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Takin’ it to the Streets

By Susan Carey Dempsey on September 24, 2008No Comment

Al Gore may have won the Nobel Prize for Peace, but he sounds like a man who’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more. In this morning’s opening plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative, he addressed this comment to "the young people out there: It’s time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have CO2 sequestration." Gore’s impatience with "carbon companies" who spend money convincing the stockbuying public that the risk of global warming is not that great – through "phony think tanks" – led him to accuse them of a form of stock fraud. Emphasizing that point, he called upon state Attorneys General to take action. He also compared the "illusion" that global warning could be ignored to the illusion that sub-prime mortgages were not risky, with the economic catastrophe on the horizon as a result.

He also decried as "utter insanity" a proposal expected to pass Congress today "without debate" to lift a moratorium on development of oil shale, which would increase the amount of CO2 emissions in gasoline. "The carbon lobby," he said, "is overwhelming free debate."

Embarking on a risky phraseology that may remind listeners of the oft-repeated charge that he’d claimed to have invented the Internet, Gore called for a major commitment to create an Electranet, uniting the Texas, Eastern and Western grids of the United States. He cited the cost to American businesses of $120 billion a year due to the failures of the current grid.

Looking to solutions that can not only impact climate change but support human development, Gore cited Darfur, "which has more sunlight on it than anywhere else on earth," and called for solar electric plants to be built there, and connected by crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans to a supergrid. By making a one-off investment, he proposed, the old, dirty, damaging forms of energy could be replaced with free resources: sun, wind and geothermal energy. "If we can knit together a global solution," he said, "we can also stimulate the economy."

Former President Bill Clinton, moderating this panel as an opening to CGI 2008, underscored the many places in the US he’d visited "on a recent tour," where powerful wind energy was going to waste, unharnessed. He asked Gore if the infrastructure to make use of such natural energy resources could be put in place within 2 years. Gore replied that he was not sure, but thought a goal of converting to carbon-neutral, renewable energy in 10 years could and should be achieved.

UPDATE: Some other takes on the Goracle:

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