MATT NAUMAN, San Jose Mercury News, September 27, 2008
Al Gore said in San Jose on Saturday that the climate crisis deserves the same type of attention and money from Washington that the financial meltdown is getting.
“Instead of a focus only on a bailout, we need to bail in renewable energy,” Gore said during a 50-minute speech at the Civic Auditorium.
Gore, who turned 60 this year, was a three-term U.S. senator from Tennessee, vice president for eight years and narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election to George Bush. But it was his move toward environmentalism, symbolized by his starring role in the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and his subsequent Nobel Peace Prize that turned him into an international crusader against global warming.
That’s what brought him to San Jose on Saturday, as the keynote speaker for the three-day West Coast Green conference. It included presentations on a variety of green-living topics, plus an exhibit hall of green-building products.
Wearing a navy suit, but no tie, Gore came across as part science teacher, part economist and part environmental evangelist. His remarks, which included a funny story or two and mentions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, drew frequent applause and a few standing ovations.
Indeed, the speech had something of a rock concert feel. Loud music played before the event started. Many in the casually dressed crowd of about 2,000 took cell-phone photos once Gore walked onto the stage. And his comments about the dangers of climate change, its impact on the world, and how it might be solved, sounded like Gore’s greatest hits.
He traced the current crisis with the financial markets to the subprime mortgage mess. There’s also a “subprime carbon” mess that’s shaking the world’s economy, he said, one that puts 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each day. And companies that deny it’s harmful are engaging in “a form of stock fraud,” he said.
Plans to seek oil from Canadian oil shale and tar sands are “utter and complete madness, complete insanity,” he said. And new coal plants should be banned in the United States, he said.
The world continues to look to America for leadership in solving global warming, he said, and it’s not getting it. “Every other nation that has failed to take action shares the same excuse for not doing so. They all point to the United States, and say, if the United States isn’t doing it, why should we,” he said. He linked that comment to the November election, but didn’t mention either Barack Obama or John McCain by name. But he repeated his quote from the Democratic convention, where he talked about McCain following Bush, saying “I’m for recycling, but this is ridiculous.”
Within 10 years, the United States should get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. “It’s time to think boldly,” he said. “We’ve had enough of little tiny policies.
He called for a national smart grid with expanded, underground transmission lines that add solar, wind and geothermal power to the national’s energy supply. And he mentioned Silicon Valley, where he now works as a partner at the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture-capital firm, as being integral to achieving something like a Moore’s Law for renewable technologies where efficiencies increase and prices fall at a consistent pace.
Gore was preceded on stage by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. He alluded to his stint as California’s governor three decades ago when he was derided as “Governor Moonbeam” for pushing for greener buildings and solar energy. He said that those have become popular notions today.
He, too, made reference to the $700 billion bailout package being negotiated in Washington, D.C.
“Why not spend $700 billion for solar, for efficiency, for conservation?” Vice Presideant Gore asked the audience. “Why not?”