Creating irresistible demand
for a global atmosphere upgrade

Bruce Sterling's Viridian Design Movement


Viridian Note 00497 Al's Unified National Grid
by Bruce Sterling
Key concepts:
climate crisis, clean energy, Al Gore, federal policy proposals, Unified National Grid,, American politics, speech
Attention Conservation Notice:
It's a long speech by Al Gore annotated by the Viridian Pope-Emperor.

What I do when not sending Viridian notes: Gore: Make All US Electricity From Renewable Sources

(((Or, "American politician schemes to save civilization." It's curious how Al Gore's thinking repeatedly circles around nets and grids. This is one of his better net-and-grid concepts. It's an ambitious scheme, but certainly no more ambitious than his father's Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System, a scheme so modest and useful that, by the standards of the early Cold War, it almost vanished in the noise of other federal activity.)))

(((Gore refers repeatedly here to the weakness and the imperilled state of the American political system and its national government, and, yes, despite a huge, unilaterally powerful military force, the government of the USA is clearly very weak now, almost weak enough to drown in a bathtub.)))

(((On the other hand, there is no other prominent political figure from any other nation-state who is thinking this creatively. So, Al's got some right to frame his idea as a great last hope.)))

(((Objections to Al's idea cannot be framed as support of a status quo, because the status quo doesn't exist. Nor can it be framed as against a free market, as OPEC is a cartel. It needs be to be framed as the costs of doing something as opposed to the population-crushing costs of doing nothing.)))

July 17, 2008
A Generational Challenge to Repower America
(as prepared)
D.A.R. Constitution Hall
Washington, D.C.

by Al Gore

Ladies and gentlemen:

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes.

(((I would have wished that we could have eluded this kind of Churchillian sentiment by successfully making green very Viridian-sexy. Well, green is indeed sexier than hell now, that part the consumer society managed to understand. However, a scheme of Al's size probably can't be sexied-up into existence; it's too top-down and will have to be, uhm, voted for. It may also be direly necessary so, well, that's why he's Al and not the loveable guys at

Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment.

(((I wonder where Al plans to put the people who have stepped aside. The United States population didn't get into this much trouble for arbitrary reasons. If you look at the areas of the USA that merrily voted for Bush twice, you see a resurgent Confederate States of America that believes in states' rights, military adventures, bossism and fundamentalist Christianity, a weak and impoverished region that lacks organizational muscle and technocratic capacity. Eight years of their policies have led the former superpower to become as weak and unstable as the Confederacy. Where are they going to go? The last time they screwed up this badly, they were militarily conquered by fellow Americans and held at bayonet-point by Reconstruction carpetbaggers. For years.)))

The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more – if more should be required – the future of human civilization is at stake. (((It gives me little pleasure to see history repeatedly bearing Al out. If he actually were the ozone crank his enemies insisted he was, I'd sleep so much easier at night. By this time, though, the Ozone Man has taken on the vaporous, smoky proportions of Banquo's Ghost.)))

I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. (((What really bothers me is the gathering mayhem in modest, humble little peaceable societies that didn't do much of anything to deserve it.)))

Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

(((This is the point where I customarily make some kind of reference to the downfall of the Soviet Union, but just google "Collapsnik." The author was actually there during those circumstances and he's got a new book out. If you think black Russian humor is funny, this guy is hilarious.)))

The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse – much more quickly than predicted. (((The predictions were too conservative. Even Cassandra couldn't get it. This really needs to be seen as a failure of the scientific community. They let Stockholm syndrome from their political captors keep them from objectively following the facts. We need a much better scientific look-out system than the ramshackle, underpowered, all-volunteer one we've got.)))

Scientists with access to data from Navy submarines traversing underneath the North polar ice cap have warned that there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months. This will further increase the melting pressure on Greenland. According to experts, the Jakobshavn glacier, one of Greenland's largest, is moving at a faster rate than ever before, losing 20 million tons of ice every day, equivalent to the amount of water used every year by the residents of New York City.

Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world.

(((And even when "nations" no longer exist – when they're failed states and outside Al's Westaphalian system entirely – the climate crisis further destabilizes the already destabilized. It's not like a state collapses and then you get some kind of limbo; it's more like, a state collapses and you get permanent refugee flows a la the pre-Westphalian Thirty Years' War. The collapse of the USA would be start of the big troubles, not some kind of unimaginable bogey.)))

Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an "energy tsunami" that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn't it? (((Yes, Al, it certainly is. My house in Austin was hit by hail four times this spring.))) There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory, longer droughts, bigger downpours and record floods.

Unprecedented fires are burning in California and elsewhere in the American West. Higher temperatures lead to drier vegetation that makes kindling for mega-fires of the kind that have been raging in Canada, Greece, Russia, China, South America, Australia and Africa. (((It's great to hear him say this stuff to the face of the American political class, though it's rather like hearing Solzhenitzyn mournfully reciting the names of gulags.)))

Scientists in the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University tell us that for every one degree increase in temperature, lightning strikes will go up another 10 percent. (((Had a tree in my back yard destroyed by lightning recently. Wicked stuff, lighting.)))

And it is lightning, after all, that is principally responsible for igniting the conflagration in California today.

Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that's been worrying me. (((Well, so much for Kyoto. Remember my first Viridian speech, when I was prophesying that we'd be winding things up here by, at the very latest, 2012? Well, I always had it figured that Kyoto was kind of a weak-sister thing to do. It's like an unfunded Congressional mandate when what you really need to do is re-engineer the society's power base.)))

I'm convinced that one reason we've seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately – without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective – they almost always make the other crises even worse.

(((This is as close as a political system gets to design thinking. But, yeah: the fact that oil now costs arbitrary amounts of American dollars changes everything. The environment is always somebody else's problem – it belongs to the "globe" – but add financial crisis and military failure and you've got the recipe for 1989-style upheaval.)))

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges – the economic, environmental and national security crises.

We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change. (((I want to see the Murdoch Wall Street Journal and the K Street crowd disagreeing with this. "No, Al, no –- we're pro on mortaging the America's future to the Communists so as to enrich the Arabs! It's the all-American way!")))

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we're holding the answer to all of them right in our hand. The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels. (((Or, alternately, to freeze naked in the unravelled ruins of our Chinese-made sweater while bowing the knee to oil shieks, which would be the robust "free-market" solution.)))

In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of "solutions summits" with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. (((Al actually talks to scientists. Furthermore, he understands what they say. Thats why he keeps miraculously re-appearing in American political life on the factual side of large arguments.)))

In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

(((Actually, wars in the Persian Gulf have been boiling along for millennia with or without fossil fuels, but I think one can make the good point that it's not absolutely necessary to go there and lose them.)))

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home? (((Then we'd probably get whiplashed by Enron gaming the gas pipelines while they still could. They don't do that now because Enron is dead. We'll never be safe while American oil majors are in power.)))

We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. (((If somebody could store it. I love solar, but man, it sure is starting from a small base.)))

(((On the other hand, if Chinese Communists can turn a blasted, overpopulated brain-dead wasteland into a planetary megamall in a generation, jeez, anything's possible.)))

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of U.S. electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses. (((I've had solar power on my roof ever since Al's long-vanished "Million Solar Roofs" initiative. That's paleolithic solar compared to the stuff that's around now, but hey, it's been up there piping fume-free voltage ever since.)))

But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation's problems, we need a new start.

That's why I'm proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. (((I can't believe that any nation-state is gonna control its destiny when the global sky overhead is poisoned, but Al's a nationalist and a patriot, so, what the heck, at least he's doing more than whining on his globalized email list.)))

It's not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. (((Technical note here: Al doesn't say that all American energy is carbon-free – he says the electrical grid becomes carbon-free. This is plausible. France's grid is 80 percent carbon free – because it's nuclear.)))

This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans – in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen. (((Well, if Kyoto internationalism won't do it, maybe American nationalism will do it. Failing that, it'll be down to states, and also cities, and, eventually, climate-refugee shanty camps where they haul their broken solar power panels along with their corrugated tin roofs.)))

A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But here's what's changed: the sharp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power – coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal – have radically changed the economics of energy.

When I first went to Congress 32 years ago, (((Al is old, and he's even become kind of wise))) I listened to experts testify that if oil ever got to $35 a barrel, then renewable sources of energy would become competitive. Well, today, the price of oil is over $135 per barrel. (((So, you can either make a massive change while you're rich and it's easy, or else you can suffer dreadfully and make a massive change while you lose your homes, your currency and your children's future. Guess what choice Scarlett O'Hara took in "Gone With the Wind," and you've got an infallible guide to the strategic thinking of the Bush Administration.)))

(((The interesting part is that Al, who is after all a Southerner from Tennessee, has kinda got the Rhett Butler role in that movie. Too much a gentleman to duel!)))

And sure enough, billions of dollars of new investment are flowing into the development of concentrated solar thermal, photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal plants, and a variety of ingenious new ways to improve our efficiency and conserve presently wasted energy. (((Too bad that trillions are hastening toward Dubai, Caracas and Moscow, but who knows, maybe even the wretched among us who are damned by the Curse of Oil will find some way, in time, to redeem themselves.)))

And as the demand for renewable energy grows, the costs will continue to fall. Let me give you one revealing example: the price of the specialized silicon used to make solar cells was recently as high as $300 per kilogram. But the newest contracts have prices as low as $50 a kilogram.

You know, the same thing happened with computer chips – also made out of silicon. The price paid for the same performance came down by 50 percent every 18 months – year after year, and that's what's happened for 40 years in a row.

(((If solar had been following Moore's Law then a megawatt ought to be literally cheaper than sand right now, but, well, I do kind of find it touching that Al would even try to explain Moore's Law to the general voter.)))

To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results with renewable energy: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. I've seen what they are doing and I have no doubt that we can meet this challenge.

(((The new American energy moguls. The dot- greenies. Could they be any worse than oil sheiks, Nigerians and Russians? As a Viridian, I dare to hope that they might have better aesthetic taste than Moscow blingbling and Dubai skyscraper fever. Maybe this latest crop of Silicon Valley zillionaires will flaunt their millions with stuff like Ross Lovegrove "Tech Nouveau" furniture.)))

To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down. (((It's also rather hard to blow up "solar pipelines.")))

(((The weird part is that this autarchic national-security argument would have made so much more sense in the 1910s, the 1940s or the 1960s than it does today. For any government anywhere to seize command-and-control of its domestic energy grid would have been a nothing-deal. It really shows how much capacity to act has been lost through globalization. The "Golden Straitjacket," as Thomas Friedman used to put it – but if you fall overboard in a straitjacket, man, you drown.)))

When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home. (((I wonder if Al thinks he has a "job." A "job" with what? With health insurance, with guaranteed long-term employment? Do workers in China and India have any "jobs"? No, and that's why they get hired, I reckon.)))

Of course there are those who will tell us this can't be done. Some of the voices we hear are the defenders of the status quo – the ones with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system, no matter how high a price the rest of us will have to pay. (((Yeah, and thanks a lot, fellas. See you in The Hague.)))

But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, "The Stone Age didn't end because of a shortage of stones." (((That's a funny thing to say, but clearly the Oil Age is ending because of shortages of oil. If somebody somehow found a Saudi Arabia of oil in the thawing Arctic we'd clearly be back to square one.)))

To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider what the world's scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don't act in 10 years. The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis.

(((I find the idea that we could somehow factually "recover" from the Greenhouse Effect to be amazing. It's almost as farfetched as the peaceful downfall of Communism, but, what the heck; if our insight failed us and the climate problem is much worse than we imagined, maybe the solution is similarly easier than we fear. We pretty much gotta try something, and, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once thundered, "God will not have his work made manifest by cowards." )))

When the use of oil and coal goes up, pollution goes up. When the use of solar, wind and geothermal increases, pollution comes down.

To those who say the challenge is not politically viable: I suggest they go before the American people and try to defend the status quo. (((Yeah – at least the Americans, even the Red Staters, and finally and truly really good and sick. It's gonna take a truly degraded American populace to kneel and lick the cold vomit of the neocons off the pavement in November.))) Then bear witness to the people's appetite for change.

I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo. Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases. Our workers cannot stand 10 more years of job losses and outsourcing of factories. Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies. (((Yep – the next politician with a plan this ambitious is gonna have to cook up a Marshall Plan for a defeated USA. I can dare to hope the USA gets more coherent help than the collapsed former USSR did.)))

What could we do instead for the next 10 years? What should we do during the next 10 years? Some of our greatest accomplishments as a nation have resulted from commitments to reach a goal that fell well beyond the next election: the Marshall Plan, Social Security, the interstate highway system. But a political promise to do something in ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target. (((That means that, for any kind of trouble longer than a ten-year time frame, nation-states are useless. Clearly we need more capable frameworks for long-term action on long-term threats. "The Outquisition," anyone?)))

When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon. (((I can hope that defeating a climate catastrophe is rather more solemn and important than this particular piece of Nixonian street-theater. Except for its usefulness in humiliating the Soviets, the long-term benefits of a manned moon landing were negligible. Which is why we don't do them any more. National energy grids, by stark contrast, are entities one shouldn't merely trifle with.)))

To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. (((It'll come a lot easier if the paralytic USA has to watch Danes and Germans, or maybe even Chicagoans and San Franciscans, doing it with serenity. The Europeans can't afford ten years of paying Arabs either, by the way. Neither can the Chinese or Indians, who've both had severe stock-market setbacks lately.)))

At present, for example, we do not have a unified national grid that is sufficiently advanced to link the areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity.

Our national electric grid is critical infrastructure, as vital to the health and security of our economy as our highways (((crumbling))) and telecommunication networks (((yanked from the inventive hands of Al Gore and handed to a sinister and exploitative duopoly who spy on you for the Bush Administration))).

Today, our grids are antiquated, fragile, and vulnerable to cascading failure. Power outages and defects in the current grid system cost U.S. businesses more than $120 billion dollars a year. It has to be upgraded anyway.

We could further increase the value and efficiency of a Unified National Grid by helping our struggling auto giants switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars. An electric vehicle fleet would sharply reduce the cost of driving a car, reduce pollution, and increase the flexibility of our electricity grid.

At the same time, of course, we need to greatly improve our commitment to efficiency and conservation. That's the best investment we can make. (((Nobody is ever gonna "conserve more energy" than a dead guy, which is why, as a Viridian, I don't believe this in fact our best investment.)))

America's transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. For example, we must recognize those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. (((Yeah, thanks, oil-stained Third Worlders, oppressed by autocrats and blown apart by terrorists...)))

We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry. Every single one of them. (((Oh wait – Al means American guys digging up American energy. They're, what, thirty percent of that effort? Anyone who's ever heard a Loretta Lynn record oughta know what kind of deal American coal-miners get from life.)))

Of course, we could and should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. (((Which is basically infinite. Have you priced a molten pole lately?)))

I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. (((That oughta be thrilling news for moguls, especially solar and wind moguls, who would get to live tax-free.)))

This is the single most important policy change we can make. (((Okay, give me my money back and I'll cheerily buy the green energy –- because I've been doing it for years!)))

In order to foster international cooperation, it is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community (((what's left of it... let's see, there's Europe, there's some kind of weird Sarkozy "Mediterranean Basin" thing and there's a bunch of dusty for a where weary, graying diplomats wait for the Americans to show up and blow up and shred things, John Bolton style))) and lead efforts to secure an international treaty at Copenhagen in December of next year that includes a cap on CO2 emissions and a global partnership that recognizes the necessity of addressing the threats of extreme poverty and disease as part of the world's agenda for solving the climate crisis.

(((The treaty might conceivably be of some use, but who's gonna enforce it? Also, while constructing a grid is doable, our old pals poverty and disease are firmly in the saddle in a world where food costs are rocketing and ecosystems are poisoned. The idea of the corps diplomatique tackling this is about as likely as it's being solved by inky, unread newspaper editorials.)))

Of course the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. (((At least he's got the guts to say it – that must sting after 30+ years of public service.)))

In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness. (((Yes.)))

It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now. (((Yes. Actually, if there was a national federal crash-drilling program, run by the able likes of the Homeland Security Department as a pressing matter of national survival, that would likely stop the drilling entirely.)))

Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address? (((No. "Clean Skies Program, "War on Terror," I could go on...)))

When people rightly complain about higher gasoline prices, we propose to give more money to the oil companies and pretend that they're going to bring gasoline prices down. It will do nothing of the sort, and everyone knows it. (((Yes they do. The tower of lies here... how high do they tower? They tower about 147 dollars high, at the moment.)))

If we keep going back to the same policies that have never ever worked in the past and have served only to produce the highest gasoline prices in history alongside the greatest oil company profits in history, nobody should be surprised if we get the same result over and over again.

But the Congress may be poised to move in that direction anyway because some of them are being stampeded by lobbyists for special interests that know how to make the system work for them instead of the American people. (((Bow to the masters of the pump. Actually, quite a lot of Americans are in oil companies, and they're doing great by the distress of the rest of us. Houston hasn't boomed like this in years. I might forgive 'em this if Houston hadn't already drowned once in a major Greenhouse flood.)))

If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline. (((Go for it, Vinod Khosla. Glad you were able to immigrate to USA before a million guys with odd names ended up on no-fly lists.)))

Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we've simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. (((It's not a matter of "appetite" – they privatized the dining table and sold off the knives and forks. And those napkins? All Chinese.)))

And folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests. And I've got to admit, that sure seems to be the way things have been going.

But I've begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are not only tired of baby steps and special interest politics, but are hungry for a new, different and bold approach. (((Because they're the new special interests. And not a day too soon, boys.)))

We are on the eve of a presidential election. We are in the midst of an international climate treaty process that will conclude its work before the end of the first year of the new president's term. It is a great error to say that the United States must wait for others to join us in this matter. In fact, we must move first, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because moving first is in our own national interest. (((Plus, scenting American blood in the water, the currency sharks are circling, and we're looking at the raw potential for the biggest shock-economy looting spree since Yeltsin sold Russia to seven moguls.)))

So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge – for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It's time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.

This is a generational moment. A moment when we decide our own path and our collective fate. I'm asking you – each of you – to join me and build this future. Please join the WE campaign at

(((It kills me that this whole plea is aimed squarely at a website. It's some kind of Viridian apotheosis, really. All of this, and he wants us to go click on a website? Well, you know – maybe that's how it's done, nowadays.)))

We need you. And we need you now. We're committed to changing not just light bulbs, but laws. And laws will only change with leadership. (((Or collapse.)))

On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy's challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father (((the major mover in the Internet Highway System, and Al has never gotten over than any more than Bush II can resist trumping his father's "prudence"))) a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.

I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket's engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed (((and powered by fossil fuels))), the sound was deafening.

We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race. (((Sorta.)))

We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

(((I wonder who will be the first European to mimic this. Green energy isn't a moon race, and, given their huge head start, Europeans ought to be able to leave the US in the dust. Of course, the Europeans, who to their post-governmental dismay don't even have a Constitution, may be even more politically sclerotic than the Americans but... come on! Even the Soviet Union had an honest shot at the Moon – once. They failed, and they're gone. "Those who cannot labor on their own behalf shall be given other masters.")))

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