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:.
1. INCENTIVES FOR UTILITY SCALE GREEN POWER:
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.
2. PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTING NATIONAL SMART GRID:
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.
3. CONVERSION TO PLUG-IN ELECTRIC TRANSPORTATION:
We should help Americaâ€™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.
4. RETROFIT AND UPDATE BUILDING TECHNOLOGY:
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.
5. CARBON CAP AND REDUCTION IN DEFORESTATION:
The United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the worldâ€™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.