Sometimes if you look to far ahead you miss what is front of your nose!
Al Gore’s call for the Unites States to convert to a 100% renewable energy portfolio within 10 years would be a great goal if it were realizable. One big problem stands in the way of such a plan. Large scale energy production is produced to match demand. But to rely on wind or solar power we would need to have massive storage capacity for energy to be available for use when there is no wind or sun. This is not a trivial problem. It is not an insoluble problem. But it is going to take scientific innovation and experimentation to solve – neither of which can be guaranteed to produce a desired result on a fixed timetable anymore than the cure for cancer or AIDS. None of this would matter were it not the fact that we pay an enormous price by focusing on Gore’s plan. For in doing so, we risk becoming sidetracked from the immediate priority – putting the developed world (and especially the United States) on a serious diet to wean it from its high per capita energy consumption and associated green-house gas emissions. That is what both Obama and McCain have indicated support for in their campaigns. Pushing U.S. consumption down by 20% of 2006 green-house gas levels by 2020 is a doable goal. Going on from there to an 80% (or even a 90%) reduction of 2006 green-house gas levels is going to be a challenge that is plausible, because it is not unreasonable to think that both massive storage capacity and carbon capture and sequestration will be mastered over the next 40 years – although here too there is no guarantee. But none of this is going to happen without a focus on the need for far reaching, binding legislation in the United States in the coming year. China and the rest of the world have a right to demand this before addressing their own long term energy planning.