Al Gore recently gave a highly interesting speech on the future of energy in the United States. None of the points made in it are especially new, but he does a good job of tying together a great many important themes.
Here are some key points:
- Because of climate change, “the future of human civilization is at stake.”
- “[T]here is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire [Arctic] ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months. This will further increase the melting pressure on Greenland.”
- “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’s got to change… The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.”
- Solar, wind, and geothermal are large and critical future energy sources.
- “I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.”
- “[S]harp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power — coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal — have radically changed the economics of energy.”
- The national grid must be updated to link areas rich in renewable energy to areas with high energy demand.
- Plug-in electric cars will play an important role in balancing the load on the electrical grid.
- “[W]e need to greatly improve our commitment to efficiency and conservation. That’s the best investment we can make.”
- “I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn.”
- “[I]t is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community and lead efforts to secure an international treaty at Copenhagen in December of next year that includes a cap on CO2 emissions.”
- “[W]e must move first, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because moving first is in our own national interest.”
The 100% target is probably not going to happen – it would require scrapping every coal, gas, and oil power plant – but it is a worthwhile aspiration nonetheless. Even getting a significant portion of the way towards that goal in the timeframe mentioned would be a huge advance.
It would be very interesting to see what role he would personally play in advancing this sort of agenda within an Obama administration. An administration that made a determined effort to implement this sort of agenda would be transformative, and could do a great deal to spur global transformation.