Al Gore has just called for an aggressive, if not unattainable, solution to America’s economic, environmental and national security woes: Generate 100 percent of our electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years. The Nobel laureate laid out the challenge to America in a speech today at Washington’s Constitution Hall.
Saying this is an ambitious goal is an understatement. Renewable sources made up 9.5 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. That excludes nuclear, but includes hydroelectric, which accounts for the majority of clean production. And the EIA estimates that renewables will only increase to 12.5 percent by 2030. So that prediction estimates that it will take twice the time to achieve a little more than one-tenth of Gore’s goal.
Don’t get us wrong, we applaud setting strong goals, so we are fully supporting Gore’s call to action. We’re just skeptical that it’s possible.
We should also point out that Gore, as a partner at Kleiner Perkins and his own investment firm Generation Investment Management, does have a vested interesting in changing the current system. Kleiner Perkins has investments in solar with Ausra and Miasole, and geothermal with Altarock Energy.
While it will be the entrepreneurs who “drive this revolution,” Gore sees an important roll for policy and it involves a dirty three-letter word: tax. Gore called for a cut in payroll taxes and the creation of a carbon tax. “We should tax what we burn, not what we earn,” Gore said. “This is the single most important policy change we can make.”
Regardless of how achievable or not this goal is, let’s aim for it. Setting an aggressive goal like this could put billions more into clean energy. Greening the grid will make electrifying our cars better for the environment. Taxing carbon will give businesses a definitive cost. While we might not hit Gore’s goal within 10 years, the idea of aiming high is a critical mindset that a complacent nation needs.