Al Gore calls for all US energy to be made renewable within 10 years
The former US vice president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his climate change campaigning, said such a goal would not only tackle global warming but also the economic and security “crises” that have been caused by a dependence on fossil fuels.
He told a packed auditorium in the Constitution Hall in Washington: “When you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices.”
The Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan group led by Mr Gore, estimated the 30-year cost of his plan - both government and private - at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion.
Mr Gore said the single most important policy change to speed up the transition would be the introduction of a tax on carbon dioxide pollution - to “tax what we burn, not what we earn”, he said.
His speech on Thursday evening came just hours after Texas officials approved a multibillion wind power project which experts described as the biggest investment in renewable energy in US history.
Utility chiefs in the state, headquarters of America’s oil industry, gave preliminary approval to a $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated from the gusty west of Texas to urban areas like Dallas.
Texas is already leading the way in America in wind power but supporters said the lack of transmission lines stopped much of that power from being used.
The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation warned that wind and solar farms cannot be expected to provide a consistent supply of abundant energy “because the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow all the time”.
The Texan oil billionaire T Boone Pickens is planning to build the world’s largest wind farm on about 200,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle.
The Edison Electric Institute, the private utility industry’s trade association, said it shared Mr Gore’s support for more renewable energy but said it alone would not be sufficient to provide America’s needs.
Some energy experts said Mr Gore’s suggested turnaround was too fast.
Robby Diamond, president of Securing America’s Future Energy, an independent energy policy group, said: “The country is not going to be able to go cold turkey.
“We have a hundred years of infrastructure with trillions of dollars of investment that is not simply going to be made obsolete.”
Barack Obama said he supported Mr Gore’s challenge and would speed up investment in renewable energy sources if elected. John McCain said” “If the vice president says it’s doable, I believe it’s doable.”
By Tom Leonard in New York