Al Gore's call - too ambitions?
Monday, 21 July 2008 14:39
Al Gore made a key speech recently, summarised in the quote:
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
Neal Dikeman has a thoughtful critique of the speech on CleanTechBlog which concludes.
I will leave you with one final note, and please remember, I am actually a proponent of the ideals in Al Gore’s speech, I just prefer to get there in one piece. One theory on the effect of the history of the man on the moon driven space race that Mr. Gore challenges us to copy basically says that we pushed for a single high profile goal so fast and furious that we effectively skipped ahead and outran our infrastructure and capabilities to get a nonscalable shot at the moon in the target time frame. The theory goes on to suggest that’s why after reaching the moon so fast we haven’t progressed at the same rate in space since, and had we taken it slower, we would have gotten there a few years behind, but might be on Mars by know. Akin in a military campaign to outrunning your supply chain, and then getting your army surrounded and destroyed – or perhaps invading a country half way around the world, winning the war in weeks and forgetting to prepare for the peace. And just to show that I can deliver as many platitudes in one article as Mr. Gore, that’s why you never get involved in a land war in Asia. Energy and environment are the two pillars of everything in our lives. Mr. Gore and I want the same thing, but he thinks we can’t afford not to swing for the fences – I think we can’t afford to mess it up.
Gristmill also has a good summary of other responses to the speech.
When I look at the speech carefully, I see a few important points.
Firstly - its not talking about Carbon Neutral, i.e. its not calling for the US (and by implication Australia) to buy its way out of its mess by reducing other people's carbon intensity (e.g. by planting trees in the Amazon).
Secondly - its talking about zero carbon, i.e. its skipping all the inadequate (Gas) or unlikely (so called "Clean Coal").
Sure, its setting an ambitious target, but that is what we need - in Australia as well as the US.
Neal has some good points as well - for example he talks about 7 year lead-times on transmission lines, but I think that is entirely the point. If we are to crack the climate problem before it cracks us, we need to remove the barriers to moving at the speed necessary to make up for the decade of inaction by among others, Bush, Howard and Blair. We need to look at what stops us growing the solutions quickly. Why does it take 7 years to put a transmission line in place, maybe the very policies we have in place to stop inappropriate actions are going to stop us taking necessary actions.
I'm glad that Gore has thrown down the challenge - even if we miss it by a bit then the step of thinking about it might throw up some huge ways forward. And we certainly won't get there with the tiny goals of the Australian government. (20% by 2020)
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