Al Gore recently appealed to the competitive nature of the US as a market driven society with an energy challenge that calls for a complete shift to renewables in the entire electricity sector. The former Vice President and Nobel laureate is raising the bar with the goal of total carbon-free wind, solar and geothermal power by 2018. Part of the vision includes powering electric vehicles (as truly emissions free), but the ambitious plan would transcend through transportation and ripple throughout the green building industry and beyond. With elections on the near horizon and a push to drill for yet more oil, Gore’s challenge is as timely as it is clear: in order to transcend an unsustainable existence, we need to transform our energy outlook.
The challenge is not just about controlling carbon emissions, although this is of course a priority. Gore’s vision is a far reaching idea that addresses not only energy independence but also seeks to alleviate the economic, political and social turmoil connected to our fossil fuel dependence. At this moment in history, the most effective way to solve the overwhelming issues around the globe is to stop contributing to the cycle by stepping up renewable energy production.
Although the challenge is directed towards America’s leaders, it is a call to “all Americans in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers and to every citizen.” Already industry leaders are balking at the feasibility of letting go of coal which currently represents about 50% of the US’s electric power, and is a huge contributor to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. But the challenge has been tossed into the arena, and even if industry drags and lags, individuals can meet the challenge head on.
Hopefully with the changing of the guard in American politics in January, we will see a large and important shift in government policy on energy in the near future. However, if we have any hope of meeting this challenge in 10 years, consumers and designers are going to have to take matters into their own hands and start thinking about renewable energy on an individual level. Big energy companies are going to be the last to make the move to renewable energy, so WE NEED TO START DEMANDING THIS ON AN INDIVIDUAL LEVEL in order to facilitate any change.
Some of the best things you can do as a consumer are to investigate personal renewable energy alternatives like solar panels, wind turbines, and natural daylighting, as well as signing up for and demanding renewable energy from your electricity provider. If we all work together this goal really is achievable and we will all be better off (economically, politically and environmentally) in the long run.