Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Al Gore Says Obama Could Have Had A Climate Bill, Warns Shale Gas 'May Be A Bridge To Nowhere'

Al Gore's new book, The Future, isn't mostly about climate change. In fact, global warming is only one of the "Six drivers of global change."

Others drivers include globalization, the internet (surprise, surprise) and "the reinvention of life and death" from the genomic, biotech, neuroscience, and life sciences revolutions.

Any Gore book is worth reading - Our Choice is one of the best books on climate solutions - and The Future is no exception. Let me cut to the chase on climate and energy.

In his discussion of why the climate bill failed after passing the U.S. House, Gore takes a different view of one recent academic essay and slams the White House:

... the obsolete and dysfunctional rules of the U.S. Senate empowered a minority to kill it in that chamber. Senators in both parties said privately that passage of the climate plan might have been within reach but it seemed to them that President Obama was not prepared to make the all-out effort that would have been necessary to build a coalition in support of the plan. Earlier, he had chosen to make healthcare reform his number one priority, and the badly broken U.S. political system produced a legislative gridlock on his health plan that lasted until the midterm campaign season began, leaving no time for even Senate discussion of the climate change issue.

By then, Obama and his political team in the White House had apparently long since made a sober assessment of the political risks involved in states where the power of the fossil fuel industries would punish him for committing himself to the passage of this plan. So, instead, when his opponents in Congress took up the cry "drill, baby, drill," the president proposed expansion of oil drilling-even in the Arctic Ocean-and opened up more public land to coal mining. For these and other reasons, the positive impacts of the energy and climate proposals with which he began his presidency were nearly overwhelmed by his sharp turn toward a policy that he described as an "all of the above" approach-one that has contributed to the increased reliance on carbon-rich fossil fuels.


Gore has a long discussion on one new source of fossil fuels in particular, natural gas from fracking. The whole discussion is thoughtful and well worth reading.

Here is what the Nobel-Prize winning former VP concludes:

Years ago I was among those who recommended the greater use of conventional natural gas as a bridge fuel to phase out coal use more quickly while solar and wind technologies were produced at sufficient scale to bring their price down even more. However, it is increasingly clear that the net effect of shale gas on the environment may ultimately be inconsistent with its use as a bridge fuel. Global society as a whole would find it difficult to make the enormous investments necessary to switch from coal to gas, and then turn right around and make equally significant investments to substitute were nubile technologies for gas. It strains credulity. In other words, it may be a bridge to nowhere.

Again, precisely.

So many recent futurist books ignore or downplay the polar bear in the room, which isn't a mistake Gore makes. I highly recommend The Future as one of the most comprehensive and readable books on the subject written in recent years.

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