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Summary:

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 […]

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.

By Craig Rubens

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  1. This plan is misguided. It says nothing about transportation, which would be somewhat easier to modify than closing down a bunch of coal plants. 36% of U.S. CO2 emissions are due to coal use; 30% are due to transportation use of (primarily) oil.

    If Gore was serious about this, then he’d advocate using nuclear power to displace coal, at least for the medium term.

    Based on this comment, I don’t think he understands what baseline electricity means; or he’s been sold a bill of goods that wind can supply it.

    How about this; replace eighty percent of our coal plants with nuclear (saves about 29%), and twenty percent with wind/solar (saves about 7%) replace half our cars with PHEVs powered from (more) wind farms; that would save about another 13%.

    That totals 49% reduction. Still can’t do it in 10 years; but at least it could be done.

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  2. It’s a waste of time quoting any studies on this subject that have taken place under the Bush administration. They’ve got an interest in preserving the status quo.

    Just as evidence that this can be done, New Zealand is well on it’s way towards this goal. It hopes to be the first carbon neutral country in the world, and currently produces over 50% of its power from renewables (plus they are 100% nuclear free). I personally think that 100% clean is unattainable in the next decade – becoming carbon neutral is not.

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  3. I’m tired of the we-can’t-do-it attitude when it comes to changing our world for the better. We are at the front end of very nasty consequences of living unsustainable lives and it’s not a question of if we can change. In fact, there is no question. Only good comes from changing to sustainable energy like wind and solar. Nothing good comes from siphoning more oil or digging more coal besides the enrichment of a few entrenched corporations.

    Gore is sometimes a bit overzealous, but why not? Why not bust our ass and get it done instead of wringing our hands while the pollution continues and rogue nations collect giant paychecks from our coffers? This country has stood up to huge challenges in the past and come out shining and he’s right, it’s time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and make it happen!

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  4. these marxist ecogangbangers want to cripple and destroy america. in their view global warming deniers deserve the death penalty. their solutions are not based in reality. sure everyone want to cure cancer but what if it never happens.

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  5. Does anybody really believe this fantasy? Let’s just keep deluding ourselves and see where we are in 10 years.

    Fossil fuels are not going anywhere in 10 years. Give me a break, New Zealand as a model for solving the problems in the USA. Even if you believe the hype and the illusion about carbon netruality meaning anything you’re comparing apples to kiwi’s.

    If it takes 10 years to drill a hole in a known reserve like ANWAR and bring oil to market using well known technology as some claim. Then how long do you think it’s going to take to replace fossil fuels with technologies that haven’t been invented yet? We’re supposed to run this country like the little engine that could I suppose and ignore reality?

    I’m also so tired of the man to the moon JFK analogy. The moon program was run at maximum risk to where even the slightest failure would cause a disaster. Is that how we want to plan our energy for the future?

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  6. kerry bradshaw Thursday, July 17, 2008

    It’s pretty obvious to those who understand energy needs and generation capacities, that decisions cannot be made in advance of the technologies. Wind power has been a collossal bust and for erasons that could easily have been seen beforehand – non-dispatchability, enormous tracts of real estate required for small amounts of unpredictable, unreliable energy that had to be duplicated by controllable (i.e. fossil) plan geenrators, doubling its true costs. We have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars msotly to quiet the loudest voices around – the radical environmentalists, you know, the ones who blocked nuclear power for 30 years in favor of thsoe coal plants that have caused global warming.
    It’s clear to me that GPBRs are going to dominate the world, but if we’re not carefull and reject simplistic ideas coming from a pretty simplistic mind,
    we may end up with a system that is simply not viable. We don’tneed gren and don’t need renewable, two useless terms. We need carbonless and crudeless. Coal and oil are actually renewable energy
    sources, for those who actually understand what renewable means. Of course, then there’s zero emission, which has little to do with zero emissions ….

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  7. Is there any doubt as to what Al Gore’s driver for solar and wind technology to replace fossil fuels is? It surely is not, the environment. It is surely big money in his pocket!

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  8. [...] quarter, so fewer, bigger, later funds is the clear trend… And speaking of Kleiner Perkins, Al Gore’s visionary goal for carbon-free power got a lot of attention this week — and note that he supports the tax shift we’ve [...]

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  9. Kevin Whitham Monday, July 21, 2008

    Of course Gore has invested in clean-tech, he believes in the technology and its ability to replace carbon-based fuels. He has chosen to support the renewable energy industry with his rhetoric and his wallet. He is simply putting his money where his mouth is, which is something that most of can’t say when it comes to the environment. If we can realize Gore’s plan, everyone with access to the sun or the wind will benefit.

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  10. [...] to panic, Jacquot warns, with gas and energy prices so high. Obama needs to give a speech akin to Gore’s, Jacquot writes: Explain the current situation, articulate why McCain’s proposals won’t [...]

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