Vice President Gore’s “Space Race” Energy Plan (Updated)

Former Vice President Al Gore has called for a “space race”-style plan for the U. S. to produce 100% of its electricity using carbon-free means in ten years:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States should be making all of its electricity with renewable and carbon-free energy in 10 years, former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday.

“The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,” Gore said.

In a speech at Washington’s Constitution Hall, Gore touched on an array of the nation’s current woes, saying the economic, environmental and national security crises are all related.

“I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously,” Gore said.

To begin to fix all the problems, Gore said, “the answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.”

Gore called on the country to produce all of its electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources in 10 years, a goal he compared to President Kennedy’s challenge for the country to put a man on the moon in the 1960s.

Such a transition is completely unsuited for that sort of crash program. Manned space flight and putting human beings on the moon were engineering problems, well-defined. What VP Gore is talking about is an engineering problem, a business/economic problem, and a political problem. Unlike the space program it would require not only the Congress but the legislatures of all 50 states to act in a timely and effective basis and all pull in the same direction.

The engineering problems are formidable. With the exception of nuclear power generation the means of energy generation are, not coincidentally, not where the people are. That means either you’ll need to move the energy to where the people are—a massive re-working of our energy grid which I suspect would also require some technical breakthroughs—or the people to where the energy is, a political problem of daunting magnitude.

There are other political problems as well. Every Congressman, federal bureaucrat, governor, state legislator, and state regulator would want to put his or her two cents in to the plan. Then there are the hundreds of thousands of local officials.

If the space program had required the cooperation and direct participation of millions of Americans (as this plan would), we’d have never made it to the moon and would still be building cables on Olin King’s kitchen table.

Getting the level of capital investment required for such a plan would be equally daunting, in real dollars dwarfing the space program by several orders of magnitude.

If it could be done by magic, I think that VP Gore’s plan is a great idea. In the absence of magic, I don’t believe it’s doable.


To get some understanding of the scope of what’s being suggested I think it helps to think small. Imagine what it would take just to convert Chicago’s electrical power generation to a carbon-free source. Chicago is a good place to start: 2/3’s of Chicago’s electrical power is already carbon-free nuclear.

10 comments… add one
  • To listen to a boring Gore-bot presentation given about energy from a guy who got a D+ in his only science course, and that in DIVINITY SCHOOL, makes me gag.

    The boring moron should consider religion as his first calling, and he is treating the tree huggers as apostles with himself as messiah.

    What a crock!

  • kreiz Link

    Noticed that Gore excluded nuclear by endorsing ‘renewable’ resources only. I didn’t know Chicago’s electrical power was so heavily nuclear supplied, Dave. Should be a well-known national fact- and in Obama’s backyard too.

  • Andy Link

    So the energy has to be both renewable AND carbon free? That doesn’t leave many choices at all since nuclear is taken out of the picture.

  • Andy Link

    And even if nuclear WAS in the picture, it takes about ten years to build a single plant….

  • And even if nuclear WAS in the picture, it takes about ten years to build a single plant….

    Add to that the problems in dealing with local governments. IMO the intractable problems in VP Gore’s plan aren’t the engineering problems, serious as those might be. They’re the political and business ones. Is there a way execute this project without federalizing the whole shebang? Will cities, counties, and states sit still while the federal government takes over all levels of government?

    That’s why the space race comparison is so lousy. It didn’t require the cooperation of any of the other tens or hundreds of thousands of governmental entities we’ve got in this country. Gore’s plan would require the cooperation of all of them.

  • kreiz Link

    Curious about a couple of things, Dave. Has nuclear power been good for Chicago? And do you think that Obama’s presumed familiarity with Chicago’s nuclear power experience will open his mind to this energy source? My recollection is that he’s hedged a bit on nuclear.

  • Chicago’s situation is very complicated. On the one hand Chicago has, probably, the most expensive electricity of any major city in the country but, on the other hand, going nuclear has certainly made Chicago’s air a lot cleaner and the lake a lot less polluted than it otherwise have been. Additionally, there’s a problem with disaggregating the cost of nuclear power from the costs of the shell game that’s being run by the electric company.

    Here in Chicago we buy our power from Commonwealth Edison. ComEd generates no power. The power is generated by Exelon, ComEd’s parent company, from whom ComEd buys power. There’s reason to believe that Chicagoans pay higher prices for electricity than they otherwise might as a consequence of this odd setup. From time to time the mayor threatens to toss ComEd out on its ear and start buying power on the market but nothing’s come of it so far.

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