Gore: Stimulus package will help curb climate change

Susan Walsh/AP
Former Vice President Al Gore testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 28, 2009, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on global climate change.

Former Vice President Al Gore urged Congress to back President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package, calling it an important step toward solving the climate crisis.

In his prepared testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Gore said that climate change, the economic crisis, and the threat of Islamic militancy are "linked by a common thread – our dangerous overreliance on carbon-based fuels."

"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," he said.

Gore dismissed concerns that efforts to limit greenhouse-gas emissions would hinder an economic recovery, calling these concerns emblematic of "false choices."

"In fact, the solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well," he said.

He praised the White House's economic stimulus plan, which calls for doubling the production of renewable energy over the next three years, improving the energy efficiency of 75 percent of federal buildings and 2 million homes, and putting 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015. These steps, Gore said, represent an "important down payment and are long overdue."

Still, Obama's plan is far less ambitious than what Gore has been calling for. In a speech in July, he called for America to abandon electricity generated by fossil fuels within 10 years. (Click here to read Bright Green's post about it.) That speech launched the Repower America campaign, which is run by the Alliance for Climate Protection, an advocacy group chaired by Gore.

The next step, said Gore, is to put a price on carbon.

This December, representatives of the most of the world's nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to draft a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

"If Congress acts right away to pass President Obama's recovery package and then takes decisive action this year to institute a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions – as many of our states and many other countries have already done – the United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty," Gore said.

Mild as it is, Gore's endorsement of emissions trading, in which companies are issued allowances to emit specific amounts of greenhouse gases that they can then buy and sell, stands in contrast with his longstanding vocal support for a straightforward carbon tax that would replace payroll taxes.

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