in yesterday's New York Times
. (Note: If, like me, you can't read a Gore op-ed without hearing it in that soporific, professorial voice of his, do yourself a favor and try to imagine hearing it in the funny movie trailer voice
As much as I'm optimistic about Barack Obama's presidency and his commitment to alternative energy, Gore offered this sobering thought:
Thirty-five years ago this past week, President Richard Nixon created Project Independence, which set a national goal that, within seven years, the United States would develop “the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources.” His statement came three weeks after the Arab oil embargo had sent prices skyrocketing and woke America to the dangers of dependence on foreign oil. And—not coincidentally—it came only three years after United States domestic oil production had peaked.
At the time, the United States imported less than a third of its oil from foreign countries. Yet today, after all six of the presidents succeeding Nixon repeated some version of his goal, our dependence has doubled from one-third to nearly two-thirds—and many feel that global oil production is at or near its peak.
He goes on to offer a five-part plan that, in brief, includes government incentives for solar, wind and geothermal development; a unified national "smart grid" to replace our antiquated electricity lines; assistance for the auto industry to convert to plug-in hybrids; a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation, windows and lighting; and putting a price on carbon emissions.
Al has certainly raised these suggestions before (and that's not to diminish them), but sometimes the problem seems intractable to the point of hopelessness, given the resistance from Big Oil and all the related entrenched interests, not to mention the global warming deniers, a dwindling yet obdurate breed. (In related news, Michael Crichton
died the same day Obama was elected. Hmmm...I smell a tree-hugger conspiracy.)
But ol' Al pulled off an uplifting, genuinely moving finale, proving once and for all that he's not just another stark raving Belle Meade liberal. He notes that, at the time of Apollo 11's lunar landing in 1969, the average age of the systems engineers in the Houston control room was 26, meaning their average age was 18 when John F. Kennedy issued his challenge to put a man on the moon.
He then draws the obvious comparison to Obama, the only president since to generate comparable enthusiasm among young Americans, suggesting that, now sufficiently inspired, these kids may be to the alternative energy movement what those scientists were to NASA.
That's an exciting supposition. Here's hoping.
But seriously, the electricity-gobbling, carbon-offsetting, Nobel-sporting former veep and activist has taken the election of Barack Obama as a signpost that the U.S. may finally be ready to take global warming seriously. Or so he says in an