In his Washington Post column last Friday, EJ Dionne writes that Al Gore is playing “his usual role of unpaid party visionary by arguing that we can ease the climate crisis, the economic crisis and the crisis of dependence on foreign energy all at once.” While Republicans attempt to exploit high gas prices with a “drill, drill, drill” election year slogan, Gore explained in a speech yesterday at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC “that the technology for alternative fuels – wind, solar and geothermal – is far more advanced than we realize,” and that we should pursue a 10-year goal of obtaining 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources and clean fuels.
Gore said: “…when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them…. our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges – the economic, environmental and national security crises. We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change… But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand. The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.”
In the audience was Senator Bernie Sanders, who spoke with Vice President Gore backstage about his new bill, the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2008. A truly independent voice in the Senate, Sen. Sanders has been a leader in pushing the Democratic Congress in a progressive direction – and energy policy is no exception.
Last year I wrote of Sen. Sanders’ green collar jobs amendment which passed but currently awaits funding. Now his 10 Million Solar Roofs legislation – whose cosponsors include Republican Senators Arlen Specter and John Warner – offers yet another transformative alternative to oil dependence as usual. The bill would provide homeowners, businesses, non-profits and state and local governments with rebates covering up to half of the cost of photovoltaic systems which average $20,000. In order to qualify for the federal rebates, stringent energy efficiency standards would need to be met. Some experts say that if 10 percent of the existing rooftops in the US were equipped with properly installed systems, they could supply 70 percent of peak energy demands during summer months.