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Gore's Generational Challenge to Repower America with Clean Energy

Gore Challenge: 100 percent of U.S. electricity production come from sources with zero carbon emissions within 10 years.

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Commitment to Clean Energy Future Will Expand Economic Opportunity, Address Energy, Climate and National Security Concerns

Washington, DC - To reset the way Americans think about the energy future and the climate crisis, former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore issued a bold challenge Thursday:

"...that 100 percent of U.S. electricity production come from sources with zero carbon emissions within 10 years."

Gore also clearly made the case that the biggest problems we are facing right now are connected and must be solved together.

"We are 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," Vice President Gore said.

"But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard," Gore continued, "all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we are holding the answer to all of them right in our hand. The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels."

"I'm convinced that one reason we've seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately - without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective - they almost always make the other crises even worse."

Mr. Gore insisted in his speech that the goal of carbon-free power is not only achievable but practical, and that businesses would embrace it once they saw that it made fundamental economic sense.

Mr. Gore said the most important policy change in the transformation would be taxes on carbon dioxide production, with an accompanying reduction in payroll taxes. "We should tax what we burn, not what we earn," he said.

In the speech at an energy conference, hosted by the "We" Campaign, Gore challenged all Americans to solve America's economic, environmental and national security crises by rallying behind a single, comprehensive objective.

"This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans - in every walk of life: our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers and every citizen," said Gore.

Gore cited scientists’ estimates that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth in 40 minutes to meet the world’s energy needs for a year, and that the winds that blow across the Midwest every day could meet the country’s daily electricity needs.

Among the dangers in not creating a new energy infrastructure, Gore said, is that fuel prices will continue to rise and weaken the U.S. economy. He encouraged Americans to not accept the solutions of the past, like drilling for more oil.

Gore described the following as components of meeting this challenge: The growing wind and solar sectors need to be expanded through continued investment and innovation.

Other renewables should be added to the mix - geothermal and solar thermal with storage capability - and we should start planning for that now.

The greatest gains can be made in energy efficiency. For instance, existing technologies can raise household efficiency by 30 percent. America must invest in a Unified National Grid that would link every household and move cost-effective renewable electricity from places where the supply is vast to where the power is needed most. We should retain the existing fossil fuel-free energy production from nuclear and hydroelectric power.

We must learn to safely store and capture carbon from coal and gas. Until then, these fossil fuels cannot be "clean." Cathy Zoi, CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is coordinating the nearly 1.4 million-strong "We" Campaign, noted that Gore has laid down a bold yet achievable goal, and that the only thing missing was the political will. She vowed to focus the energy and resources of the "We" Campaign behind this effort.

"This is ambitious and achievable," Zoi said, "but in order to make it work, all Americans need to come together. Investors and innovators must continue to develop solutions and bring them to market. Businesses can lead by example, improving efficiency and supporting policy changes in the right direction. Political leaders - at every level - must commit to this goal and see it through. And individuals must press their leaders for change."

In the speech Gore noted that Americans had proven before that they can rise to a transformational challenge within a decade.

"When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon," Gore said.

A variety of voices spoke out in support of Vice President Gore's challenge.

Noting that this is a non-partisan issue that all Americans need to get behind, former Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert added, "Meeting this challenge is not a political issue; it is a fundamental issue about our economic future. This plan would provide real stability to the American economy for the next generation. Once we make the initial capital investments, the fuel is free and no other country or group can restrict our access to it. Renewable fuels - sun, wind, geothermal - are free; they're not traded on the global market so they are not subject to huge spikes in price. This is the kind of economic security American families want and deserve."

Calling Gore's challenge both "audacious" and "timely," President of the World Resources Institute Jonathan Lash said: "Imagine our future and our children's future if we seize the moment. We need to change the debate in this country from what we can't do to what we can do. America has led every major technological shift in the last 100 years, and we can lead the next one as well. The problem is not technology, it is political will."

Author and climate activist Bill McKibben said: "Finally a response to both the science of climate and the economics of energy on a scale commensurate with the problem. This is a plan that breaks us out of muddling, temporizing stalemate and sets a clear path forward towards an imaginable future. I'm not sure what prize you get once you've won the Nobel, but this initiative deserves it."

Dr. James Hansen, the director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, added: "This is just what the doctor ordered: to cure our carbon addiction and stimulate the economy."

Meeting this challenge, Dr. Hansen said, "would be the turning point that is needed to lead the world to a stable climate."

At the end of his remarks, Gore asked all Americans to answer the call of history. "Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we've simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions," Gore said. "And folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests. And I've got to admit, that sure seems to be the way things have been going. But I've begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are not only tired of baby steps and special interest politics, but are hungry for a new, different and bold approach."

"We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind," Gore concluded.

About the "We" Campaign:

The "We" Campaign is a commercial-scale organizing and mobilizing effort using paid advertising, grassroots partnerships and online activation to build strong support for solutions to the climate crisis. The scale of the campaign is unprecedented: it is on track to be the largest public policy advocacy campaign ever and expects to reach 10 million members within three years. "We" is the work of the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit group founded by Al Gore, who currently serves as the chairman of the bipartisan board of directors.

According to the New York Times, Gore put a drew a line in the sand: A shift away from fossil fuels would make the United States a leader instead of a sometime rebel on energy and conservation issues worldwide, Mr. Gore said. Nor, he said, would the hard work of people who toil on oil rigs and deep in the earth be for naught. “We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry,” he said by way of example. “Every single one of them.”

"But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, 'The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stones.'" ”

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Edited by Carolyn Allen
| leadership | electricity | energy |


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