Al Gore, one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, was noticeably nonpartisan in challenging the nation to wean itself entirely from fossil fuels and move to alternative energy to produce all electricity within 10 years.
Gore not only said he had had substantive conversations about global warming with Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, he also made a point of opening his speech in Washington by thanking Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman who is the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee.
"I appreciate your open mind and serious approach," said Gore, Bill Clinton's vice president for eight years, the 2000 Democratic nominee, and the Nobel Peace Prize winner last year for his work on global warming.
Gore's politically ecumenical approach is intentional. He said to solve such a huge, complex issue as climate change, US leaders must get outside the normal partisan framework.
"The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk," Gore declared. "....The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels."
Instead, Gore called for vastly expanding the use of wind and solar power and other renewable sources to generate 100 percent of US electricity needs. "This goal is achievable," he said.
But he acknowledged the hurdles in an interview with the Associated Press previewing his speech, which he described as the latest and most important phase in his effort to build public opinion in favor of alternative fuels.
The Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan group he leads, estimates the cost of transforming the US to clean electricity sources at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money. But he says it would cost about as much to build greenhouse gas-polluting coal plants to satisfy current demand.
"This is an investment that will pay itself back many times over," Gore told the AP. "It's an expensive investment but not compared to the rising cost of continuing to invest in fossil fuels."
UPDATE: Obama issued this statement through his campaign: “For decades, Al Gore has challenged the skeptics in Washington on climate change and awakened the conscience of a nation to the urgency of this threat. I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power and advanced biofuels, and those are the investments I will make as President. It’s a strategy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced, and one that will leave our children a world that is cleaner and safer.”
McCain is also calling for reducing dependence on foreign oil, but his plan includes an expansion of nuclear power as well as wind and solar.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.