Al Gore makes himself difficult to defend

With this absurd speech.

… I’m proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It’s not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

For reasons I still haven’t grasped, it’s nearly impossible to write about climate change in a mainstream setting without having denialists pop up and, among other things, accuse you of taking orders from Al Gore. (My friend and Ottawa Citizen colleague Kate Heartfield remarked on it a little while ago.) Or, for reasons even more obscure, “Algore,” like he’s a biomechanical replicant of a former vice-president with a model and make instead of a person with a regular name.

But anyway, the criticism usually revolves around the idea that Gore is a crank, full of pie-in-the-sky ideas about someday we might live in a paradaisical vision of windmills and solar panels, not useful proposal for what we might actually do right now in the world we actually live in. Or, alternatively, that he’s a doomsayer whose obviously absurd prophecies of planetary doom are beneath any rational consideration.

Either line of criticism is so disconnected from the reality of Gore’s message, and the manifestly reasonable tone of his main vehicle An Inconvenient Truth, that they’re difficult to engage.

Then he goes and says something like that America should be carbon-neutral in its electricity generation by 2018. And he compares it to the U.S. space program.

On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy’s challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.

I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes.

I wasn’t alive for them, so maybe I can’t fully comprehend the power of the moment he’s talking about, but this strikes me as a dangerously false parallel. The Apollo program, as ambitious as it was, was essentially about making it possible for a few people (astronauts) to do one thing (walk on the Moon) once. More often if possible, but once would meet the challenge. Gore is talking about changing the way everybody does everything, for always. (Clive Crook makes a similar argument here.)

Someone whose public credibility is as fragile as Gore’s is — on a rising curve but certainly not secure — and so important to the movement he argues is key to the continued viability of the planet Earth as a home for humanity, should treat it with a little more care.

From Crook:

Does he even mean it? “I see my role as enlarging the political space in which Senator Obama or Senator McCain can confront this issue as president next year,” he says. Translation: I advocate the impossible so that the possible becomes more probable. Fair enough, one might say. But propaganda in a good cause is still propaganda, isn’t it?

Ah. So it’s strategic nonsense.

Look. It’s not happening, no matter who gets elected. Building a new wind farm, a small one, takes two years, and there’s a shortage of gear and qualified people to install and maintain it. You can’t fix that in a decade (see the difference between an accomplishment for the few and a fundamental change for the many, above). It’s so far from happening that it’s difficult even to take the idea seriously. You can’t.

It’ll be all the denialists talk about for the next year, pointing and laughing, and for a change they’ll be right.

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2 responses to “Al Gore makes himself difficult to defend

  1. “It’ll be all the denialists talk about for the next year, pointing and laughing, and for a change they’ll be right”

    I have done two years research on the subject.
    The main stream media has failed, miserably, in their role to bring important issues to the forefront.

    Gore, what can be said about a con man, other than he’s a con man.

    Why doesn’t the media expose him instead of promote him?

    Please spend some time on my site and learn the truth.

    I’m not a skeptic or a denier, I’m a truth seeker and I follow the journalistic oath.

    Something that the mainstream journalists might do well to revisit.

    Make no mistake – Global warming is a scam, as is the wind industry.

    I have talked to reporters, news editors, both print and radio, who say they want to report the truth but aren’t allowed.
    How controlled is the media?
    Totally.
    If you want the truth the last place you will find it is in the mainstream media.
    That, is unfortunate.

    You mentioned the Ottawa Citizen. Here is a story they caved in on, when they should have stood their ground.Ex-AECL boss’ firm could make Millions http://windfarms.wordpress.com/2007/12/28/ex-aecl-boss-firm-landed-10m-grant/
    I made sure the story didn’t disappear. Please read it.

    I’ll leave you with this thought.
    If the media had done it’s job, both the global warming scam and the wind scam would never have gotten of the ground.
    That is a fact.
    Enjoy the day, we are headed for very interesting times.
    http://www.windfarms.wordpress.com

  2. Marcel F. Williams

    Only a ‘Creation Scientist’ would call global warming a scam:-)

    But Gore said that he wanted the US to provide all of our
    electricity needs within the next 10 years through non-carbon dioxide
    polluting systems by:

    1. dramatically increasing solar energy production
    2. dramatically increasing wind energy production
    3. dramatically increasing geothermal
    4. the utilization of clean coal
    5. while keep nuclear energy production at its current level (20% of
    electric power generation in the US)

    I don’t know, but Gore may be as dumb as McCain on his knowledge on
    the energy requirements of this country.

    1. Solar power currently represents just 0.1% of our total electricity
    production. So even if you increased solar power capacity by– 10
    times– current capacity over the next decade, solar would still only
    produce about 1% of our nations total electricity.

    2. Wind currently produces close to 1% of our total electricity
    production. So if you increased wind capacity about 10 times over the
    next decade, wind would still only produce about 10% of our total
    electricity needs.

    3. Geothermal produces about 0.3% of our total electricity production.
    If you could somehow increase that by 10 times over a decade, that
    would represent about 3% of our total electricity needs.

    So non-hydroelectric renewables (solar, wind, and geothermal) would
    only produce about 14% of our total electricity needs if we
    dramatically increased current production by a enormous factor of ten
    times current capacity within ten years. Add hydroelectric to that and
    21% of our electricity could be produced by renewable energy. This of
    course assumes that there will be no significant increase in
    electricity demand due to increasing population and economic growth.

    Clean coal? Coal produces 100 times as much radioactive waste as
    nuclear power per unit of electricity produced and thousands of times
    more toxic waste. Trying to capture the carbon dioxide from these
    plants will raise electricity prices from coal– dramatically. And
    there is no long term environmentally sound place to put the carbon
    dioxide after its captured. Clean coal is a total myth.

    Just increasing nuclear capacity by less than– 5 times– current
    capacity could supply all of our electricity needs plus the off-peak
    electricity from nuclear could be used to produce hydrocarbon fuels
    that could cut our oil imports by at least 50% . But even I wouldn’t
    say that this could be done in a mere decade. Additionally, replacing
    all of our electricity through carbon neutral systems would only solve
    about 40% of our total energy needs.

    Both Gore and McCain need to look at the real numbers. This energy and
    climate change problem is going to optimistically take at least 30 or
    40 years to resolve.

    Marcel F. Williams

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