20 July 2008: More Than a JFK Wannabe, or “Al Gore Rhythm”

I know that Al Gore’s famous challenge to his fellow Americans to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage in ten years is now old news. But does anyone know that he began his speech by quoting Woody Allen to the either/or effect that we can be down in the dumps or else self-immolate (something like that, anyway)?

     I offer a summary from someone who was there, braving the crowds waiting outside the huge DAR Memorial auditorium on D Street not far from the heart of DC and our country.

     Greeting the various dignitaries present, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and his own wife and daughters, Gore told us that the environment is a nonpartisan issue, that the board of the sponsoring organization, Alliance for Climate Protection, comprised four Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent.

     Big changes are exigent; the survival of our country is at risk—the survival of human civilization actually. Many things are going wrong simultaneously, he said: the economy, oil inflation, the subprime crisis and foreclosure epidemic, the future of our banks, the descent of the automotive industry giant GM

     There is a 75 percent chance that the Polar Ice Cap will disappear this summer, which will jeopardize Greenland. We must also consider the implications for our national security as hundreds of thousands of refugees demand sanctuary into unthreatened terrains.

     Were we to lose access to foreign oil, an “energy tsunami” would result. There is war in Iraq and Afghanistan; the inequitable distribution of wealth is worsening, and there are wildfires all over the world. For every one percent increase, the amount of lightening that goes off increases by 10 percent, and lightning is the primary cause of wildfires, kindling acres of thirsty underbrush in a flash.

     The solutions we offer are outdated and separate, worsening other crises. The common thread is over-dependence on carbon-based fuels. The dramatic increase in Chinese oil consumption is another sort of wildfire that must be curtailed. Scientists and other experts say that the real solution to these multiple crises, to control the deterioration of the climate, to rebalance the economy, and guarantee national security is not war.

     At present we have enough solar and wind energy sources in the western part of the United States to meet one year of this country’s needs, including all the electricity we will use. The use of geothermal energy to produce electrical energy holds additional promise, said the politician-turned Nobel laureate.

     We need a new start, a bold new strategy to repower the United States: 100 percent use of electric power and carbon-free fuels within ten years, an entirely achievable goal. While the price of oil skyrockets along with demand, in the case of demand for green energy, prices fall.

     Consider that earlier it was determined that when the price of oil rose to $35 per barrel, the expense of converting to alternative energy sources would be justified.

     We have entrepreneurs to bring about the needed changes. New sources of energy are free forever. The number of green-collar jobs will grow proportionately.

     Those who defend the status quo ignore the inevitability of the demises of carbon fuel sources, including coal. If our exigent needs are not addressed in ten years, the planet will never recover from the ongoing damage we are allowing to happen. Our economy cannot take ten more years of environmental abuse, rising oil prices, and rising troop deployment.

     Think back to the miracles wrought by the Marshall Plan, Social Security, interstate highways. Remember the 1961 inaugural address in which JFK promised this country a man on the moon within ten years—and the promise was kept, a “giant step for humanity.”

     We can overcome the obstacles; the grid is as yet insufficient to connect the various sources of alternative energy to those who need it.

     Switching to plug-in electric cars is part of the solution. We must also recognize those toilers in constant danger, coal miners, and restore them to the light of day. We must tax what we earn, not what we burn.

     We must rejoin the international community, cap our carbon dioxide emissions. Politics these days rewards special interests and takes token, baby steps toward the correct solutions—not drilling for oil in new places, not showering the Middle East with our fortunes with the hope that prices will go down.

     We suffer from the highest oil prices in history and the greatest profits ever enjoyed by oil companies.

     Driving electric-powered cars will cost the equivalent of one dollar per gallon of gasoline. Have we lost our appetite for bold policy solutions? Special interests are in our way. People are interested in bold approaches to solving problems, changes at the international level.

     This country must move first—in our own interests. We must call on every political candidate at every level to act beyond empty rhetoric. We must act now. This is a generational moment. Join the We Campaign to change not light bulbs but laws.

     We need new leadership. On July 16, 1969, humankind first landed on the moon. Gore himself witnessed the launch of the moon rocket; he will never forget the deafening noise and subsequently watching Neil Armstrong change the history of the human race.

     Now is the time for our next journey of exploration—that giant leap within the next ten years that is needed to save the world.