al gore hands obama a five-step plan to turn things around

In today’s New York Times, former Vice President Al Gore asks President-elect Barack Obama to reaffirm his pledge to get the United States off of carbon in ten years. After making the case as to why it’s imperative, Gore lays out the following five-step plan:

…First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.

Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used. New high-voltage, low-loss underground lines can be designed with “smart” features that provide consumers with sophisticated information and easy-to-use tools for conserving electricity, eliminating inefficiency and reducing their energy bills. The cost of this modern grid — $400 billion over 10 years — pales in comparison with the annual loss to American business of $120 billion due to the cascading failures that are endemic to our current balkanized and antiquated electricity lines.

Third, we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.

Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting. Approximately 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from buildings — and stopping that pollution saves money for homeowners and businesses. This initiative should be coupled with the proposal in Congress to help Americans who are burdened by mortgages that exceed the value of their homes.

Fifth, the United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the world’s efforts to replace the Kyoto treaty next year in Copenhagen with a more effective treaty that caps global carbon dioxide emissions and encourages nations to invest together in efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution quickly, including by sharply reducing deforestation…

He also takes the opportunity to let President-elect Obama know exactly what he thinks of so-called “clean coal” technology.

…But in every case, the resources in question are much too expensive or polluting, or, in the case of “clean coal,” too imaginary to make a difference in protecting either our national security or the global climate. Indeed, those who spend hundreds of millions promoting “clean coal” technology consistently omit the fact that there is little investment and not a single large-scale demonstration project in the United States for capturing and safely burying all of this pollution. If the coal industry can make good on this promise, then I’m all for it. But until that day comes, we simply cannot any longer base the strategy for human survival on a cynical and self-interested illusion…

My hope is that Obama takes these words to heart. As he mentioned during Friday’s press conference, one of his first actions as President is going to be to deliver an economic stimulus bill to Congress. If, like previous stimulus packages, the Obama plan just puts a few hundred dollars into the pockets of American tax-payers, encouraging them to go out and spend it, I think we’re sunk. While it might bring temporary benefits to businesses and their shareholders, I don’t think it will really move us forward as a nation. What we need is a stimulus package that instead creates good jobs and builds infrastructure, and, thankfully, as Gore points out in his op-ed piece, we can accomplish both at the same time…. Coincidentally, the Chinese today announced a $585 billion stimulus package of their own. While alternative energy infrastructure didn’t appear to be mentioned specifically as part of the Chinese plan, one imagines that it’s probably a component as well, alongside the transportation and housing projects announced. Regardless, the United States would be foolish not to initiate a plan like that described by Gore. If we’re going to reverse global warming, and wean ourselves from foreign oil, we need to take bold, ambitious steps. And, cutting taxes and handing out checks alone won’t get us there.

And, while we’re at it, giving Gore a cabinet position wouldn’t hurt either. With all due respect to Jennifer Granholm and the other folks mentioned as possible candidates for Secretary of Energy, I think they all fall well short of Gore. If there was ever someone made for the job, it was him.

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7 Comments

  1. Paw
    Posted November 10, 2008 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Close Gitmo.
    Restore habeas corpus.
    Announce 1 million new alternative energy jobs.

  2. Robert
    Posted November 12, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s weird to see people with plans again.

  3. Posted June 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    It would have been nice if Obama had rattled this off during his speech tonight.

    I’m discouraged… We know what needs to be done, but we lack a leader with the vision to make it happen.

    And, since we’re talking about Gore, did you read that he’s been linked to Larry David’s ex-wife?

  4. dragon
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Al Gore is prettay, prettaay, prettaaay fat.

  5. Knox
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I think the kids these days spell it with a “ph”.

  6. Edward
    Posted June 16, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    It would have been incredible if Obama had just read this list last night. You’re absolutely right.

  7. missed opportunities
    Posted March 28, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    If only Obama had listened.

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