The blogosphere’s response? A golf clap and general round of nitpicking …
Some see the renewable energy goal as a touch impractical, and his beating of the carbon tax drum (1993 … anyone? anyone?) irked plenty of conservatives — no surprise — and congressional Democrats on the grounds of poor timing as the American economy limps along.
A roundup of reactions:
At the New York Times’s DotEarth blog, Andy Revkin posted the text of Gore’s speech with his comments. Where other bloggers were willing to look past Gore’s scientific claims, Revkin challenged the validity of his climate change associations to Arctic sea ice loss and severe weather. In response to the tornado comment:
Why mention tornadoes? There’s been no evidence of an increase in dangerous tornadoes since careful records have been kept (great graphic at this link). It’s really no different stressing “strange” weather in a push for limiting greenhouse gases than doing so to fight the same policy shift.
While acknowledging the renewable energy goal as admirable, Revkin also questioned the ability to ramp up renewables in 10 years:
The price differential between renewable energy sources and coal burning is shifting, but a 10-year transformation is hard to foresee given the incredibly small base from which solar is growing … and the long timeline for boosting geothermal generation, among other issues. An Energy Department review of geothermal sources last year said we might be able to generate as much electricity by 2050 that way as is now produced with nuclear plants. But currently nuclear generation is less than 20 percent of the national electricity pie. Sure, that might be accelerated, but 10 years?
The short answer is: while 100% is probably unrealistic, it’s not unreasonable to expect to be able to get pretty close to that number (say, in the 50-90% range) in that timeframe, and it is very likely that it makes a lot of sense economically.
Personally, I would have set the challenge at closer to 50% by 2020 and 90% by 2030. In particular, I’d like a few years for solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar thermal to mature a little more, to see what are the very best strategies and technologies. And I’m not certain all the money in the world can get us a substantial amount of “clean coal” (presumably coal with carbon capture and storage) in a decade. So all that speaks to adding another decade. Also, I don’t know why we would want to shut down the combined cycle natural gas turbines, which is why I’d be more than happy to see this country with a 90% fossil-free grid in 2030.
And talk about strange bedfellows: Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr showed up in person for Gore’s speech, as reported in the Austin American Statesman:
He called Gore’s plan important for moving the country away from its dependence on foreign oil. He also criticized fellow candidates Barack Obama and John McCain for not showing up for the event, saying their absence showed “they don’t really care about the issue.”
Speaking of Obama, the Democratic hopeful stopped short of completely supporting Gore’s call:
I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power and advanced biofuels, and those are the investments I will make as President.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the influential member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was much more excited by Gore’s call to action:
Congress must take this clarion call from our nation’s climate sage and act, swiftly and fairly. Climate legislation can grow our economy, assist low and middle income families and workers, and transition us to a stable, clean energy future, but we are running out of time.
“It depends on how it’s presented,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who emphasized he did not want to “pre-empt” Gore’s speech by telling him what to say.
“I think the American public will be much more receptive to arguments about climate change when gas prices aren’t so critical,” said Rep. Zack Space, a freshman Democrat who represents a mostly rural district in Ohio.
In other lackluster reactions to the Goracle, the Wall Street Journal’s blog Environmental Capital also considered the timing in poor taste with respect to the toll gas prices are taking on Americans’ wallets:
Don’t look now, but with gasoline approaching $5 a gallon, even many Californians are coming around to the idea of offshore drilling, the WSJ reports today.
But the WSJ blog did praise Gore’s recognition of a much-needed new transmission grid as well as Texas’ efforts to expand its own grid.
And speaking of Texas, one would expect T. Boone Pickens — the oil billionaire who found wind — to be a natural cheerleader for Gore’s effort. But some habits die hard, and Pickens the longtime supporter of conservative causes came out blasting at the former veep:
We import 70% of our oil and that number is growing larger every year. Vice President Gore’s plan does not address this enormous problem, it is clear that he and I have two different objectives and our plans should be viewed with that in mind.”
However, Boone’s criticism rang hollow considering that if the United States moved forward with Gore’s call for total renewable energy, oil imports would be implicitly reduced. Boone did take issue with Gore’s reliance on a carbon tax to fund this change to total renewable energy and the scant mention of the role of private investment. “The Federal Government should provide the leadership to clear the way for action and private enterprise should build the infrastructure to get it done.”
For the most part, there was a remarkable absence of conservatives in the online reax to Gore’s speech (at least here in the early running). Town Hall, RedState, Michelle Malkin and other mainstays of the Right’s blogosphere of note were quite subdued or silent post Gore’s big day. Even Newt Gingrich who has made the airwaves frequently as of late with his petition to drill offshore had little to say on Gore’s moony vision.
Of course, we saw plenty of hypocrisy — especially the fact that Gore didn’t ride his bike or take public transporation to the event. He didn’t even take his Prius! Instead, he brought a fleet of two Lincoln Town Cars and a Chevy Suburban SUV! Even worse, the driver of the Town Car that eventually whisked away Gore’s wife and daughter left the engine idling and the AC cranking for 20 minutes before they finally left!
Ed Frank, blogger for Americans for Prosperity, echoed Murray’s thoughts as well as posted a video regarding his aforementioned transportation tackiness and Gore’s carbon tax. The video claims Gore’s plan would bump gas up to $8 per gallon.
The future of human civilization is at stake … if we don’t conform to Mr. Gore’s preferences as to how we produce electricity. No, it probably isn’t. Is anybody keeping score on this? Al Gore and his minions have become the contemporary equivalent of that guy walking around with a sandwich-board reading “The End Is Near.” How near? Anybody want to put any money on Al Gore’s ability to call the date?
Taking offense at the New York Times’ unquestioning reportage of Gore’s urgent tone, Williamson asked whether Dan Quayle would have received the same acceptance had he delivered such a hyperbolic climate address.
That depends. Would there have been a spelling contest?