind and geothermal power, conservation and so-called clean-coal technology in which all carbon emissions from the burning of coal are captured and stored. It is a bold, and some say, unrealistic goal given the tremendous cost and the nation’s fractious politics.
Mr. Gore admitted his plan would, at least initially, drive energy prices higher. But he proposed a payroll tax cut to offset higher prices for fuel and electricity. He said he envisioned nuclear power retaining its current share of domestic electricity generation, about 20 percent. Coal, which now produces about half of American electricty, would dwindle, while renewablesources, now producing less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity, would rapidly grow. (Natural gas and hydroelectric dams provide most of the remainder of the nation’s electricity, relatively little of which comes from burning oil.)
Mr. Gore, who was awarded the
Nobel Prize last October, is the most vocal in a growing chorus calling for a green energy revolution. The Texas oilman Boone Pickens has proposed converting a large portion of the American transportation fleet to run on compressed natural gas while pending billions on new wind farms to produce electricity. Even those who share Mr. Gore’s ideals expressed skepticism that his goal could be achieved in 10 years.
“Mr. Gore is continuing his talent of identifying the key challenges, emphasizing urgency and translating it to a broad audience. That’s terrific,” said Ernest J. Moniz, director of the energy initiative at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former under secretary at the Department of Energy in the Clinton administration. “Everyone agrees that the solution to the climate challenge is decarbonization and the first place to go is the electricity sector. Can we get there that fast? Obviously it’s very, very tough.”
Last winter, the House failed to enact legislation to require utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Last month, supporters could not even get a Senate vote on a
climate change plan that would cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 70 percent by 2050. Mr. Gore was undeterred.
“To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider seriously what the world’s scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don’t act in less than 10 years,” he said. He noted that the United States uses only a tiny fraction of the wind, solar and geothermal power available. He said entrepreneurs were investing billions of dollars in new technology and rapidly bringing down the cost of all alternative energy sources. Mr. Gore said he had spoken about his plan this week with Senators Obama and McCain, the likely Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, but declined to detail their responses. Mr. Gore noted that
Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia and the Libertarian Party candidate forpresident, attended the speech on Thursday.
Mr. Obama, in a written statement, said: “For decades, Al Gore has challenged the skeptics in Washington on climate change and awakened the conscience of a nation to the urgency of this threat. I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like
solar power, wind power and advanced biofuels, and those are the investments I will make as president.”Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, said: “John McCain has been a leader in the fight against global climate change, working with Democrats on this issue since 2003, but no one has more successfully recruited Americans into this effort than Al Gore. This is a key issue, and John McCain has put solutionsover partisanship to pursue meaningful, market-driven cap and trade legislation aimed at drastically reducing harmful carbon emissions.”
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