Gore: 10 Years to Oil Independence
While Gore was working on his renewable energy plan, the Bush administration was covering up evidence that global warming is caused by human activity.
Former vice president Al Gore challenged the nation to convert to 100% renewable energy by the end of 2018, an effort that he said would require a commitment of between 1.5 and 3 trillion dollars. Gore pointed out that the sacrifice would pay huge dividends in the future:
"This is an investment that will pay itself back many times over," Gore said. "It's an expensive investment but not compared to the rising cost of continuing to invest in fossil fuels."It's hard to argue with the notion that the effort would be well worth the cost. In terms of the environment, the US is in a unique position in terms of its ability to impact the problem. The US emits far more carbon than any other developed nation, and California alone consumes more gasoline than any nation on earth, save the US as a whole. Meanwhile, the windy Great Plains and sunny deserts of the Southwest could make it the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. And the technology developed during the 10 year effort to wean the US off of oil could then be used to help other nations reduce carbon emissions.
"I hope to contribute to a new political environment in this country that will allow the next president to do what I think the next president is going to think is the right thing to do," Gore said. "But the people have to play a part."
An effort to become oil-free would be a tremendous boon to the American economy. Think of the billions that would have been saved in the past 10 years if the US used only renewable energy. There would have been no war in Iraq, and quite possibly, no 9/11 attacks. We would have had a much smaller trade deficit, which would would have produced a much stronger dollar. Lower world fuel prices may have averted or at least ameliorated the current worldwide economic slump, and might have made recent airline bailouts unnecessary. Perhaps most importantly for the American economy, Gore's plan would quickly make America the world leader in alternative fuel and conservation technologies, which might usher in a tech-driven boom similar to the information technology boom of the 1990s. The American auto industry may not survive the current wave of high energy costs, but if Ford and General Motors can become the world leaders in emissions-free vehicles, they could once again become the world's most profitable companies.
There would be benefits in the realm of international politics as well. There would no longer be a reason for the US to kowtow to the most brutal and corrupt regimes in the Middle East. Recall that our associations with those regimes are regularly cited by terrorists from the region as a primary reason for their attacks on Americans. Mitigating the effects of global warming would help ease the tensions brought about by famines and droughts. And lowering demand for oil would go a long way toward neutering petrodollar-fueled militant groups like al Qaeda and Hezbollah.
So Gore's plan represents a big investment, but it's an investment with a huge upside. Compare the potential economic and security gains to those garnered from the Apollo and Star Wars projects, or the virtually non-existent gains from our development of stealth technology. The question isn't whether or not we can afford to invest in renewable energy, but whether we can afford not to invest.
It's so frustrating to recall that Gore actually won the most votes in 2000, and would have won Florida as well were it not for the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. Compare Gore's bold vision with Bush's record of incompetence and venality. Compare Gore's science-based global warming strategy to Bush's deliberate inaction:
Climate change will pose "substantial" threats to human health in the coming decades, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday -- issuing its warnings about heat waves, hurricanes and pathogens just days after the agency declined to regulate the pollutants blamed for warming.Instead of looking forward to an oil-free economy, Bush pursued the interests of the largest oil companies to the exclusion of any other consideration, including national defense. When Bush took office, he put Dick Cheney in charge of both energy policy and anti-terrorism policy. Cheney's energy task force met several times during the early months of the Bush administration, but Cheney's terrorism task force did not meet a single time before the 9/11 attacks.
The strong warnings highlighted the contorted position that the EPA has staked out on climate change. Last week, the agency decided not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, at least not until after President Bush's term ends.
A former EPA official told a House panel this week that senior administration officials and several Cabinet members supported regulating the emissions before the White House changed course and barred the EPA from concluding that they endanger public welfare.
In a closed interview Tuesday, former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that Joel D. Kaplan, Bush's deputy chief of staff for policy, originally signed off on the decision to regulate emissions from both vehicles and stationary sources such as power plants and refineries. The decision came in response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that instructed the administration to determine whether carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
"There was a general belief that moving forward with a challenge and establishing a precedent in channeling regulation would serve the country better than leaving the challenge to the next administration," Burnett said in the interview, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post. "The chief of staff's office then appears to have changed its mind."
But while Bush's policies have been exasperating, the circumstances surrounding his "election" are infuriating. Because if Bush had won in 2000, we could simply say that a democratic nation gets the leadership it deserves. But in this case, America and the world deserved a lot better.
(cross posted at appletree)