Annual tons of CO2 per person

Annual tons of CO2 per person

Check this out for reflection:

Annual tons of CO2 per person:

Ethiopia: .01

India: 1.1

China: 3.2

Sweden: 5.6

France: 6.2

UK: 9.4

Japan: 9.7

Germany: 9.8

CANADA: 17.9

USA: 19.8

It’s us, the one billion affluent people of the world whose footprints are crushing the planet.  Do we have the discipline to step more lightly?  We are losing respect of our international community.  The mass consumption of our society has created an epidemic of obesity, asthma, respiratory problems, etc.

Progressive Environmental Policy & Drive-Through Ban

Palm Desert, California Celebrates Passage of Energy Independence Act

Sponsors unprecedented state bill allowing cities to provide low-interest loans to residents making energy-saving improvements to homes or businesses; strengthens citywide commitment to solar energy

Last update: 12:00 p.m. EDT July 28, 2008
PALM DESERT, Calif., Jul 28, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Already an innovator in its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, the city of Palm Desert last week got one step closer to realizing its goal of reducing citywide energy consumption by 30 percent before 2011. Governor Schwarzenegger last week signed Assembly Bill 811 into law as an “urgency measure,” for the first time allowing city governments throughout California to provide loans to property owners planning home or business improvements that will reduce energy consumption. The bill, termed locally the Energy Independence Act, was written and lobbied for by Palm Desert’s civic leaders.
Palm Desert’s City Council is working to formulate a strategy to put the bill into effect locally as quickly and simply as possibly. The city plans to provide loans for as little as $5,000, with no upper limit, for improvements such as efficient air-conditioning systems, lighting systems, water-heating equipment, refrigerators, or pool pumps; and installation of solar panels, white roofs, or insulation–anything that will reduce electricity consumption and is considered a permanent fixture. The city will provide low-interest loans requiring no credit checks or other qualifications other than a property title. The loans will be paid back as part of the residents’ tax bill–meaning if the home or business is sold, the loan stays with the property.
“Two years ago, we set a lofty goal of reducing our energy use by 30 percent, and now we have the means to accomplish it,” said Councilman Jim Ferguson, who spearheaded the passage of the Energy Independence Act. “During the summer months, when temperatures regularly reach over 100 degrees, Palm Desert residents can pay up to $1000 a month for electricity. This program will empower them to explore renewable energy sources and make meaningful changes for the environment as well as their own finances.”
The city has enlisted the expertise of EcoMotion, a consulting company that also advises cities such as Anaheim and Santa Monica on their environmental initiatives. Under the leadership of president Ted Flanigan, EcoMotion will coordinate and help facilitate the loan program. Flanigan will also work to document Palm Desert’s carbon footprint and suggest further improvements to the city’s already aggressive energy- and emissions-reduction programs.
“Palm Desert is unbelievably progressive,” said Flanigan. “I really salute them for having the creativity and foresight to change state law in this historic way.”
Classifying the reduction of a city’s energy consumption and carbon footprint as “public good” is a groundbreaking approach, and opens the door for cities across the state to adopt similar programs. AB811 updates sections of California’s Streets and Highways Code that allow cities to set up assessment districts to pay for public improvements such as sewers and roads. Mindful of the far-reaching possibilities, Palm Desert will work to create a program that can be easily replicated elsewhere. Berkeley, Santa Monica and Palm Springs are also researching similar programs, which will likely be modeled after Palm Desert’s Energy Independence Program.
Besides creativity, another major asset in Palm Desert is sunshine. With 350 days of sunshine each year and an average of 5.5 hours of high-quality solar insulation per day, the city far outperforms the national average and is an ideal site for sun-powered energy systems. Home solar systems last up to 40 years, so the Energy Independence Act allows homeowners to finance systems – using the good credit of the city – with long-term loans to match the long-term benefits of solar.
In a city so dependent on electricity for features such as air conditioning and pool pumps, energy-efficient improvements represent a long-term investment and increase the value of homes and businesses. Palm Desert aims to begin providing loans by the end of August, and plans to bring funding to the Energy Independence Program through the sale of municipal bonds–allowing investors across the country to bring a new level to their socially responsible investment plans.
The Energy Independence Program is just one more way Palm Desert is thinking green. In 2006, the city introduced a new government division, the Office of Energy Management, and unveiled Set to Save: its unprecedented plan to cut energy consumption by 30 percent–or 215 million kilowatt hours of electric energy–in five years. The plan is the most ambitious of its kind in California and provides incentives to businesses and residents engaging in energy-saving behavior. Palm Desert has since then opened 141 energy-efficient apartments for low- and middle-income families, including several that are partially fueled by solar energy.

That same year, Palm Desert passed a law requiring all new construction to surpass state energy requirements by 10 to 15 percent. It’s also banned drive-through restaurants, waived permit fees on the installation of photovoltaic solar systems in homes and businesses and declared electric golf carts street-legal. Palm Desert has the only LEED-certified visitor center in the United States and opened the country’s first environmentally sound public golf course 10 years ago. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Palm Desert
Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations
Gina Masullo, 212-228-1500

Study Links ‘Smog’ To Arctic Warming

Study Links ‘Smog’ To Arctic Warming

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2006) — NASA scientists have found that a major form of global air pollution involved in summertime “smog” has also played a significant role in warming the Arctic.

In a global assessment of the impact of ozone on climate warming, scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, evaluated how ozone in the lowest part of the atmosphere changed temperatures over the past 100 years. Using the best available estimates of global emissions of gases that produce ozone, the GISS computer model study reveals how much this single air pollutant, and greenhouse gas, has contributed to warming in specific regions of the world.

According to this new research, ozone was responsible for one-third to half of the observed warming trend in the Arctic during winter and spring. Ozone is transported from the industrialized countries in the Northern Hemisphere to the Arctic quite efficiently during these seasons. The findings have been accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Ozone plays several different roles in the Earth’s atmosphere. In the high-altitude region of the stratosphere, ozone acts to shield the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In the lower portion of the atmosphere (the troposphere), ozone can damage human health, crops and ecosystems. Ozone is also a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming.

Ozone is formed from several other chemicals found in the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface that come from both natural sources and human activities such as fossil fuel burning, cement manufacturing, fertilizer application and biomass burning. Ozone is one of several air pollutants regulated in the United States by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The impact of ozone air pollution on climate warming is difficult to pinpoint because, unlike other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, ozone does not last long enough in the lower atmosphere to spread uniformly around the globe. Its warming impact is much more closely tied to the region it originated from. To capture this complex picture, GISS scientists used a suite of three-dimensional computer models that starts with data on ozone sources and then tracks how ozone chemically evolved and moved around the world over the past century.

The warming impact of low-altitude ozone on the Arctic is very small in the summer months because ozone from other parts of the globe does not have time to reach the region before it is destroyed by chemical reactions fueled by ample sunshine. As a result, when it is summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, ozone-induced warming is largest near the sources of ozone emissions. The computer model showed large summer warming from ozone over western North America and eastern Europe/central Asia, areas with high levels of ozone pollution during that time of year.

The new results identify an unexpected benefit of air pollution control efforts worldwide, according to lead author Drew Shindell. “We now see that reducing ozone pollution can not only improve air quality but also have the added benefit of easing climate warming, especially in the Arctic.”

The research was supported by NASA’s Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling and Analysis Program.

The Spin Doctors – RWDI Audio

RWDI Audio:

Jan. 25, 2008
On our show about banning drive thrus, there was discussion about a study that suggests heading to the drive-thru window may cause fewer emissions than parking. Many of you wanted to know more about that study. And so did we. It turns out the study in question was commissioned by TDL the parent company for Tim Horton’s. Mike LePage is the principal scientist with the company that did the study RWDI air.

It’s an engineering consulting firm which specializes in air quality issues. (runs 08:06 | RealAudio)

CBC Video – The Environmental Costs of Drive-thrus 05/28/2007


The environmental cost (Runs 3:05)



We need public on side with a meaningful CO2 Strategy.  In the LFP article today: it states: “The council [Council of Canadians] says London must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about five per cent a year until it reaches a targetted 90 per cent decrease. Instead, London’s strategy will more likely be modelled in a “continuous improvement” framework that measures progress each year, Stanford said.”

This ”continuous improvement’ model unfortunately does not work.  We’ve seen this over & over again.  Example: in 1997 London passed its idling bylaw.  The issue of idling & the need to control it has been a main issue raised by the Advisory Committee on the Environment to the City of London year after year.   It has been 11 years since this bylaw came into effect – & yet – our smog days have quadrupled over the past 15 years.  With London second only to Toronto.  This model of continuous improvement is failing us.  We no longer have time on our side to allow us to continue operating in this manner.


Council of Canadians – London Chapter is respectfully not of the opinion that at this point in time the city of London qualifies to be seen as a leader in sustainable energy in comparison to many other progressive municipalities. It is our opinion that the bar must be set rather high to qualify for this designation.

However, we believe that since the debate on drive-thrus began, city staff and many elected officials have recognized the urgency of the crisis we now face in regards to pollution and climate change and the goal of building healthy communities that form the basis of what we would qualify as a sustainable city.  We look forward to working with city staff and other stakeholders on the development and implementation of a climate change CO2 strategy.

It is crucial that citizens of London support progressive staff & councillors in recommendations of green initiatives that will lead us down a path of sustainability if we are to have any kind of future for our children. We must model sustainable choices to our children.  We must work together as a community. To reduce our emissions by 90% by 2030 is the greatest challenge we have ever faced. Citizen participation is key and each and every one of us has an important role to play.

The goal of such a strategy is to reduce our emissions by 4-5% each year until we reach the target of 90% minimum reduction.  The number which is needed to divert the worst effects of climate change catastrophe.  The reduction targets must be met even as population, industry, commercial and institutions expand.

We at Council of Canadians feel that all those in a leadership role must be mindful of the fact that there is a serious detriment to leading people in the community to believe that the serious environmental consequences of our collective actions or inactions are under control when in reality we continue to slide closer to the critical tipping points.  We need to truthfully acknowledge what we are not achieving, as well as celebrate the meaningful achievements.  And we need to do this quickly, as there is not one moment to waste.  The city of London must become a place where it’s demonstrated leadership in sustainability initiatives inspire our vibrant communities and fellow citizens to do the same. Our goal is to foster this sort of thinking and do everything we can to truly transform London into a destination point for those seeking to reside in this sort of an environment.

This is the goal of our C02 climate change strategy. A large-scale transition to a post-carbon economy and society. The battle against climate change will be won or lost in cities. By 2030, two-thirds of humanity will live in cities or urban areas. Half already do. Even now, cities consume 75 per cent of the world’s energy and are responsible for 80 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. It is at city level that innovation and progress on climate change action is most likely to be achieved.

I attach the Hanson report which I highly recommend to understand the urgency of climate change.


NEWS: Drive-thru bans and idling laws across the country

June 23rd, 2008

Several CanWest papers are reporting today about the various drive-thru and idling bylaws being considered by municipal governments across the country. You can read the article here: While this is not directly linked to the Council’s main campaigns, it is clearly an issue with momentum that chapters have taken a big lead on. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from a car-based culture should also be part of any future energy strategy aimed at securing our energy security.

Stuart Trew

Regional Organizer (Ontario-Québec)

Council of Canadians

Tel: 613.233.4487, ext. 228

Toll Free: 800.387.7177

Fax: 613.233.6776

Here’s the breakdown of local actions, according to the CanWest article (note decisions in Sarnia, ON next week and a meeting tonight in Kentville, N.S.):

SARNIA, ON: “Sarnia, Ont. city councillors will likely put the brakes on further talk of a ban on drive-thrus next week after a staff report recommended the city create new guidelines rather than a moratorium… [T]he staff report, to be tabled at a council meeting today, suggests amendments to clarify where new drive-thru businesses should be located.”

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C.: “A ban on new drive-thrus was debated in the city of North Vancouver but was rejected in March by city councillors.”

KENTVILLE, N.S.: “Tonight, town officials in Kentville, N.S., — about 90 kilometres west of Halifax — will debate establishing an anti-idling bylaw…. But Coun. Eric Bolland, chairman of the town’s environmental advisory committee, would like to see his colleagues consider a prohibition on future drive-thru development. ‘Drive-thrus encourage the idling of vehicles, discourage parking, turning off cars and saving gas,’ he said.”

LONDON, ON: “Proponents of a new bylaw in London argue it is one step towards reducing car emissions, but the association representing restaurants in Ontario dismisses the argument as misleading and has launched its own petition and website.”

VICTORIA, B.C.: Dr. Richard Stanwick, Vancouver Island’s chief medical health officer, says that once a proposed anti-idling bylaw is given a test drive in the Victoria region, it could be expanded to include all of Vancouver Island.

There are also many other municipalities who have idling bylaws that are not mentioned in the article.

Industry backlash and greenwash

The line being used by the restaurant associations is that idling creates less damaging emissions than turning off and then on your car engine. The Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association has set up a web link to downplay the environmental impacts of idling and drive-thrus:

Industry groups have also set up a peudo-grassroots campaign to fight to save the drive-thru: In one particularly ridiculous argument, the industry says that: “Many people need drive-thrus. Drive-thrus are a vital access point for the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children. In bad weather they are especially helpful. They also enhance personal safety in unfamiliar areas late at night.”

The London chapter, which is leading the push in that city for a moratorium on drive-thrus, has posted an op-ed countering this counter-campaign that can be drawn from in letters to the editor on the issue of idling and drive-thru bans. The article concludes:

“London already has 160 drive-thrus. Whether in blissful ignorance or conscious disregard, to continue to act like we are simply entitled to more – and by implication more urban sprawl, more cars, more oil, and more greenhouse emissions – constitutes a planetary arrogance of frightening proportions… The City of London has the opportunity to take a very important first step in overcoming this outmoded approach, and beginning to envision the future of our cities in a way that is denser, less resource intensive, and ultimately more in step with our responsibilities as global citizens.”

You can find this op-ed here:

According to Cory with the London chapter, the industry-backed pro-drive-thru campaign has children handing out flyers and asking people in drive-thru lanes to support the petition, which has over 32,000 signatures on it. These children are sucking in exhaust fumes for the sake of allowing corporations like Tim Hortons and McDonald’s to sell junkfood to people in their cards, says Cory.

More studies backing the drive-thru ban

As reported by the Canadian Press ( on December 8, 2007: “Students at the University of Alberta monitored a popular Tim Hortons outlet in Edmonton last year for 54 hours and counted 3,756 vehicles idling for an average of more than five minutes each. The longest idle was more than 12 minutes.”

Additionally, the Edmonton Sun reported that, “A 2006 University of Alberta study found that vehicles idling in fast-food drive-thrus across Edmonton contribute about 8,600 tonnes of emissions per year into the atmosphere.” A study conducted by the Ontario Medical Association in 2005 estimated that there are 5,829 premature deaths and 16,807 hospital admissions due to air pollution each year.

The Toronto Star has also recently reported ( about a developer by the name of Dave de Sylva who did his own study.

“By his calculation, which was based on a formula used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the cars lined up at Markham’s 29 drive-through establishments uselessly burn 435,185 litres of gasoline a year. That’s enough to let an average car circle the globe 85 times,” claims the article. “As for greenhouse gas emissions, de Sylva calculates the damage at 118 tonnes of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.”

Al Gore: A Generational Challenge to Repower America: Text from Speech – July 17th, 2008

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. 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. 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.

I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. 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.

The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse – much more quickly than predicted. 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.

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? 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. 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of “solutions summits” with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. 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.

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

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.

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US 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.

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. 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.

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.

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, 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.”

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. 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. 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.

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 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it’s meaningless. Ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target.

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.

To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. 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 and telecommunication networks. Today, our grids are antiquated, fragile, and vulnerable to cascading failure. Power outages and defects in the current grid system cost US 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.

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. 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.

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. 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. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

In order to foster international cooperation, it is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community 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.

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. 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.

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.

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? 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. 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.

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.

Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we’ve simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. 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.

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.

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 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.

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 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, 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.

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.