Al Gore has a fantastic op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times.

There’s lots of good stuff, but one thing I was particularly pleased to see is this dismissal of the rush lately toward dirty domestic fuel:

Some still see this as a problem of domestic production. If we could only increase oil and coal production at home, they argue, then we wouldn’t have to rely on imports from the Middle East. Some have come up with even dirtier and more expensive new ways to extract the same old fuels, like coal liquids, oil shale, tar sands and "clean coal" technology.

But in every case, the resources in question are much too expensive or polluting, or, in the case of "clean coal," too imaginary to make a difference in protecting either our national security or the global climate. Indeed, those who spend hundreds of millions promoting "clean coal" technology consistently omit the fact that there is little investment and not a single large-scale demonstration project in the United States for capturing and safely burying all of this pollution. If the coal industry can make good on this promise, then I’m all for it. But until that day comes, we simply cannot any longer base the strategy for human survival on a cynical and self-interested illusion.

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This is the right attitude: if and when "clean coal" can be demonstrated at scale, it can factor into our plans for addressing the climate/energy crisis. Until then, we need a plan that works without it.

Here’s Gore’s five-part plan (quotes direct from the op-ed; my emphasis):

  1. First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.
  2. Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used.
  3. Third, we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures.
  4. Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting.
  5. Fifth, the United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the world’s efforts to replace the Kyoto treaty next year in Copenhagen with a more effective treaty that caps global carbon dioxide emissions and encourages nations to invest together in efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution quickly, including by sharply reducing deforestation.

If all this sounds remarkably similar to what Chip and I said in our op-ed, that’s because Gore obsessively follows our work circumstances are converging to make it pretty obvious what needs to be done. Time to get started!

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