Al Gore has problems. The carbon tax idea died. Obama is opposed to it.
Then there is natural gas. America has a lot of it. It’s clean. It’s cheap. But its use releases carbon dioxide. The horror!
Everywhere he looks, the public is ignoring his message. Voters don’t think earth is in the balance. Politicians think he is slightly unbalanced. He is yesterday’s crisis, yesterday’s candidate, yesterday’s news.
On the carbon tax
Those of us that hold out some hope that we will find a way to get a price on carbon, and know there are multiple ways to do it, have felt that the convergence of the fiscal cliff and the climate cliff could produce some surprising results. And there have been some private comments by some Republicans to that effect. But certainly that’s something you wouldn’t wanna bet money on in Vegas.
On his lack of credibility.
Q. Do you worry that you getting out in front of this might brand it in a certain way —
A. Well, they come after anybody who speaks up in favor of doing something on climate. It’s not going to surprise any of them that I’m in favor of it. I’ve said it on practically a daily basis for years and years.
On being out of touch with politics
First of all, I don’t agree that it is stuck in the U.S. I really don’t. I think there is a great deal of movement beneath the surface. I run into people all the time who are former deniers, former opponents of doing anything on climate who are saying, “Look, this is just getting too weird. It’s clear that this is going on, we’ve got to do something.” Now, we’re not at the tipping point, but we’re much closer than we have been.
I’ve said this before and I really do believe it’s true: Changes like this don’t occur in a linear way. The potential for change builds up, unmanifested, until it reaches a critical mass. You don’t always see it coming. There are plenty of examples of that. I believe we’re seeing just that kind of movement just beneath the surface here in the U.S. . . .
I’m not saying we’re right on the tipping point. I know better than that. But neither do I think it’s accurate to say that we’re stuck in neutral. I don’t think we are.
On being out of touch with economics
In many areas, renewables, particularly solar and wind, are competitive. Not everywhere by a long shot, but in a growing number of areas. That in itself drives a certain tipping point, because when utilities are confronted with a better bargain, even with all the regulatory morass, they do make changes. We’ve seen 166 coal plants close. Yes, [natural] gas is a big part of it, but so is the impact of renewables on the margin. And that margin’s getting wider and wider all the time.
On natural gas
I’m concerned about methane leakage — the fact that it’s a valuable commodity and they have an incentive to capture it hasn’t stopped the leakage. Particularly in the fracking process, when they pull the fluids out, there’s just a huge outgassing. There are still leaks throughout the production and distribution chain, and the magnitude may well be sufficient to outweigh any CO2 advantage that you would otherwise gain.
I do worry that we could make such a legacy investment in gas infrastructure that the nation’s appetite for making a second conversion would be severely diminished. But I weigh that against the inherent market power of the cost down-curve for solar and wind reaching the point where utilities — and homeowners, and business owners — simply can’t say no to it, even if we’re in the middle of the bridge substitution strategy.
On the Keystone pipeline
I know the realpolitik and business perspective is to say, “It’s gonna come out no matter what,” but I don’t buy that. We have a planetary emergency. I know it drives some people nuts when I say that, but dammit, that’s what we face. We have to take that reality on board. . . .
And let me answer the first part of that question — you’re probably not in as much suspense about that one. I am strongly opposed to that tar-sands pipeline. I think it’s crazy. Again, you have the realpolitik/business logic, but I just think it is morally wrong for us to open a brand new source of even dirtier carbon-based energy when we are desperately trying to bend down the curves.
On the future of civilization
I understand why a lot of people think it’s unrealistic in the extreme for one of these things to be slowed down or stopped. But you know, if you take that position, then you are inherently saying, “Well, it’s not that unrealistic to destroy the future of human civilization.”