Spaceman Gore: “Let’s Drive to the Moon!”

Albert Gore, he of the Nobel Peace Prize and the 20-room mansion and the penchant for stating ideas only when he’s far out of power, has just delivered a speech calling for radical reform of the USA’s energy infrastructure.

In “A Generational Challenge to Repower America,” Gore says:

In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness.

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment.

The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more – if more should be required – the future of human civilization is at stake.

[W]hen we look at [our] seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: 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.

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.

But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation’s problems, we need a new start.

That’s why I’m proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It’s not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power 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.

Bravo and amen, right?

Not right: Like the rest of the phalanx of overclass power-guardians to which he still belongs, Al Gore is unwilling to expose capitalism to any question. As a result, he actually does not mean what he says. Contrary to his own words, Gore remains utterly unwilling to permit consideration of the changes it would take to cure the disease he is trying to publicize.

Why do I say this? Where’s the proof?

Here it is:

We could further increase the value and efficiency of a Unified National Grid by helping our struggling auto giants switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars. An electric vehicle fleet would sharply reduce the cost of driving a car, reduce pollution, and increase the flexibility of our electricity grid….

If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.

In other words, cars are non-negotiable in Gore’s plan, despite the fact that they account for 70 percent of “our” addiction to petroleum. In addition, via its encouragement of suburbs and its stimulation of greatly increased industrial production of many kinds, cars-first living also creates a huge further unnecessary drain on our existing electrical power grid. Making cars and suburbs ain’t cheap.

Yet, Gore naturally assumes, cars-first must continue.

This non-negotiability of automobiles exists, of course, because corporate capitalism itself is not negotiable, despite its blatant non-sustainability and consequent extreme danger to the human future. The simple fact is that without the preservation of the ultra-wasteful but ultra-profitable autos-über-alles way of living in the United States, corporate capitalism would implode. Ergo, not even Al Gore can summon the courage to say “cars must go.”

Instead of saying that, Gore says says in his speech that “people rightly complain about higher gas prices” — as if cars could ever be made ecologically and financially inexpensive.

But the basic facts are inherent in the technology and the system that forces it upon us: In order to serve as the primary mode of everyday transportation in any society, the automobile requires sprawling cities. Sprawling cities in turn dictate long commuting distances for vehicles carrying one or a few occupants. Long commuting distances require relatively high-speed travel, in order to get those occupants to their scattered, appointed places reasonably on time. High speed travel in cars for one or a few occupants requires comparatively large-sized, collision-worthy vehicles. (Glorified golf carts going 45 mph are super-extreme deathtraps.) Comparatively large-sized, collision-worthy vehicles are inherently heavy and massively fuel-inefficient.

All in all, it’s simply an inescapable fact that building cars to carry one or a few occupants and equipping those cars with the hundreds of pounds of comforts, amusements, and safety mechanisms that make the trips bearable is also super-wasteful of energy, albeit also super-profitable for investors. No amount of design or alternative fueling is going to change that.

Yet and still, capitalists can’t and (barring a popular uprising) won’t do without all this waste/profit.

The planet, meanwhile, can’t do with much more of it. Generating enough new electricity from wind and solar to make it all happen: a) is almost certainly impossible, and b) would eat up the entirety of the new infrastructure Gore is now proposing. Whether we burn oil to do it, or sacrifice our one-time shot at building a sustainable electric grid to it, perpetuating autos-über-alles for much longer will spell death to progressive human society.

Hence, we must transcend Al Gore and the masters he continues to serve. As Gore himself says:

If we keep going back to the same policies that have never ever worked in the past and have served only to produce the highest gasoline prices in history alongside the greatest oil company profits in history, nobody should be surprised if we get the same result over and over again. But the Congress may be poised to move in that direction anyway because some of them are being stampeded by lobbyists for special interests that know how to make the system work for them instead of the American people.

Or, properly stated:

If we keep going back to the same policies that have never ever worked in the past and have served only to produce the highest gasoline prices in history alongside the greatest oil company profits in history, nobody should be surprised if we get the same result over and over again. But the Congress will move in that direction anyway because some all of them are being stampeded by the capitalist class, who always make the system work for them instead of the American people.

Michael Dawson is author of The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life (2004). He is the publisher of the blog The Consumer Trap, which aims to expose capitalism, marketing and market totalitarianism. Read other articles by Michael, or visit Michael's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Donald Hawkins said on July 18th, 2008 at 6:38am #

    Al Gore now as a plan and of course we have already heard it will never work we can’t possibly do it to much money and to hard it will never work. Oh really well it has to work and in some way’s harder than what Al has proposed. There is a World power and it’s called the Earth and it has it’s own rules. Michael good point and Al in some way’s is being nice as it is going to be harder than what he said.

  2. Michael Kenny said on July 18th, 2008 at 9:05am #

    Does Gore really “assume” that cars come first, or is he just saying so in order not to have the car lobby on his back? I would guess the latter, since nobody seriously believes that any alterantive fuel can be produced in quantities sufficient to maintain present consumption levels, particularly in the profligate US.

  3. LJM said on July 18th, 2008 at 10:19am #

    It will be interesting to see if you allow this reply to be seen.

    The FACT is that America’s oil prices at the pump is up for only two reasons. And they are NOT because China and India are competing with the US for those resources. California Alone consumes More oil than the entire Chinese market does at this time. So that’s just BS.

    The fact is that your own government has allowed the rapid devaluation of the US dollar to fall so low on the world markets that it now only buys half of what is use to. The other major factor is that this same government with their policy of FREE UNRESTRICTED MARKETS(ie: with No Regulation and No Market Oversight has allowed predatory SPECULATORS in the market who buy up Oil Futures and hold them only to release those commodities when that price is at it’s highest profit margin, and that price spike is created by their action of holding and shorting the market. THOSE ARE THE FACTS.

    The BS we were sold over the last 20 years by Industry Sectors (Banks & Manufactures) that it was the OVER REGULATION of the Markets was the cause of the America’s Uncompetitive Nature. So one by one they Lobbied, Advertised and Media Assaulted the Citizens and THEIR Government to Blindly following along until ALL Market Protections and the Agencies that were put in place as protection oversights were crippled or rendered non existent so that these Corporate Giants could control the commodity markets and CLEAN UP by PROFITEERING!

    The banks, Unregulated, were allowed to sell mortgages to those who would not have qualified had the interest rates been allowed to rise naturally, and over qualified others well beyond their means.
    Had the interest rates of those loans and interest rates in general been allowed to move to higher levels America would not be in the State of Free Fall that it finds themselves in now.

    The Arabs are NOT Running out of oil any more than Canada has a problem getting oil from the Tar Sands. Peak Oil is only the light oil that floats atop of the Heavier Crude which required less processing and refining and only represented less then 20% of the worlds total oil reserve. What is left in the ground in the Middle East and everywhere else is still 80+% of all the crude that has always been there(so we’ve burnt through the easiest oil to pump over the last6 100 years) But I can tell you that the cost of processing that heavy crude is still 75% more cost effective to process and ship overseas to America than is the extremely Labor & ENERGY intensive processing (not to mention damaging to the environment due to strip mining and abusing the Waters of the Athabasca water shed.

    Sometimes I think America can’t see the Forest for the Trees!
    It’s not the publics fault that aren’t being notified or educated on the TRUTH. They are being abandoned by their government to fend and educated themselves while they are being distracted and bombarded by disinformation that protects these PROFITEERING PIRATES in your own FREE MARKET!

    America needs to seek a new direction. It’s called “THE FAIR MARKET”.
    A Market that is protected and regulated against Corporate abuse on the behalf of the PEOPLE, By the People and FOR THE PEOPLE!
    In China, Corporate Heads who are caught breaking the law are EXECUTED! Where is YOUR GOVERNMENT? Who’s Watching and Protecting the People and the Markets? UNDO the damage of the last 20 years and REINSTATE ALL GOVERNMENT REGULATORY COMMISSIONS back dated to 1980 and put back the tariffs on ALL foreign made products that would force industry to return to America or force them to leave America and face the tariffs as foreign manufactures and strip them of their citizenship.

    Give incentives to those foreign manufactures who shift production to the US & Canada(NOT MEXICO) and create a new law that states that no foreign company can sell their product in the US market(this should be adopted by ALL Countries) unless they employ Americans to manufacture those product for this market.

    Then make a new TAX law that looks at a Corporations annual losses and operating costs and compares that to ALL GROSS PROFITS then assesses their TAX BILL. A magic number (%) must be set for profits that balloon in scale when it exceeds (150%??) and increases every 25% they surpass that NET Profit.

    Then change the laws on ALL MINERAL RIGHTS. THESE SHOULD BE HELD AND OWN BY THE STATE and the People! Then companies who want to mine or pump or refine oil have to bid for the contract, and all the profit goes to paying the countries taxes, covering, Defense, Military, Education, Road & Infrastructure maintenance and freeing all people who earn below $45,000 each, or $95,000 combined family income from paying ANY INCOME TAXES AT ALL. College could be FREE for any who wish to attend but must maintain a 75% grade average and then University can be subsidized to those who wish or deserve to attend(scholarships but those of wealthy privileged families have to pay, but at a far less expensive tuition rating to make things fair.
    Teachers should earn no less than $45,000 US starting from grade 1 and salary increases with each grade level so that College professors are earning $100,000 a year and University professors above that pay scale. Hire the best educators and you will have the best educated country in the world.

    All the problems that exist in the US today can be squared up at the feet of successive failed governments & policies since 1962, and the unceasing encroachment into Personal & Civil Rights at the behest of Industry & Corporate Interests driven by PURE GREED!

    CAP THE PROFIT$ AND KILL THE GREED!
    Just study what Jesus said and did on the steps of the Pharisees when he trashed the tables of the “Money Changers”! “USURY” in ALL it’s Forms is against God’s Will, Scripture and Humanity. If American’s want Freedom, They NEED FAIR MARKET PRACTICES…. AND REGULATIONS to keep the the 666 CORPORATE BEAST’s under thumb! Chain them to the rock for 1000 years!

    Undo all the laws that stops people from suing government and corporations and impeach the entire staff of the WHITEHOUSE NOW!
    Make Market Speculation ILLEGAL!
    Tie the Dollar to GOLD and make FIAT Money CONSTITUTIONALLY Illegal!
    Take Back the banks from the Privately Held FEDERAL BANK and make it the Bank of the People of AMERICA and only print money backed by Gold then Force Compliance onto the rest of the Banks.
    Make getting off oil a priority with a 10 year window for total freedom from Hydrocarbons on a increasing scale, And free Free Enterprise so they can pursue new technologies in Wind, Solar, Power Storage and yet to be exploited technologies for creating Cheap Hydrogen from pure water and without all the stupid & costly chemical methods now being proposed as a blind alley to distract you from the facts and reality thats created just to keep OIL in place as “The Only Solution~Game in Town~Monopoly”!

    THIS IS THE MISSION TO SAVE AMERICA AND DEMOCRACY!

    Before God can Save America, America itself must start by Saving Itself!

    Corporate Will does NOT equal GODS WILL!
    as they would have you believe…. DEAL WITH THAT TRUTH!

    And God Bless the AMERICAN PEOPLE!!!!
    Without the American People… There is No AMERICA!!!

    IF it wasn’t for the endless bailouts and CORPORATE WELFARE there would be no Corporate Giants out there to steal your rights and lobby that Corporations have the SAME RIGHTS AS HUMANS TO EXIST!!!

    Take away Corporate Rights and Replace them with Corporate Taxes & Regulations! That’s what they need to keep them focused on working with the society they claim to belong to. The DEMAND Corporations keep referring to has been usurped and changed into meaning only what you want as CONSUMERS! You are not CONSUMERS. You are the PEOPLE who DEMAND CHANGE! DEMAND CORPORATE TAX INCREASES, DEMAND LOCAL MARKET MANUFACTURING IN TRADE FOR MARKET ACCESS, DEMAND CONSUMER & MARKET PROTECTIONS, DEMAND A JUST SOCIETY, DEMAND IMPEACHMENT, AND DEMAND IT NOW!!!!!!!! AND AS LOUD AS YOU CAN!!!

  4. hp said on July 18th, 2008 at 12:15pm #

    Al Gore is the living breathing personification of the Edsel.

  5. John Doraemi said on July 18th, 2008 at 11:58pm #

    Well, I don’t know if Gore is a fraudster or not, but his global warming theory is disputed by 31,000 scientists. He falsely implied that increased CO2 raised temperatures in the ice core record in his movie. When, in fact, CO2 rose after the temperature had already risen, and thus was a product of rising temperature, not the cause.

    But, he mentions some good ideas about alternative energy (finally), although tide generation, perhaps one of the most feasible and largest bang for the buck didn’t seem to get a mention.

    I can’t agree with the juvenile rant of the no-cars author. That’s not reality. It never will be. People have a right to move around. Who are you to try and stop them?

    I’m intrigued by the Japanese “water car” presentation on Reuters recently. Hopefully it’s not a scam and they really have discovered something world changing. One can hope.

    http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=84561

    I’m hoping that the talk is going toward tele-commuting and not physical commuting, too. Where is that mentioned? By giving businesses tax incentives to let their employees work from home as much as possible, much travel can be eliminated.

    John Doraemi publishes Crimes of the State
    http://crimesofthestate.blogspot.com/

  6. corylus said on July 19th, 2008 at 9:37am #

    John D,
    You’ve got some conflicting and weak ideas here: “People have a right to move around,,,” yet justifying the need for tele-commuting. “One can hope…” for “water cars,” but not dare hope for creative means other than single-user automobiles to get us where we want to go. Yeah, great, let’s give businesses tax incentives so that we can chain ourselves to computers, that are enormously energy- and raw-material expensive, and meanwhile continue to work for greedy capitalists in the process.

    Your remarks about rising ice core temperatures and those of CO2 are also suspect: although I don’t have the data, I believe that CO2 monitoring has been tracked for over a century, and it’s been rising that entire period. Has anyone been recording ice core temperatures that long, and if so, where, and what were the results? If you’re measuring ice core temperatures, something other than temps have to be included in calculations, such as pressure and gravity — how do you know anything about ice core temperatures?

    Based on this drivel, I’ll skip your blog, thank you.

  7. Donald Hawkins said on July 19th, 2008 at 10:14am #

    There are certain people who build walls. Walls of the mind. In many cases these walls make up a box and people must live in these box’s all there lives. The walls are not real the box’s are not real and are invisible to the eye. Once you understand the walls and boxes are not real you can teardown those walls with only a thought. Just a thought.
    The walls are made of BS or another way of putting it perception of reality not reality, just a thought. This system has worked well for many years for a few people and of course the rest must live in those box’s made of walls of BS. Teardown those walls and all it takes is a thought and once you understand how the feeling of free feels you are no longer a slave living in a prison of interest rates. Turn in your car don’t pay your bills beg for food or grow your own wake up each morning free and understand you are free. Can this happen of course it can happen remember when you were young before the matrix got to you and forced you to live in that box. I have a feeling it will happen to most of us anyway so we can start practicing now. Have I got a deal for you for just the low low price of 450 a month for the rest of your life you get to live in a box made of BS and drive a car for only 300 a month for 60 months made of BS come on it will be fun and all you need is two jobs and the man always respect the man the man that put you in that box because he’s the man. Teardown those walls with only a thought and while your at it tell the man I love you man but got to run. Free at last, free at last. The more people who do it the easer it will be. In other words it will be Ok. Free at last, free at last. Oh look a person driving a car, I guess he doesn’t know that makes you stupid, free at last, free at last.

  8. Michael Dawson said on July 19th, 2008 at 12:30pm #

    John D. thinks there’ll be “water cars,” and that it’s car-critics, rather than corporate capitalists, who are the ones dictating transportation choices!

    Hilarious stuff, John!

    Quiz question: Who has more transportation choice: a Parisian or a Los Angeleno? Why is that?

    Meanwhile, you might bother to know some science, or at least take a look at your own sources before you swallow the next hook:

    http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=85239&videoChannel=1

    Good luck to you…

  9. johndoraemi said on July 20th, 2008 at 5:11pm #

    Wow, a lot of gobbledygook passes for edgy “thought” hereabouts.

    1. There was nothing contradictory in my post. Minimizing travel is desirable. People also have freedom of movement that only a tyrnnical dictatorship would seek to stop (Stalin big around here?).

    2. I’m not the one claiming the water car works. A Japanese firm demonstrated it for the world press. I qualified in my statement that I was skeptical, yet hopeful it could work.

    3. As that one critic has no idea what ice cores even are, perhaps he should do some research before chattering like a monkey about things he is blissfully unaware.

    4. Infantile rants about “greed” aren’t going to get you anywhere in the real world. Did a junior high school stumble across Marx? Is that what happened here?

    5. I also mentioned tide generation, of which there are numerous designs possible. No one seems to care. Yeah, Fuck Greed!!!!

    http://crimesofthestate.blogspot.com/

  10. JBPM said on July 22nd, 2008 at 12:09pm #

    John D,

    I hadn’t heard about the 31,000 scientists and their petition before, so I went online to read more about it. Turns out that the “31,000 scientist” claim is only correct if we redefine the terms “31,000″ and “scientist.”

    According to the Global Warming Petition Project website itself (http://www.petitionproject.org/gwdatabase/GWPP/Qualifications_Of_Signers.html), only 9,021 of the signers hold PhDs, and the nature of those PhDs is unspecified.

    2,200 are MDs and DVMs (I didn’t know that being a veterinarian was the same as being a climate scientist).

    12,000 — one third of the “scientist” signatories — only have bachelor’s degrees. I didn’t realize that my 15 year old BA in biology made me a “scientist.”

    What’s even more “funny” is that the website claims that these degrees (including the BAs) “suitably qualify them [the signatories] to evaluate the research data related to the petition statement.” So according to these folks, not only does my BA make me a “scientist,” it also makes me qualified to speak out against the consensus of actual scientists with PhDs and plenty of research experience with actual climate science.

    Crazy.

  11. john wilkinson said on July 23rd, 2008 at 4:58am #

    “…has allowed predatory SPECULATORS in the market who buy up Oil Futures and hold them only to release those commodities when that price is at it’s highest profit margin, and that price spike is created by their action of holding and shorting the market.”

    Again the BS about the speculators. How do they “hold” these commodities, the huge quantities if they are to make any difference in price, to sell them later? Where are the holding facilities (i.e., huge tank farms holding BILLIONS of barrels of oil), the huge fleets of tanker trucks, etc. located, all in the name of “Mr. Speculator”? Can you show me that?

    And how does “shorting” the market cause price spikes? Up until we enter your “progressive” world where fantasy is proclaimed a “fact”, shorting always leads to price depression. Do you even know what shorting means?

    The speculators are a drop in the bucket. Look at the NUMBERS as to how much oil they’re responsible for (the oil that is NEVER taken out of the market, as there are NO holding facilities), vs. the total worldwide supply/demand (i did in response to a july 5 article by blum and jun 25 article by whitney). But numbers and real “facts” are anathema to “progressives”. It’s better to spout favorite theories of how the world SHOULD work.

    You’re right about the falling dollar. The other factor is instability in the Persian gulf. And there could be others, probably less influential. But the “speculators” are next to nothing — not because I like the banks (which are blamed for speculation w/o any proof) — I don’t, but because the numbers and the facts fall where they do.

  12. john wilkinson said on July 23rd, 2008 at 5:03am #

    “…that price is at it’s highest profit margin…”

    and learn some grammar.

  13. john wilkinson said on July 23rd, 2008 at 5:34am #

    the ones posting here should explain their posts instead of referring us elsewhere. i am not going to go chasing across the web. i’m not looking for a PhD thesis, but something to see if what you’re saying passes the “reasonableness” test. how does this “water car” supposedly work? sounds like a perpetual motion machine, or a marketing gimmick, calling some prosaic thing (e.g., a hydrogen car) something else. in any case, silver bullets are rare and far between in technology, unless some totally new principle was discovered — which principle does this car work on?

    what is the mechanism for the (relatively little) increase in world temperature causing a huge increase in carbon dioxide? and how can you tell relatively short lags in time, how can you tell which came first with our dating techniques?

    as for the the tides generation, that idea is nothing new, has been around for “generations”. yes, sounds so simple. again, there are no silver bullets. the reason we don’t have huge tide facilities supplying oodles of power is that the devil is in the details, people have worked on the concept and found it not to be feasible — maybe economically, maybe there’s some technology bottleneck. not to say it won’t become feasible with breakthroughs in technology (which technology i don’t know, as i know next to nothing about this, but i know how the process works in energy technologies). there’s no vast conspiracy against tides, or solar, etc., they’re simply not feasible on large scale yet (unless heavily subsidized as in germany). just like there were no conspiracies against hydro (which is a form of solar).

    the telecommuting is a great idea and would lead also to an increased “happiness index”.

  14. Michael Dawson said on July 23rd, 2008 at 10:18am #

    John D. is obviously some kind of “libertarian,” and a 911 conspiracist to boot. Hence, it’s no surprise he knows no science and can’t even follow a basic argument.

    Tide generation has about as much chance of working as does the water car. It takes about 10 minutes of inquiry into real sources to learn that the amount of energy it would take to build, maintain, and repair tide generators exceeds their energy output. Again, that’s remedial science.

    Americans have by far the least freedom of movement in the rich world. That’s also a sheer fact.

    But facts don’t penetrate John’s world, obviously.

    P.S. How does one “telecommute” to the only jobs the glorious private sector is creating — waiter, prep cook, medical assistant, cashier? “Telecommuting” is a myth for suckers.