Crank of the Week - July 14, 2008 - Al Gore

Al Gore, former US Vice President and Nobel peace prize winer, wins this weeks Crank of the Week, in part for his new utterances but also as recognition for his past contributions to the furor over global warming. Perhaps no single person has been responsible for the dumbing down of climate science as the benighted Mr. Gore. A brief recounting of Gore's life and escapades can be found in Chapter 15 of The Resilient Earth so we won't belabor the matter here.

However, after a period of absence from the news headlines, the irrepressible Gore has resurfaced with a challenge for America. “Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years,” said Gore in a recent speech. Mr. Gore goes on at length (he always goes on at length):

“What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.”

For the entire speech, including video, see Gore's Blog.

Ignoring the fact that this sounds suspiciously similar to T. Boone Pickens' plan to expand wind and gas power in the mid-west, the fact is that Gore once again has over simplified the problem and ignored the reality of the situation. While it is true that the US and every other developed nation needs to take action to reduce fossil fuel consumption, Gore's assertion that we can eliminate fossil fuels in 10 years is ludicrous. More than half of America's electricity comes from coal powered plants, some 600 plus with more than 50 new plants under construction or in the planning stages.

We are firmly on record about eliminating coal as a significant energy source but we are also realists—there is no practical way that the US can convert that many plants to alternate energy sources, even if we start building nuclear plants as fast as is practicable. We could add about 100 nuclear plants in the next decade if we made it a national priority but the resources just don't exist to move much faster than that. Of course, Gore wants to replace the coal plants with anything but clean nuclear power.

Unfortunately, there is not enough wind, solar or geothermal power available to reach this goal, despite the recent pronouncements of Gore or Pickens (again, read TRE Chapter 18). So, for continuing to cloud the issues surrounding global warming and energy policy with unrealistic proposals, Al Gore is our second Crank of the Week.