Al Gore’s “Generational Challenge to Repower America”

Al Gore’s speech is the first I am aware of where a prominent politician promotes a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Let us hope this gets a political dialog going. So far all the Washington and OECD talk has been on “cap and trade”, a vastly inferior policy.

Yes I know that Gore is proposing a ten year zero-carbon electricity goal. While I don’t think there is any chance of getting close to that goal, I have two caveats. First, I’m not a politician — it may well be that setting a simple-clear-ambitious but unachievable goal is the way to sell the policy. Second, innovation and entreprenuership can do amazing things — just maybe real progress could be made in ten years.

Daniel Rosenblum has a few comments on the speech:

In a major address yesterday, Al Gore asked his fellow citizens to accept the challenge “for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years.” The press coverage only hints at the power and importance of the speech. Summarizing or paraphrasing the speech isn’t enough. See and listen to it yourself, or just read it, by clicking here.

If you don’t have the time, here’s my favorite part:

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.

Here is Gore’s conclusion:

So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge – for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It’s time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.

This is a generational moment. A moment when we decide our own path and our collective fate. I’m asking you – each of you – to join me and build this future. Please join the WE campaign at need you. And we need you now. We’re committed to changing not just light bulbs, but laws. And laws will only change with leadership.

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.