By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 26, 2008 at 8:37 pm
Mapping out policy work for the next couple of months and pushing aside today’s hottest energy issues for tomorrow’s, one topic is emerging as a painfully true, slumbering giant – the rising costs of home heating during the winter and the additional financial burden on Americans.
I could explain more, but I don’t really have to. The New York Times editorial team took care of it in this morning’s paper, and it’s worth reiterating here, there and everywhere:
Last week, Former Vice President Al Gore challenged the nation “to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years.”
Gore’s call was virtually ignored by the mainstream press, which afforded energy and global warming only three percent of the coverage during the week of Gore’s speech. What paltry coverage there was often “repeated and amplified many common points of confusion with global warming policy.” Right-wing editorial pages and blogs went further, attacking Gore’s plan as “nutty” (Rocky Mountain News), “absurd” (Wall Street Journal), “lunatic” (The Atlantic), “climate claptrap” (Real Clear Politics), and in “energy la-la land” (San Francisco Chronicle). Speaking with right-wing pundit Dean Barnett on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) mocked his former colleague:
Yeah, Gore is the only, uh, engineer or scientist I’ve heard, heh, who thinks that’s possible. I mean, that would be wonderful, but that’s a dreamworld. That’s not reality and I think the American people are interested in straight talk, not dreamworld talk. We’re going to be using fossil fuels to some extent or another for multiple decades.
Gore was absolutely right when he pointed to the right-wing and corporate breakdown of rational discourse in his 2007 book, The Assault on Reason. In the real world, as Gore explained in his speech, “our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core” of today’s “economic, environmental and national security crises.” His conservative critics are the ones living in a “dreamworld.”
If you follow our plan you would probably see the grid more like 90 percent decarbonized in first 10 years. But you would also see 85 percent of truck freight shifted to mostly electrified trains, construction of light rail, and massive reductions of emissions in residences, commercial buildings, and industrial use. So we reduce emissions by more than Gore’s proposal, and reduce oil use significantly too, something Gore’s plan would not do. So not only is Gore’s plan feasible over a 10 year period, much greater reductions are feasible than Gore calls for over a 10 year period. Gore remains, as he as always has been, a mainstream centrist.
The Post Carbon Institute has released a plan entitled “10 Steps in 10 Years to 100 Percent Renewable Power,” outlining what it will take to reach Gore’s goal. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board wrote:
Can it be done? Yes. A carbon-free future can become reality — if the nation is willing to invest money, creativity and national spirit. This type of impossible goal is exactly the sort of dream that’s made America, well, America.
UPDATE: At Daily Kos, Devilstower writes how Gore’s challenge affects the grassroots Energize America campaign for progressive energy policy, saying it makes “many things about that 2006 plan suddenly seem timid.” He continues:
Many voices have already been raised in support of Gore’s plan, but predictably the defenders of the status quo are legion. It’s funny how some of the same voices who are quick to point to the transition from whale oil to petroleum as a sign that technology will always be there to save us, are now screaming “not yet!” Let’s get this straight from the start. There’s no question that Gore’s plan is possible. But the biggest advance of Gore’s plan might be more psychological than physical. By setting such a lofty and laudable target, Gore draws both the screams of the naysayers and the minds of the general public in a way that a more timid plan would never achieve.
The response from experts and the international community has been varied. Clearly, there’s evidence of significant political progress. But the action plan is still just a plan, with no numeric targets for reductions and lacking details for execution. And the plan still prioritizes economic development over lowering emissions. India has a right to develop, but at this point, clean economic development should trump all.
Of course, another major setback to the report is that the balancing act it’s attempting is clearly a signal that India is waiting on meaningful action from the United States before it puts itself too far out on the limb.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.