The Liberal news media (as well as numerous left-wing blogs and PAC’s) are talking up Al Gore’s speech today as something roughly equivalent to John F. Kennedy’s ‘space challenge’ (the goal of which was to put a man on the moon in 10 years).
Even liberal estimates of the potential for utilizing wind, solar, and geothermal power believe that with breakneck capital investment and huge technology gains (as well as a corresponding drop in manufacturing costs), it will be a miracle if we can use renewable, non-polluting energy to supply us with 15% of our energy needs. Vaclav Smil’s expansive and exhaustive exploration of this, Energy at the Crossroads is a great study of this.
The entire problem seems to be that people believe that it is perfectly reasonable to expect that the United States will continue not have to trade off any consumption in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. This is wrong. Al Gore should be challenging American citizens to reduce their use of electricity and gasoline by 40% by 2018, not encouraging the energy companies (who work at their own pace, and are only motivated by market forces and government incentives, two things that are not in the hands of American people).
The hard truth of the energy crisis and the onset of global warming is that we cannot sustain the same levels of energy consumption as we have in the past. It’s irresponsible and impossible, especially with the ascendancy of China and India as consumer economies. It will be upsetting for many Americans, but the time will come when neither the government nor the market will be able to permit a family of three to live in a 2,500 sq. ft. house that is maintained at a cheerful 72 degrees all year around by air conditioning and heating. It simply cannot continue. Transportation costs will skyrocket and unless public transportation can catch up (which it will not be able to) people will have to abandon their suburban lives in order to live closer to where they work.
This is not a responsible energy challenge, Mr. Gore. It’s another irresponsible, cavalier response to a problem that so far no one has had the gall to say what every knows about it: we have to limit consumption, because technology won’t save us this time.