Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2008
puts the heat on
Former Vice President Al Gore, who brought us the 2006 blockbuster “An Inconvenient Truth,” has made waves again by issuing a challenge to the United States to source all of its electricity from clean, renewable energy within a decade.
Gore’s call, made to a crowd assembled in the Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C., is indeed revolutionary. It goes beyond the most aggressive proposals on the table from members of Congress — or even most environmental groups.
And nothing short of an energy revolution is needed if we are to stave off the worst effects of a climate crisis. Whether you think Gore’s challenge is a pie-in-the-sky daydream or a long overdue wake-up call, it certainly has succeeded in igniting heated discussion. Across the country, around the “blogosphere,” in the hallways of environmental organizations, people are poring over the possibility of getting to “zero-carbon” electricity in 10 years. Gore’s speech didn’t lay out a road map for getting to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, but it did point to two of the most important ingredients of any viable plan — energy independence and energy security.
Energy independence means getting out from under the thumb of those forces working to wrest control of America’s future from the hands of the American people. Energy security comes with knowing we can take care of ourselves as a nation, without the added risk of more Hurricane Katrinas or more wars over oil.
The media are quick to blame the usual suspects as energy prices soar — oil-producing governments that are putting the squeeze on supply or emerging superpowers that are snatching up energy wherever they can get their hands on it. But few contemplate our own responsibility in getting ourselves into this mess and how we now have the golden opportunity to break free.
The disconnect between how much ordinary citizens are dishing out at the pump and how much oil executives are raking in was alarming enough to warrant a congressional hearing in April — and should have each of us questioning how we unwittingly lend our support to their enrichment.
It would be easy to react to a call for energy independence by turning to more domestic drilling, as some have done, but that does little to provide climate and economic security for people and the environment at home and abroad. An energy revolution, like any battle, has to be fought on a number of fronts at once.
At home, we need a New Energy Deal that mirrors the success and scale of job creation that the Works Progress Administration undertook in the Great Depression. We need comprehensive legislation that shifts subsidies from dirty energy to clean alternatives, builds the scaffolding for a renewable energy work force, and sets the standard for protecting those hit hardest by climate and economic change. And our domestic policy must build the international goodwill needed to get to a global climate deal that is fair for all countries.
Gore has done the work of carving out a space for those with the political will, and the creative drive, to move courageously forward in the fight against climate change. Now, the important work for the rest of us is to step into that space with our boldest ideas.