Friday, July 18, 2008

Al Gore Throws Down the Gauntlet on solving environmental & energy issues

Yesterday Al Gore, the former Next President of the United States, made a speech which laid down a moonshot style of challenge to Americans. It's a cool challenge but one which would personally enrich him because he is now a venture capitalist focusing on renewable energy and environmental solutions. Also, why did he place this challenge only on Americans? It is a global problem. Still, a very interesting speech, one which personally excites me..

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more - if more should be required - the future of human civilization is at stake.

Wake up and see the truth. Wake up, the time is short, the time is now, there is a lot at stake, and the stakes are huge. It's one thing to make such a statement, but is it a true statement? Okay, he doesn't have space in such a speech to present the truth behind that statement instead the focus of this speech was to lay out solutions.

I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

It's a well known trick of politicians that to get change you have to make the people believe the situation is dire, so that the people will wake up and make change happen. Yeah, things are bad. Gasoline prices or electricity rates are still a lot higher in Europe than they are in the U.S. Jobs being outsourced is nothing new and in fact probably were enabled by policies put into place during the time he, Al Gore, was either a Senator or Vice President, and to which he personally is partly responsible.

But, yes, there is a lot of consternating things happening. He doesn't mention the stupid illegal war in Iraq, launched with the purpose of gaining control over Oil. He doesn't mention the moral dilemna we have with U.S. forces using torture and the military being misused for the wrong war in the wrong place.

Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an "energy tsunami" that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

Yes.. There are more warnings than that specific one (which I haven't read) of this kind of danger. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this danger. We are shoveling money to the oil producing countries at an alarming rate because of the shrinking ability of the U.S. to produce oil from its own soil. This shrinking ability has nothing to do with building oil wells or more refineries, but has everything to do with the oil deposits in the U.S. having been tapped out. And the pattern of shoveling money to the oil producing countries is destabilizing U.S. economy, U.S. politics, and represents a shift in power to the oil producing countries. I covered this in Technosanity #3: Peak Oil ...

And, as he said a little later in the speech: 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. .. .nice sound bite..

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.

There's one kind of paralysis -- being frozen because of too much fear. Another kind of paralysis is at play, though, it's how the entrenched interests are protecting the status quo so that their businesses aren't threatened. The status quo is what got us into this mess and the status quo has to change. As Einstein said, the level of thinking which created the problems we face will not solve those problems. Solving the problems we create requires a higher level of thinking, a higher viewpoint.

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels. ... 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....What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

Yeah, there are lots of known solutions, known technologies, all it takes is the realization that those technologies can solve the problems. In other words, a higher level of thinking.

If the dominant thinking remains that existing businesses have to be preserved -- well, dummy, it's those existing businesses which created the problems. The existing way the society is accomplished is based in products and technologies and practices which are inefficient, polluting, reliant on fossil fuels, etc.

There is one misstatement he says. Reliance on carbon-based fuels isn't technically the correct statement. I think the correct statement is ending reliance on fossil fuels. Biofuels are carbon-based and carry all the conveniences of fossil fuels, but do not participate in adding carbon to the ecosphere.

And as he says a little further along... enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year....Enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

The natural energy resources of this planet are tremendous and largely untapped.

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 is an achievable goal, very practical, very real, it would make for a drastic improvement in quality of life, in our health, in the health of the planet, etc. It would also happen to personally enrich Al Gore because, as I said, his job is currently involved with venture capitalist investment activities. In this speech he takes the persona of the Politician, which used to be his job. He claimed at the beginning of this speech he sees his role as creating more political space for these questions to be debated and discussed on the political stage. But you have to question, is this challenge and program purely about solving real problems? Or is it about personal enrichment?

I think there are plenty of real problems in this space. And actually I applaud the idea that real solid businesses can be put into play to solve these problems. I suppose what is wrankling the back of my mind is that in this speech he's taking the Politician role, presenting the argument as one which is for the betterment of all life everywhere, and that part of it appeals to me, but I know he is also in this for the money because he has taken these jobs in the Tech industry.

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