Today former vice president Al Gore challenged the nation to produce all of its own electricity from renewable energy carbon clean sources in the next 10 years. “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change,” Gore said.
He said the technology needed to produce renewable energy is getting cheaper, “A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But here’s what’s changed: the sharp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power – coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal – have radically changed the economics of energy.”
Gore compared the cost of renewable energy to the price of oil, “To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down.”
He continued, “When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.”
He talked about the warped logic of our political system, “It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now. Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address?”
Gore is correct in pointing out that the problem is in our political system. You never hear of Big Solar or Big Windmill, but Big Oil is a force in Washington D.C. Solving this energy problem is a matter of commitment and leadership, not technology. The technology is here. It is only a matter of whether the government will make a commitment to it, because drilling for more oil won’t solve the problem, but using less oil will.
As evidence, look at how much the price of oil has fallen this week because demand is dropping. If we continue to decrease demand, the price of oil will continue to drop. There isn’t enough oil to shift the price through increasing supply, so the answer is to come up with a cheaper alternative. Al Gore gets it. It’s just too bad none of our decisionmakers do as well.