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.