Former Vice President Al Gore last week challenged the nation to produce all of its electricity through renewable resources within 10 years, a goal that he said the next president should embrace. His announcement followed a call by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which urged the next president and Congress to set a strategic long-term energy policy for the United States.

“I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously,” Gore told an audience Thursday at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. “Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse; gasoline prices are increasing dramatically and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly. The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse — much more quickly than predicted.”

Presumptive presidential nominees Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain both are “way ahead of most politicians in understanding global climate change,” Gore told the audience. However, U.S. dependence on foreign oil has created “a new political environment” that requires major steps to wean the country from fossil fuels.

“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet,” Gore said. “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.”

The Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan group led by Gore, estimated that the cost to transform the United States to “clean” electricity sources would be $1.5-3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money. Gore noted that it would cost nearly as much to build more fossil fuel power plants to meet current U.S. demand.

In an open letter to Congress and the next president last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy unveiled 13 “fundamental pillars” to build the foundation for a new energy policy.

“We are long overdue for energy solutions that will keep our nation on track and our economy strong,” said Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. “We are building the ideas and the support to help our elected officials move forward in a constructive way.”

A group of 27 current and former government officials and industry leaders joined the chamber to urge the country’s future political leadership to expand the U.S. supply of affordable fuel and power from traditional and alternative sources, bolster energy efficiency and expand and modernize energy infrastructure. The group includes former secretaries of energy, state, defense, commerce and treasury; former members of congress and national security experts.

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who earlier this month unveiled “the Pickens Plan” to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil (see NGI, July 14), called the chamber’s announcement “meaningless” and said Gore’s plan would not end U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

“My plan is aimed squarely at breaking the stranglehold that foreign oil has on our country and the $700 billion annual impact it has on our economy,” Pickens said. “We import 70% of our oil and that number is growing larger every year. Vice President Gore’s plan does not address this enormous problem; it is clear that he and I have two different objectives and our plans should be viewed with that in mind.” Of Gore’s plan, Pickens asked, “Will it slash oil imports by at least 30% in 10 years? Does it rely 100% on domestic energy resources? Does it rely on existing and proven technologies? Can it be on line within 10 years? Can it be done by private investment?”

For a full copy of Gore’s speech, visit To view the chamber’s plan and its 13-point platform, visit

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