Monday, July 21, 2008

Can Al Gore be Taken Seriously?

Al Gore's "A Generational Challenge to Repower America" Speech

Al Gore made a major speech recently and about the economic, environmental and national security crisis that we face as a result of global warming.

He could not have painted a bleaker picture. “The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk”, says Gore. “And even more - if more should be required - the future of human civilization is at stake.”

He says the climate crisis is getting worse quicker than predicted. He says that within five years there is a 75% chance that the North polar ice cap will disappear during the summer months.

He advocates a program of producing 100% of our electricity from solar, wind and geothermal power within ten years, and he is convinced that we have only ten years to act. “The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution, lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis.”

I respect Gore for his tenacity and sincerity. I have no clue as to whether we have only ten years to act or not. Gore had me nodding in agreement when he said we should speed up the transition to clean energy by "insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes.” I agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Gore when he said, “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. This is the single most important policy change we can make.”

I am very skeptical, however, that even with a complete replacement of the income tax with a carbon tax and a massive government development program, that we can achieve a transition to unproven technologies and a replacement of an infrastructure based on coal and oil in such a short period of time. The expense is incomprehensible.

I also think he downplays the sacrifice that would be required and paints a rosy picture of the economic benefit of the transition. He might also just be outright saying something that he does not really believe when he says, “The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline”.

I think he lost all credibility with the “$1 per gallon gasoline” argument. Also, I think Mr. Gore would be more believable if he recognized a role for nuclear energy in his proposal for addressing the global warming crisis. How can one totally ignore the role of clean nuclear energy in addressing the energy needs of the world? In France, nuclear supplies 70% of their energy needs. In contrast, nuclear currently supplies only 20% of America’s energy needs. Gore seems to pretend it does not even exist.

While I hope this speech leads to serious discussions about this important issue, Mr. Gore’s speech struck me as something more like Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” rather than a serious, practical proposal.

To go to the Gore website where you can view the video and read the text of his speech, click here: link.

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