Thursday, July 17, 2008

T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore on a New Energy Future

Two men from very different energy least until now.

T. Boone Pickens, the oil baron who has been out promoting his PickensPlan for a new energy economy, and climate crusader Al Gore were each interviewed by Katie Couric about America's energy future and what they thought of each other.

The PickensPlan calls for a massive move to wind power and a shift in fuel dependency from oil to cleaner burning natural gas. Contrary to being concerned with the "greenness" of his message, Boone told Couric that he's most upset with the $700 billion a year flying out of this country to import oil. His plan is about energy independence and self-sufficiency. He greatly admires what Al Gore has done for the issue and doesn't see why there should be any hullabaloo about a Democrat and a Republican agreeing on something like this: "It's a nonpartisan issue."

In Gore's interview (which I watched on and was previewed with an ExxonMobil commercial), the Vice President agreed with Pickens that we must end our dependence on oil but also on coal. The biggest issue for Gore is ultimately a global warming one: although clean energy is a health, jobs, economy and national security issue, we need to refocus ourselves on the objective of ending our dependence on carbon-based fuels. Once we pull that thread out and transition to a cleaner energy system, all of the other benefits will follow.

He's impressed with the PickensPlan - although he'd like to see the U.S. vehicle fleet go straight to electricity and skip natural gas as a "transition" fuel. He concurred that global warming and energy independence are truly nonpartisan issues.

Most interestingly, Gore is calling for the U.S. to make the total switch to renewable energy in the next ten years. Yes, you read that right: 100% renewables in ten years. Solar and wind make up the bulk of his plan: Solar is a consistent electricity source in desert areas and even produces electricity during our peak times of need. It's the perfect source to supplement the intermittent nature of wind. Put together, Gore explained, "they fit like a glove."

Is that possible? Right now, in this political climate, I'm saying no. I would LOVE to say "Yes we can!" but until we really kick our leaders in the ass - and seriously improve our lifestyles with more efficient, cleaner sources of electricity - I don't think we can move fast enough.

The transmission, the permits, the siting, the technology and even the raw materials for such a change would be massive. At this point, I don't have enough faith in our political leaders to pull it off.
I think the smaller entities are getting there: The impressive goals and movements I'm seeing among cities and even states and regions are extremely important. But the coordination we need to see happen at a national level...we really need a new breed of leaders and a sense of urgency and responsibility in America in order to make that happen. Do I have enough faith in the American people? Maybe. When I read that the editor of my beloved Food and Wine magazine thinks it's too hard to switch to CFLs but feels like she's doing her part by buying organic wine...sorry but that ain't gonna cut it. Making the transition to a new energy system isn't going to be all wine and roses, but we've got to take the leap and do it now, before it's too late and we've committed ourselves to the worst of global warming's consequences.

But perhaps that's why Gore is challenging us to aim for something so enormous, huge and practically out of reach...because even if we make it half that far - to 50% renewables in ten years - it would still be an utter and historic make-over for this country for the better.

Many thanks to CBS Evening News for the heads-up on these interviews.

Below are Couric's interviews with Pickens and with Gore:


Anonymous said...

"Most interestingly, Gore is calling for the U.S. to make the total switch to renewable energy in the next ten years. Yes, you read that right: 100% renewables in ten years."

Is that just for electricity, or liquid fuels/heating as well?

Maria Surma Manka said...

Hi Erin - that's just for electricity.