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Former Vice President Gore Issues US 10-Year Electricity Challenge

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Former Vice President Al Gore is challenging the United States to produce all of its electricity through wind power, solar power and other environmentally friendly sources within 10 years.  Gore said the transition would not only help resolve America's current energy and economic problems, but would also improve U.S. national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil.  VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Al Gore received a rock star welcome at an energy conference in Washington, where he issued a challenge to the country.

"So 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," he said.

Called an alarmist by some critics, Gore has made global climate change his signature issue, and his efforts won him a Nobel Prize.  He admitted that weaning Americans off fossil fuels would require placing a carbon tax on burning oil and coal, which his plan would offset with a reduction in payroll taxes.  But Gore said soaring gasoline prices and the current economic turmoil have created a new political environment where Americans are hungry for change.

"I do not remember a time in our country when so many things seem to be going so wrong simultaneously," he said. "Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, people are hurting.  Gasoline prices are increasing dramatically and so are electricity rates.  Jobs are being outsourced, home mortgages are in trouble.  Banks, automobile companies, other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure."   

Gore called on all Americans to pull together, citing the kind of national effort that made it possible for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon just eight years after former President John F. Kennedy issued that challenge.  He said both presidential candidates, his fellow Democrat Barack Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain are way ahead of most politicians in the fight against global climate change.

But Gore did criticize President Bush's proposal to resume offshore oil drilling as a way to address the current energy crisis.

"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 oil 10 years from now in areas that should be protected," he said.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama issued a statement after the speech, saying he strongly agrees with Gore that the U.S. cannot drill its way to energy independence, but must boost investments in renewable sources of energy.  Obama said it is a strategy that will create millions of new jobs and leave American children with a cleaner and safer world.


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