REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY AL GORE
ENERGY SECURITY AND ENVIRONMENT TRUST
I’m so pleased to be here at Trigen -- where you are harnessing new forms of energy, and in the process, thriving as a business and creating good new jobs for America.
This building was a seedbed of 20th Century progress. In fact, Thomas Edison himself helped to develop its original power system. And now this place is at the cutting-edge of the new energy technology we need for our new prosperity.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been talking about the big choices we have to make to secure even greater prosperity, and even greater progress, as we begin the 21st Century.
The American people have a right to be proud of what they did in the past eight years. Because of their hard work -- and because we made the right choices with the Clinton-Gore economic strategy, to unleash their creativity -- we are now living in the longest period of economic growth in the entire history of America, which of course began right here in this city, 224 years ago next week.
Everybody knows: we're better off today than we were four years ago, or 224 years ago.
And this is my message today: you ain’t seen nothing yet. I know in my heart that the benchmark of American creativity can be even higher.
There can be a next stage of prosperity in which American creativity builds not just a better product -- but also a healthier planet. A next stage of progress in which it is an every-day accomplishment for Americans to develop path-breaking technologies that create millions of high-wage jobs, clean up the environment, and combat global warming at the same time. A next stage of prosperity and progress in which we encourage and support the Thomas Edisons of tomorrow -- and empower them to build a better, cleaner, more prosperous world.
We can now harness that uniquely American power of innovation. We will say to the nation's inventors and entrepreneurs: if you invest in these new technologies, America will invest in you.
And we will prove, once and for all, that we can clean up pollution, make our power systems more efficient and more reliable, and move away from dependence on others -- all with no new taxes, no new bureaucracies, and no onerous regulations. In fact, we will cut taxes to help families and businesses buy the clean technology of the future.
At the core of this next-stage prosperity is one of our oldest and most enduring American values: independence. Our nation's energy resources should not be so overly reliant on others, so subject to shortages, or so vulnerable to big oil interests trampling on the public interest.
We are Americans; we should plan ahead so that we can do what we have always taken as a right -- turn on our engines and get where we want to go, with nobody’s permission. Our next-stage prosperity must be built on our ability to make sure Americans will be free forever from the dominance of big oil and foreign oil.
All of you who drove to work today know that the cost of gasoline is simply too high for America's working families. In the first part of this year, oil company profits increased nearly 500 percent. That’s why I’ve called for a federal investigation of concentration, non-competitiveness, and pricing practices in the oil industry. Now that the investigation has started, I would like to call for public hearings so the voices of American consumers can be heard.
But now is also the time to recognize that the challenge we face is even broader than soaring gasoline prices. We see the same underlying problem in our aging power systems that are becoming less reliable. And we see it in the old engines and power plants that waste so much energy and in doing so create way too much pollution -- that makes our air unhealthy, and our world warmer.
But we don't have to accept a future of more pollution. We don't have to accept a future where kids and grandparents have to stay indoors on a muggy day, and where the days themselves get muggier still.
Here’s the good news: we have the means and the technology to meet all these challenges. Because of American ingenuity and invention – because of the remarkable strides that are being made by our leading companies and our leading scientists – we stand today on a new frontier of energy independence and environmental protection.
It is time to abandon old ways of thinking that hold us back. For example, it's an old, timid way of thinking to say that we have to trade off our economy and our environment; it is a new, bold way of thinking to see that environmental protection can actually fuel economic growth.
It is an old, timid way of thinking to accept the inevitability of dirty power plants, or electricity generators where most of the energy is wasted -- and consumers have to foot the bill. It is a new, bold way of thinking to invest in cleaner, more reliable power which safeguards our air as it saves on monthly utility bills.
It is an old, timid way of thinking to build our lives and livelihoods around a fuel source that is distant, uncertain, and easily manipulated; it is a new, bold way of thinking to demand and develop new technologies to free ourselves from gas-tank price-gouging.
It is an old, timid way of thinking to suggest that those who put the good of the Earth at the heart of the American dream are somehow outside the mainstream. It is new, bold thinking to realize that the mainstream has shifted like a mighty river. Now, at the dawn of the 21st Century, the great groundswell of American citizens, homemakers, school children, workers, CEO’s and entrepreneurs – people who care about the Earth, and who are calling on those in the halls of power to find new solutions to protect our well-being in relation to the environment -- they are the true American majority, the new American mainstream.
These past eight years, we have shattered the old way of thinking. Just look at our progress:
While our economy has grown, we have raised, not lowered, the standards for the water our children drink.
While we have led the world in job creation, we have toughened, not weakened, our standards to reduce air pollution, so that one day, kids who are now getting asthma might breathe free.
While our production has expanded, we have cleaned up more, not less, toxic waste in our neighborhoods.
On behalf of our people and our nation, I will not let us be dragged backward.
The next President better be willing to hear the voices of the new mainstream; to understand what leadership looks like in this new era – and be willing to lead. I ask for your support, to provide that leadership.
If you believe those who cling to timid, old ways of thinking, who say there is no alternative to breathing more air pollution if we are to have the freedom of the highway -- and no alternative to emptying our wallets each time we try to get there -- then I’d like to tell you a story about what America can do.
Just before the turn of the last century, as our cities grew, they faced an environmental challenge: the massive proliferation of horses and horse-drawn carriages. It was potentially a serious crisis: feed lots were crowding out farm land. And I'm told that other problems also mounted up. Then American inventors came up with the answer: the motorized carriage -- soon known as the automobile. Of course, this quickly grew into a major industry, employing millions of Americans and leading the world in yet another benchmark of creativity and well-being.
Then, decades later, when smog increasingly shadowed our great cities, we decided it was time to reduce the pollution from automobiles. And once again, those who clung to timid, old ways of thinking said it couldn't be done. But they underestimated what American genius can achieve.
The solution was the invention of a small device called a catalytic converter, now put into every car. Today, as a result, automobiles produce 90 percent less pollution. That’s a big part of the reason why Los Angeles went an entire summer last year without a single full-scale smog alert. And that's also why America leads the world in yet another industry -- exporting billions of dollars worth of catalytic converters.
And that’s just the beginning of what we can do – from transportation, to power plants, to industry.
We are close to the day when Americans can buy cars with new fuel cells that truly revolutionize fuel efficiency. We’ve worked for this in a public-private partnership with our leading auto makers. The only emission from these cars will be water; they create no greenhouse gases at all -- which means they combat global warming. And lest you think that this is a pie-in-the-sky prediction many years from the market, one version on display at this year’s auto show got over 100 miles per gallon -- and we learned just last week that buses powered by this technology will be driving on America’s city streets within two short years.
Nearly a decade ago, when I wrote “Earth in the Balance” critics rushed to assail the idea that we could create cleaner, more efficient cars, and end our dependence on the internal combustion engine over a period of, say, 25 years.
Today, I have to admit: I was wrong. Now, because of American innovation, our auto executives and workers believe we can do it in less than 25 years -- while preserving and creating good jobs.
It’s not just the auto industry that is leading the way in the right direction. Here at this plant, you are producing power that is more than twice as efficient as the average power plant. And you have cut your greenhouse emissions in half. Your business is thriving.
Something similar is happening at Maytag, in Newton, Iowa. I met and talked with the people who work there. When Maytag’s profits started sagging, they went back to the drawing board and invented a new washing machine that conserves energy and saves nearly 7,000 gallons of water every year -- more water than an average person drinks in a lifetime. That one product helped to increase Maytag’s home appliance sales by 25 percent -- and profits soared.
Today, I'm proposing that we invest in even more of this kind of innovation and industry; that we cut taxes so families and small businesses can afford to buy the cars and products of the future; and that we work with private industry to develop not just a new generation of vehicles, but a new generation of light rail and mass transit, and a new generation of cleaner, more reliable power systems.
Just over the horizon is a future where you can cool your home in the summertime, drive your car to pick up the kids after school, and light up your backyard for an evening barbecue -- all without using a single drop of oil or gasoline; all without lowering the quality of the air your children breathe.
Just over the horizon is a future where you can power your own home with solar energy, and then make money by selling some of the energy you generate back to the local utility. In fact, right here in Philadelphia there are families now doing just that.
This is the future we can all have. But it's not going to just happen on its own. It's something we have to make for ourselves -- together.
I know that some want to hold back this progress, and keep things just as they are -- with both pollution and energy prices rising every year. They argue that pollution is the price we somehow have to pay for prosperity. Maybe it's because they’re the ones who make their money by cutting corners, in refusing to take responsibility for the pollution that they dump on everybody else. They argue that protecting our Earth in ways that create jobs is simply impossible. They imply that even caring about the environment at all is "extreme."
These are the same apologists for pollution who also complain about high gasoline prices, after they've previously called for higher oil prices to raise industry profits still more. Let’s face it: one hundred years ago, they would have been the ones who tried to block the automobile as a threat to the horse and buggy industry.
I say to you today: at a time when America's automobile companies are developing products that can sharply reduce global warming -- at a time when energy efficiency is thriving at companies like this one and reviving the plants and factories where these new approaches are used -- it is those who stand in the way of progress who are "extreme." It is those who would continue to unnecessarily endanger our children with pollution who are "extreme."
Cutting pollution is valuable to our economy. But this is about more than the value of our economy; it’s about our values as a people. I want it to be said of us that we accepted responsibility for the choices that we made. On the economy, I want it to be said that we refrained from passing any debt of our own down to the next generation -- and that instead we used our prosperity to lift our own debt from the shoulders of our children's grandchildren, and all those who come after us.
Now we must do this in our environmental policies. After all, there is more than one kind of national debt. Pollution and energy dependence are also a borrowing from future generations. We should no more saddle our children and grandchildren with the expenses of cleaning up our pollution than we should saddle them with the burden of paying our bills.
Other peoples have left soaring cathedrals or magnificent masterpieces that speak to future centuries about their values and vision. Now, this present moment is ours. And the great gift that our generation can make to those who will look back at who we were and what we did is a legacy of creativity and boldness no smaller than the Earth itself. History is beckoning us to step up to this challenge. We dare not fail the future or our children's descendants. I will not let us fail.
Today, I’m proposing a new Energy Security and Environment Trust -- a bold and unprecedented commitment to achieve an even more prosperous economy, powered by cleaner, more reliable energy, in a healthy, truly livable environment.
First, we will modernize and improve our nation’s power systems -- to prevent future power outages before they affect you and your family.
We will ensure reliable and affordable electricity by providing new incentives to industry to improve our power lines.
And we will give special incentives to companies that want to use their own, more efficient power systems on-site -- or use renewable energy, such as wind or solar power.
Second, we will do more to protect our kids and our parents from the smog and soot that cause asthma.
One of the best ways we can do this is by giving new incentives to industry to transform dirty old power plants into modern, clean sources of energy. For that, we will need enforceable, market-based standards that are comprehensive instead of piecemeal. And we need to end monopolies, and instead let competition bring us clean energy and smaller energy bills.
We are blessed with abundant supplies of coal, petroleum, and natural gas; we have to use these resources wisely. With new technology, we can make all our energy sources cleaner, safer, and healthier for our families.
We will bring together the best minds from the private sector -- and create an open competition to design the best incentives for old power plants and industries to change, to improve, to modernize and move ahead. Through the power of free markets, we will take a dramatic step forward for our children’s health, which will also be a dramatic new step toward a stable climate.
Third, while we modernize our power systems and reduce pollution here at home, we must aggressively pursue the global market for new energy technology that is expected to reach $10 trillion in the next two decades, as other countries also take steps to overcome pollution and the threat of global warming.
As the world implements the Kyoto treaty, we must ensure that all developed and developing nations do their part.
Fourth, as we reduce America’s dependence on big oil and imported oil for the long term -- by finding new and better ways to produce clean, affordable, and reliable energy here in America -- we will work even more closely with industry and labor to bring cleaner cars, trucks, and buses to showrooms and streets around the world. This is a multi-hundred-billion-dollar industry; we've got to seize the lead, before Japan or any nation beats us to it.
Fifth, we will cut taxes so families can start buying those 100-mile-per-gallon cars as they hit the showrooms. Even the best innovations are of little use if they are stuck in a lab -- unaffordable and unattainable to you, your family, or your business. But tax credits can make them competitive and then mass production will bring the prices down even further.
We will also give tax credits so that it is not far-reaching fantasy to put a solar roof on your home, or to renovate your home to make it more energy-efficient, but an affordable and money-saving practicality.
We will also make major new investments in light rail and mass transit – to make your neighborhoods more livable, and to liberate families from having to buy gas at any price, if they’d really prefer not to.
Finally, we will do more than use the technologies of the future -- we as a nation will aggressively invest in the skill and creativity of the people who discover them, and the factory workers who produce them.
There will be no new bureaucracies; no new agencies or organizations, because the era of old government is over. We’ll measure performance carefully and ensure that we reach our goals with common-sense standards. But it is America’s innovators and entrepreneurs, investors and working men and women who will forge the real solutions -- not the federal government.
I know these challenges are not easy. And for me, they have never been without controversy. But my commitment to the environment has always run deeper than politics. We have to do what’s right for our Earth because it is the moral thing to do. It involves all of our lives -- from the simple security of having safe, reliable, affordable electricity for your home; to America's ability to keep building and selling the best new cars, trucks, and technology to the world; to guarding our children from the summer smog that is made worse by global warming, and securing for our grandchildren the expectation of a joyful array of seasons that we took for granted when we grew up ourselves.
In every age, America has proven wrong those who cling to the old, tired ways of doing things. We will prove them wrong again today.
When Americans work together, we can solve any problem, and master any challenge.
So if you believe in the American spirit of invention -- if you believe, as I do, that America can produce the cleanest, cheapest electricity in the world with far less pollution -- then join with me.
On behalf of our kids, who are counting on us to act like real adults when a serious environmental challenge faces them, we will take the White House this November.
If you believe, as I do, that it is just plain unacceptable for America to import nearly two-thirds of the oil we use; if you believe that the big oil companies should behave with a sense of public responsibility -- then join with me.
On behalf of our families and the good things we could bring them with the money we don't spend on exorbitant gas or electric prices, we will win this fight.
If you believe, as I do, that we can forge a future where not one of our mothers or fathers has to worry whether the water they give their children to drink or the air their children breathe is safe for them or toxic to them, then I need more than your support. I need your enthusiasm. I need your hard work. We have a mission to achieve -- in November and beyond.
If you allow yourselves to believe, without reservation, that we can do what’s right and be the better for it, then we will accomplish what we set our minds to do.
Join forces with me, and we will do the right thing -- and we will do it well. Thank you.
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