Thoughts on Al Gore's Five-Part Plan to Repower America

Five-Part Plan to Repower America - Al Gore

I’ve always been kind of irked by the fact that President Reagan, after having the White House’s leaky roof fixed, never replaced the solar hot water panels installed by President Carter.  But it’s hard to judge him because I was barely crawling at the time — I have no idea what was going on in the collective conscious of that generation.  I mean, Al Gore mentions in Sunday’s Op-Ed in the NY Times that President Nixon established Project Independence 35 years ago with a goal to, in seven years time, develop the potential to meet our country’s energy needs without having to rely on any foreign energy sources.  Yet, that never happened and Reagan’s act, the way I see it, symbolically shut the door on the possibility of American energy self-reliance.  At least for the time being. 

That Next 35 Years

So fast forward past President Reagan and the rest of the bunch and you know what, it’s kind of tough not to look back at the decision makers of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and say, "Okay, tell me this, exactly what the hell have you been thinking for the past 35 years?

Seriously.  If you’re below the age of, say, thirty, go ask your parents and they won’t have an answer for you.  They experienced rations and shortages and recessions and wars, but what happened to President Nixon’s Project Independence or President Carter’s solar panels? 

The question may not be worth considering, because it’s only going to make people feel bad, but I can say this:  If I live to be 75 years old and we’re reliving this same story, it’s going to be embarrassing and our kids deserve to be irked at us for not making it happen when we had the chance.  The way I see it, this is the second time our country has honestly considered a massive, national energy renovation and the repairs can’t wait any longer. 

Five-Part Plan to Repower America

Which is why I enjoyed reading Mr. Gore’s NY Times Opinion Editorial titled "The Climate for Change."  The other day, we posted a video of him speaking with Digg founder Kevin Rose, but this written contribution is probably more on topic for Jetson Green.  In it, Gore suggests the need for a Five-Part Plan to Repower America with a commitment to producing 100 percent of our electricity from carbon-free sources within ten years.  The plan, he suggests, is perfectly correlated with our country’s need to solve problems relating to the economic and energy security crisises.  Here’s how it would work:. 

The new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants, wind farms, and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots. 

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. 

We should help America’s automobile industry 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. 

We should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting because ~40 percent of CO2 emissions in the U.S. come from buildings. 

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 CO2 emissions. 

By the way, don’t be distracted by the glaring lack of conflict disclosure based on Gore’s work for Kleiner Perkins and the possibility that his firm is bullishly invested in the above kinds of technology.  I’m not sure that op-ed contributors regularly disclose their conflicts, but even still, we all know what he does and where he’s invested.

Also, it’s interesting to consider the stark differences between Gore’s Five-Part Plan and T. Boone Pickens’ Plan.  With all due respect to an energy czar, the Pickens Plans feels to me like we’re trying to force a square peg in a round hole: And I just hate the idea of switching from oil to natural gas, only to lose focus on reaping the benefits of renewable energy, smart grids, and electric vehicles.  So I think Gore is right on target, and it’d be nice to start moving in that direction.  But that’s what I’m thinking. 

What are you thinking?  What’s your Five-Part Plan to Repower America?  Is it different?

Photo credit: Lindsay Beyerstein.

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  • Seth Neal

    Engaging post Preston!

    Why did America abandon energy independence? Great question. And although I’m barely over the 30 mark I was a history major so I have a few thoughts… unfortunately not enough room here for them and frankly the question is still up for much debate!

    But if you look at the forces at work in American during the late-60s into the 70s they all converged to make the decision that was made pretty easy…

    The emergence of a national economy that sprouted national chain stores which relied on national transportation systems.

    The failure of nuclear power to take hold as a viable alternative (because of safety and fear mostly) and the abundance of Coal at home that was much cheaper and “safer”.

    Individuals growing demand for more cars and bigger houses.

    And by the end of the 70s a relatively “stable” middle east that was pumping out a lot of very cheap oil.

    Oh yea, and our basic lack of fortitude.

    I don’t have a 5 point plan, but it does need to include:

    -modernizing our energy grid
    -diversifying what powers our homes and cars
    -job creation
    -sustainable and affordable housing

  • Andy

    As an old environmental engineer and energy conservation engineer for a large electrical utility in the early 80’s, I’m behind Gore’s plan 100%. We need a “Manhatten Project” in that regard with Gore in the leadership position. Nothing less!

  • john0

    Yes, exactly, you are right. In 1966 the first legislation was passed, telling the auto manufacturers that ne electric technology needed to be developed. So, why would we be surprised that 43 years later, the auto manufacturers are near bankruptcy. They wouldn’t listen to congress then. To change the direction of this country, and the energy industry and auto manufacturers it going to take the will of the people.

  • Matt Snyder

    Re-power America? Why not do the cracking part of the refining process by, choosing which species of algae is grown for which fuel based upon HC chain length? Then, all we Americans need do is nothing but reap the benefits of algae based biofuels for trucks, jet planes, and even bio-gasoline for automobiles. My company is the only company with ALL 9 of the technologies necessary to make algae to biofuels on an industrial scale, and on a continuous basis into reality. My company also has three other comprehensive systems that are directly applicable to the “Climate Change” (formerly “Global Warming”) mess we as humans have created for ourselves.

    These three systems accomplish comprehensive bioremediation of eutrophic water bodies, wind powered exchange of CO2 for Oxygen in the world’s oceans and seas, and finally an automated way to remove ALL particulates and virtually all CO2 from the ambient air at ground level by adapting a 75+ year old technology of warfare to lock up the excess ambient CO2 in a non-water soluble solid that can be safely dumped into the oceans or even used as an aggregate in light weight concrete among many other applications.

    I’ve repeatedly tried to contact Mr. Gore without success. The reality is that there are so many non-technical people whose job it is to say, “No.”, to everything they don’t understand or otherwise point me toward someone else, somewhere else. Right here I will politely challenge Mr. Gore to find me, my company and our comprehensive solutions to aspects of Climate Change that add up to my reversing my position on NOT having children of my own. If I can make just 58 more miracles, and Mr. Gore is actually serious about making positive things happen for us all, maybe something actually can be one about the weather.

    Matt S.
    SCIPIO Biofuels Inc.

  • Doug

    Pickins’ plan includes electric cars. The switch to nat gas is for trucks, not cars. He suggests that light transportation, cars, go to plug in electric. Electricity will not provide the raw power needed to move heavy trucks any time soon. Yet heavy trucks is one segment that consumes a great deal of our oil.

    Pickens’ plan includes a smart grid. It has to. wind farms will be located in the central plain states. A smart grid is needed to move the power from the central states to the eastern states where it is consumed.

    I see the two plans as very compatible and working in the same direction. If any thing, Pickens’ is a little better thought through from a practical point of view.

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