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Al Gore's 'moonshot'

Drawing parallels with America's successful efforts to land on the moon four decades ago, Al Gore called for America to abandon electricity generated by fossil fuels by 2018, instead relying on wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / July 17, 2008

Former Vice President Al Gore speaks about energy and the future Thursday at Constitution Hall in Washington.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

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Drawing parallels with America's successful efforts to land on the moon four decades ago, Al Gore called for America to abandon electricity generated by fossil fuels by 2018, instead relying on wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

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Speaking in Washington's Constitution Hall, the former vice president and Nobel laureate said that "the survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk" if bold action is not taken. A full text and video of the speech is here.

Mr. Gore's speech is something of a rhetorical departure from his previous ones, in which he emphasized that climate change is a planetary emergency requiring drastic action. This time, he says that the country faces myriad problems, including a faltering economy, high gas and electricity rates, the mortgage crisis, and reliance on foreign oil, as well as extreme weather in the United States.

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: 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.
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.
But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we're holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.
The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

The way to pay for this, says Gore, is to impose a carbon tax, combined with a sharp reduction in payroll taxes. "We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make."

The Associated Press reports that Gore's advocacy group, The Alliance for Climate Protection, estimates that the cost transforming America's energy infrastructure at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money. Gore says that it would cost about as much to build coal plants to satisfy the country's electricity demand.

Gore's speech was light on details, so talk about base-loads and kilowatt-hours will wait for another day.

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