Friday, July 18, 2008

Al Gore, the Vexatious One

Al_Gore_17_Jul_2008 At the risk of inflaming everyone who visits this blog, we have to say that Al Gore has proven to be an extraordinarily impressive political figure, genus ex-vice president, subgenus freelance public servant. Democrats seem to corner the market in high-profile freelancing – think Jimmy Carter, heck think Eleanor Roosevelt – so their priorities tend to get a boost when a directive issues forth from their perches.

We see nothing wrong with this (aside from wanting analogous Republican figures, though Reps may bridle at the showboat aspects of it) – we always hope politicians have public service in mind when they stand for election and there’s no reason at all for them not to continue in service after their terms are over. We’re even fairly sanguine about those who represent a constituency without ever having been elected – think Jesse Jackson or even Elizabeth Edwards. If the downside is the potential of demagoguery at worst and mischief otherwise, the upside is that a Gore or Jackson can say and do impolitic things in order to promote issues otherwise ignored or shunted to the side. (Yes, yes, we know, speaking of impolitic, about Jackson’s recent comments.)

How, then, do you spell success for a freelancer? With Gore, it was with a movie and a Nobel Prize, the former overriding his fabled woodenness with a genial if urgent approach to climate change issues and the latter conferring enormous credibility.

All this is prelude to point you at Gore’s energy speech, praise for it from candidates McCain and Obama, and any of the 1000+ news stories written about it in the last day (no link: put “Gore energy speech” into your search engine of choice).

We’d actually recommend you visit the New York Times Dot Earth blog for an annotated version of the speech. Lots of nuclear energy mentions there, if only in the annotations. You can even add your own annotations. In the speech, Gore, as always, mentions nuclear energy, er, never. But later, speaking with the AP’s Dina Capiello:

[Gore said] his plan counts on nuclear power plants still providing about a fifth of the nation's electricity while the U.S. dramatically increases it's use of solar, wind, geothermal energy and clean coal technology. He said one of the largest obstacles will be updating the nation's electricity grid to harness power from solar panels, windmills and dams and transport it to cities.

Nuclear energy still inflames at least some of the groups Gore wants to speak to, so he slides it a bit under the table. We don’t find Gore’s wanting to mix nuclear with wind, solar and the rest objectionable at all. We’d just like to hear him say it out loud and in front of an audience – after all, it is part of his plan, even if his preference would be to see nuclear decline as photovoltaic cells dot the landscape and windmills remind people what it’s like to live near an airport.

Is Gore a dangerous figure for increased use of nuclear energy? We don’t think so – Gore resides in the realm of advocacy and influence, but practical solutions will be implemented by government and industry. Nuclear energy accomplishes much of what Gore wants to do without pulling the rug out from other carbon-free energy industries. This pleases enough different constituencies to allow all a seat at the table (or a place at the trough, depending on your perspective) and still gives Gore significant credit (or discredit, again depending etc…) for causing the issue to hop to the top of the pops. We do owe him that.

Picture of himself. It’s all Gore all the time on Meet the Press this Sunday. Check your local listings.

6 comments:

KevinM said...

Nice try. Al Gore: no friend of nuclear energy.

You can't give credit to someone who's only your friend when his other friends aren't looking.

djysrv said...

Al Gore's moon shot speech for solar and wind

Good analysis, bad advice

Former vice president Al Gore gave a high profile speech in Washington, DC, on Thursday July 17 in which he called for conversion of all U.S. electricity generation to solar, wind, and other renewable resources within 10 years. In it he compared his goal to that of President John F. Kennedy who called for putting a man on the moon within a decade.

Just about any politician worth his salt knows that making promises that live in the future, especially well beyond the next election, are an easy sell. Gore knows, from experience, that ten years is about the lifetime of any big idea because it is within the grasp of two senate terms and the political lifetime of a two-term president. So it makes sense to package a super size vision inside of a practical time line. That's one of the few things he gets right.

Full details at Idaho Samizdat
http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2008/07/al-gore-moon-shot-speech-for-solar-and.html

Rod Adams said...

As you noted, former Vice President Gore left nuclear power out of his call to action speech.

On Friday, July 17, he also had an interview with Katie Couric of CBS news who asked him about nuclear power. Here is a transcript of that segment of the interview:

Couric: “What about nuclear power, because countries like France get something like 75-80% of their power from nuclear?”

Gore: “France is unique, it’s a special case. We have a lot of nuclear plants in the US. Listen, I’m not anti-nuclear. I’m a little skeptical that it’s going to play a much bigger role than it does now. I think it’ll continue to play a role, but the problems with nuclear are it’s very expensive, it takes a long time to build and these nuclear plants only come in one size, extra large. And the utilities do not want to commit all that money for fifteen years to get a plant that’s rising in cost. And of course the fuel also has some problems because if it gets out to other countries that can’t be trusted it feeds the problem of proliferating nuclear weapons.”

Couric: “Do you also worry about nuclear plants being potential targets for terrorists?”

Gore: (hesitant) “Yes. (stuttering a bit) I, myself, I don’t think of that as a bar to nuclear power because there are a lot of things that are potential targets and we need to equip ourselves to protect them. It’s one of the problems, for sure. The nuclear waste storage issue is one of the problems. But I think that the bigger problems are the cost, the long time for construction, and also the problem that if other countries make a massive commitment to it we make the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation worse.”

Aside from a discussion of nuclear power, one more thing that was missing from Gore’s speech and from his WeCanSolveIt.org web site is any disclosure that Mr. Gore’s current professional activity is as a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

His specific portfolio is their GreenTech industry investments, so he has a very strong financial interest in getting American taxpayers to support a massive shift to alternative energy systems. I have no beef with capitalists, but I expect people like Gore to know that they should disclose their financial interests when engaging in a campaign like WeCanSolveit.org.

Finrod said...

"...and also the problem that if other countries make a massive commitment to it we make the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation worse.”"

It strikes me that the horse has already bolted on that one.

Anonymous said...

Commercial nuclear power plants (such as the LWR designs from Westinghouse, GE, Areva, etc.) are NOT a weapons proliferation risk. Al Gore knows that - or should know that.

The best thing we can do is take HEU and weapons grade plutonium, downblend them and use then in commercial reactors. In that fashion they will no longer be available for weapons use.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no sale here. Gore is not a nuclear advocate, and we're deluding ourselves if we think he is. If he were, he'd be talking about it. As it is, he never mentions nuclear, unless pressed, and then his answers are ambiguous if anything.

You people at NEI sure pick some strange people to have crushes on, Al Gore, Ralph Nader, and the like. These are NOT friends of nuclear energy.