"The electrifying redemption of America’s revolutionary declaration that all human beings are born equal sets the stage for the renewal of United States leadership in a world that desperately needs to protect its primary endowment: the integrity and livability of the planet." - Al GoreIf you haven't already read Al Gore's New York Times Op-Ed from the other day titled "The Climate for Change", where the former Vice President shows us his five-part plan that he is recommending to President-Elect Obama and the new Congress. I agree with all five of his recommendations and have followed each of them with my comments, which are in bold.
1. The new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.
This is essentially 1/2 the Pickens plan. Notice how Al Gore is not recommending or pushing natural gas vehicles on us. This is a great first step since we will increase the pace of utility-scale solar plants and wind farms if we want to generate 100% of our electricity from carbon free source in 20 or 30 years, let alone the 10 years that Al Gore wants us to shoot for. Vice President Gore does not mention Nuclear Power but I agree with Obama's position which is that Nuclear should be part of the mix as long as we implement safe and secure procedures for storing spent fuel.
2. We should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used. New high-voltage, low-loss underground lines can be designed with “smart” features that provide consumers with sophisticated information and easy-to-use tools for conserving electricity, eliminating inefficiency and reducing their energy bills. The cost of this modern grid — $400 billion over 10 years — pales in comparison with the annual loss to American business of $120 billion due to the cascading failures that are endemic to our current balkanized and antiquated electricity lines.Do you know how often our power is out for hours due to your standard thunderstorm? Far too often, and it is due to the updated and dumb electricity grid that spans every corner of our nation. If we are going to invest trillions in new 21st century electricity generation we need a 21st century grid that will deliver that electricity to our door steps and to our electric vehicles, which, if powered by clean electricity, will be the solution that kicks our oil dependency habit.
3. We should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.
Well, any bailout is going to be controversial, but I have to agree with both Al Gore and Tom Friedman, who in his column today, wrote that while we should not give the automakers a blank check but we should consider giving them a bailout with strings attached - as long as those strings insist on the automakers transforming their vehicle fleets to become hybrid electrics:
I would add other conditions: Any car company that gets taxpayer money must demonstrate a plan for transforming every vehicle in its fleet to a hybrid-electric engine with flex-fuel capability, so its entire fleet can also run on next generation cellulosic ethanol.
4. We should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting. Approximately 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from buildings — and stopping that pollution saves money for homeowners and businesses. This initiative should be coupled with the proposal in Congress to help Americans who are burdened by mortgages that exceed the value of their homes.Can we start with Pittsburgh's City County building at 414 Grant Street? It has to be the least energy efficient government buildings in all the land. The effort to retrofit buildings should start with schools and public buildings, and then the federal government should leave it to the individual utilities to manage this program, which will work as long as the utilities are given incentives to reduce their average customer's electricity consumption. California has been doing this for a while now and despite having a growing population and expanding economy over the last twenty years their per capita energy usage has remained flat.
5. The United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the world’s efforts to replace the Kyoto treaty next year in Copenhagen with a more effective treaty that caps global carbon dioxide emissions and encourages nations to invest together in efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution quickly, including by sharply reducing deforestation.Do we implement a carbon tax or do we implement a cap and trade system? I've seen good arguments for both sides, and I'm not sure where I stand on the issue since either one would be difficult to achieve politically, not to mention the costs that would be passed on to consumers would be too burdensome on many citizens who are already struggling in today's economy.
One policy initiative that I am in favor of that would fall under a carbon tax is a feebate on vehicle purchases. I don't consider myself to be a libertarian, but I do think individuals should have the freedom to purchase big gas guzzlers - as long as they are adequately paying for the full cost of doing so. That full cost would come to fruition if there was a fee charged to consumers on all purchases of vehicles that are consider gas guzzlers. On the flip side, consumers who choose to purchase fuel efficient vehicles and hybrid or plug-in electric vehicles should be rewarded with incentives such as rebates. This proposal is gaining steam in some states and I expect it to get some consideration at the federal level.