"A Generational Challenge to Repower America": Al Gore's Energy & Climate 'Moon Shot' Speech


Al Gore speaking in New York City, 2007. Photo by World Resources Institute.

Today at D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., Al Gore delivered a speech which outlines his vision of how the United States needs another 'moon shot' to solve the intertwined problems of climate change and energy independence. Though he doesn't come out and say it, he even alludes to peak oil.

Here are some of choice quotes from Mr Gore's speech:

Reliance on carbon-fuels the source of the environmental problems we're facing

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.

Why he, and other politicians or former politicians, haven't backed up to see this picture before boggles my mind.

Renewable energy the solution to climate crisis, economic woes, national security

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels. In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of "solutions summits" with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

Again, finally someone as prominent as this is presenting this concept, which is nothing new in the environment and foreign affairs world for some time, to a broad audience.

Best way to use renewable energy is for electricity

The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses. But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation's problems, we need a new start.

Hear, hear.

100% renewably generated electricity in 10 years

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans — in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.

National grid infrastructure must be expanded to areas best suited for renewable development
To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. At present, for example, we do not have a unified national grid that is sufficiently advanced to link the areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity.

Carbon tax should replace large part of payroll tax
Of course, we could and should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

U.S. Should rejoin the international community regarding climate change
In order to foster international cooperation, it is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community and lead efforts to secure an international treaty at Copenhagen in December of next year that includes a cap on CO2 emissions and a global partnership that recognizes the necessity of addressing the threats of extreme poverty and disease as part of the world's agenda for solving the climate crisis.

Peak Oil? In all but name.
If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

Obligatory memory of the first 'moon shot'
On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy's challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.


I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket's engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.

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.

Since Mr Gore has not given any specific details about how exactly this energy revolution is to take place, there really isn't anything to nit pick. However, finally, here is a high profile public figure who has adequately linked energy usage, climate change, and international security.

Perhaps Bill McKibben, quoted in the We Campaign's press materials, says it more succinctly that I can, "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."

Access the complete speech text, A Generational Challenge to Repower America.

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Tags: Al Gore | Energy | Peak Oil | Renewable Energy

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