Gore Presses Congress to Act Now on Global Warming

During a passionate testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday, Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore urged congressional members to take action on climate change through aggressive steps, including passing national legislation that would allow homeowners to “sell” energy generated through photovoltaic solar systems or small wind turbines back into the grid “without any artificial caps.”

Noting that government support was instrumental in assisting scientists and engineers during the early years of the computer industry, which eventually led to mainstream adoption of high-performance computers and the Internet revolution, Gore urged the congressional leaders present to take a similar stance in the creation of a “tariff” to spur the development of the U.S. renewable energy market. “In the same way that the Internet took off and stimulated the information revolution, we could see a revolution all across this country with small-scale generation of [renewable energy] electricity everywhere,” said Gore, addressing the members of the Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and the Energy, and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. “I believe that this Congress should develop an ‘electranet’, a smart grid. Just as the widely distributed processing of information everywhere in this country, and around the world, led to the biggest new surge of productivity that we’ve ever seen in this nation, we ought to have a law that allows homeowners and small business people to put up photovoltaic generators and small wind [turbines] and any other new sources of widely distributed generation that they can come up with — and allow them to sell that electricity into the grid without any artificial caps,” stated Gore. Best known these days as an environmental activist working to reverse the damaging effects of climate change caused by overconsumption of fossil fuels and misuse of natural resources, the joint hearing before the two House subcommittees marked Gore’s first congressional appearance since releasing his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. In addition to advancing the development of renewable energy during his 37-minute testimony, Gore suggested a number of other specific steps to curb the “climate change crisis.” Gore called for the government to enact programs to ensure a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050; use the tax code to reduce taxes on employment and production and make up the difference with pollution taxes; enact a moratorium on the construction of any new coal-fired plants not compatible with carbon capture and sequestration; and start an all-out sprint to negotiate and ratify a new, stronger treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Also testifying on the economics of climate change policy was Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at Copenhagen Consensus Center of the Copenhagen Business School and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. “The current raft of policies that are either enacted or suggested are costly but have virtually no effect… Take the Kyoto Protocol, which, even if it had been successfully adopted by all signatories (including the US and Australia) and even if it had been adhered to throughout the century, would have postponed warming by just five years in 2100 at a cost of $180 billion annually,” said Lomborg. “This does not mean we should do nothing at all about climate change,” Lomborg concluded. “It means we need to be much smarter. We need to abandon expensive and inefficient strategies like Kyoto and search for new opportunities.” Although all of the congressional leaders present agreed that research and development of new technologies was a beneficial long-term energy solution, many committee Members argued that regulating American industry in the short-term was economically irresponsible; by capping carbon emissions only in the U.S., jobs and industries would move to countries without strict carbon regulations. Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) acknowledged climate change as a problem, but was skeptical of any program that would cost taxpayers money, while outsourcing American jobs. “We must press for energy self-reliance and continue to pursue technology to combat the threat of increased carbon dioxide. These two goals are interconnected. If we tap into American ingenuity, we not only unleash the power of our nation’s competitiveness, but we also find domestic solutions for our future that are affordable, reliable and clean,” said Hall, adding that he planned to introduce new legislation in the coming weeks that expands Energy Policy Act of 2005 initiatives. But focusing only on the short-term market is one of the greatest problems in the fight against global warming, said Gore. “I promise you a day will come when our children and our grandchildren will look back, and they’ll ask one of two questions,” said Gore. “Either they will ask, what in God’s name were they doing? Didn’t they see the evidence? Didn’t they realize that four times in 15 years the entire scientific community of this world issued unanimous reports calling on them to act? What was wrong with them?” “Or they’ll ask another question. They may look back and they may say, how did they find the uncommon moral courage to rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy, and do what some said was impossible?”
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