To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
--Thomas Edison, inventor extraordinaire
He's not the first to say that what's good for the environment can also be good for both the security and the economic well-being of our nation, but Vice President Al Gore makes that argument forcefully and persuasively today in an OpEd piece in The New York Times.
"Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis," writes the Nobel Prize-winning politician. "Economists across the spectrum — including Martin Feldstein and Lawrence Summers — agree that large and rapid investments in a jobs-intensive infrastructure initiative is the best way to revive our economy in a quick and sustainable way. Many also agree that our economy will fall behind if we continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign oil every year. Moreover, national security experts in both parties agree that we face a dangerous strategic vulnerability if the world suddenly loses access to Middle Eastern oil."
Gore goes on to argue the U.S. should "make an immediate and large strategic investment to put people to work replacing 19th-century energy technologies that depend on dangerous and expensive carbon-based fuels with 21st-century technologies that use fuel that is free forever: the sun, the wind and the natural heat of the earth."
He then presents a five-point plan that he says will "repower America with a commitment to producing 100% of our electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years. It is a plan that would simultaneously move us toward solutions to the climate crisis and the economic crisis — and create millions of new jobs that cannot be outsourced."
Gore closes his argument by drawing a parallel to JFK's robust challenge to the nation to literally shoot for the moon-- issued when the U.S. still seriously lagged its Cold War rival in the "space race" launched in 1957 by the success of Sputnik and carried forth by the Russians in 1961 with first-man-in space Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
"In an earlier transformative era in American history, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation in 1962 to land a man on the moon within 10 years," writes Gore. "Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The average age of the systems engineers cheering on Apollo 11 from the Houston control room that day was 26, which means that their average age when President Kennedy announced the challenge was 18.
That was in 1969-- imagine what we can do now!
"This year similarly saw the rise of young Americans, whose enthusiasm electrified Barack Obama’s campaign.," Gore continues. "There is little doubt that this same group of energized youth will play an essential role in this project to secure our national future, once again turning seemingly impossible goals into inspiring success."
I don't know if our environmental, security and economic issues can be solved by fresh thinking in a sort of grand triple play in green, but I for one am truly excited about seeing what today's young Americans will ultimately devise to enable our nation to meet today's pressing challenges as it has all those that have come before.
And so I ask, why should we not shoot for the moon... again?