“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,” Gore saidin his speech in Washington. “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 goal of using only renewable energy within just a decade is achievable and necessary for national security, he said.
“The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more — if more should be required — the future of human civilization is at stake,” Gore said. “Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure.”
Gore’s bipartisan group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, estimates the cost of converting the U.S. to clean electricity sources at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion in public and private money over 30 years, the Associated Press reported. But he says it would cost about as much to build greenhouse gas-emitting coal plants to satisfy current demand.
“This is an investment that will pay itself back many times over,” he said. “It’s an expensive investment but not compared to the rising cost of continuing to invest in fossil fuels.”
Called an alarmist by some critics, Gore has made global warming his signature issue. He portrayed his speech as the latest and most important phase in his effort to build public opinion in favor of alternative fuels.
According to the New York Times, Gore spoke sharply against the “defenders of the status quo, the ones with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system” — an apparent jab at President Bush, Gore’s rival in the 2000 presidential race.
Looking ahead to the next presidency, Gore said fellow Democrat Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain are “way ahead” of most politicians in the fight against global climate change.
He compared his vision to President John F. Kennedy’s challenge in 1961 to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
To meet his goal, Gore said nuclear energy output would continue at current levels while the U.S. would dramatically increase its use of solar, wind, geothermal and clean coal energy. Huge investments must also be made in technologies that reduce energy waste and link existing power grids, he said.
“America’s transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship,” he said. “For example, we must recognize those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry. Every single one of them.”
In 2005, the United States produced nearly 3.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, with coal providing slightly more than half of that energy, according to government statistics. Nuclear power accounted for 21 percent, natural gas 15 percent and renewable sources, including wind and solar, about 8.6 percent.
Coal’s share of electricity generation is expected to grow by 2030, according to Energy Department forecasts, while renewable energy would still only provide 11 percent of the nation’s power.