Obama Stops Short of Adopting Gore's Ambitious Climate Goal

The Nobel Prize winner calls on nation to use carbon-free sources for all its electricity by 2018.

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After former Vice President Al Gore challenged the next president to set an ambitious goal of obtaining all of the nation's electricity from carbon-free sources by 2018, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama saluted Gore's leadership but appeared to stop short of embracing Gore's proposals.

Obama praised the Nobel Peace Prize winner for having "awakened the conscience of a nation to the urgency" of climate change. But the Illinois senator did not directly address the speech's boldest—and most controversial—points: Gore's call for a 10-year timeline for abandoning fossil fuels as a source of electricity and his proposal for a tax on carbon dioxide production. "We should tax what we burn, not what we earn," Gore said.

Obama, who received Gore's endorsement only after Senator Hillary Clinton had conceded, tried to echo Gore's broad themes. "I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power, and advanced biofuels," Obama said in a statement.

Both Obama and his Republican challenger, John McCain, support cap-and-trade programs aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions gradually. But they do not advocate taxing carbon dioxide emissions directly—an approach that some economists warn would heavily strain the economy.

Speaking before an energy conference in Washington, Gore implored the United States to accelerate its efforts to switch to wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources of electricity. "This goal is achievable, affordable, and transformative," Gore said, referring to his 10-year vision. "It represents a challenge to all Americans, in all walks of life."

As he has argued before, Gore said that fighting climate change is not only a matter of environmental protection but also one of national security and human rights, since the country's dependence on foreign oil leaves it vulnerable to political events in often-hostile countries.