Live from Austin: AL GORE IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!
AL GORE, THE TRUE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ELECTED IN 2000, IS HERE!!!!! AT NETROOTS NATION!!!!!!!
There were rumors, oh yes, and the news got out, but still...even for me, knowing that it would happen, it was still electric.
Pelosi was just asked a question about environmental protection and solving the climate crisis. She picked up her BlackBerry, fiddled with it, and seconds later...Al Gore's voice boomed across the room....and Al Gore himself strode up onto the stage to a ROARING welcome, as the entire room jumped to its feet, many clambering onto chairs and tables to cheer and applaud.
As Gore was finally able to begin his address, he thanked the community for the warm address. "You represent the leading edge of that new movement to reclaim American democracy," Gore told the crowd.
"I want to talk to you about the climate crisis," Gore said. He moved right on to some of the new science that has recently become available, saying he didn't need to belabor why we need to end global warming.
"One of the ways that we build our capacity to respond is by sketching out a plan to get from here to where we need to be. If you look at the seriousness of this climate crisis, you begin to see how it's connected to the economic crisis, and the national security threat we face," Gore said, detailing the problems that plague us from our overdependence on dirty fossil fuels imported from overseas.
"The older industries that are premised on cheap fossil fuels are being devastated," Gore noted, "by the rise in fossil fuel prices."
"The idea that we can drill our way out...is just so absurd," Gore said, drawing applause. "When you're in a hole, stop digging," he added.
"I laid out this challenge to the nation and I repeat it here today," Gore continued. "It will take slightly longer to convert our fleet of vehicles to electricity, but we can do it," he asserted.
"We have to switch our electricity generation system. We ought to make a commitment to get one hundred percent of our energy from renewable sources."
Gore slammed the status quo, wondering why Americans keep turning to "remedies" that have nothing to do with solving the problem.
He asked the community if it was okay to talk about the Alliance for Climate Protection and its website (people shouted yes, naturally).
Gore closed by reminding the netroots that we are at the cutting edge, and that our children will look back at these conventions as one of the defining moments in the movement to reclaim our American democracy. "You will tell your grandchildren about the first two meetings of Netroots Nation...an effort that was historic to retain the integrity of American democracy," Gore said.
UPDATE: Gore has taken a seat next to Speaker Pelosi and Netroots Nation Executive Director Gina Cooper to answer questions.
First up...will you take a position in the Obama administration?
Gore is unsure. He seems to be leaning against it, but he didn't shut the door on accepting if he was asked. "I am devoting my life to trying to bring about a sea change in public opinion...that supports the truly massive policy change that we have to have [to solve the climate crisis]."
Second...what about food production?
Gore said we're all guilty of eating foods imported from far away.
Part of reducing our emissions will come from growing more of our food locally on family farms and becoming more self reliant.
Third question was about mountaintop mining, which Gore called an outrage and an atrocity. He said he learned a lot about its devastating effects from a recent documentary. He also brought up liquid coal, calling it "insane".
The fourth question was directed at Speaker Pelosi, who took a moment first to thank Al Gore for his visionary leadership...giving us a path to the future. She also attacked the Republicans and the administration for "looking for an excuse, not a reason" to drill anywhere and everywhere for oil. "Don't give him [Bush] any validation on that score, I tell my colleagues," Pelosi said.
Pelosi then addressed the question that had been asked about accountability, saying that she supported new measures to ensure that future presidents would not abuse their powers, and that Congress would consider legislation to force the executive branch to share more information with representatives and Senators.
On to more questions...someone asked Gore about putting wind turbines on power structures. He agrees we need more turbines, but isn't sure if that particular idea (which originated from Buckminister Fuller) would be all that practical.
Next question....what about science education?
Gore says No Child Left Behind has been a failure, and says we not only need more science education, but we need more arts education as well.
Next question...what can we do to stop to electronic waste?
Gore said that major computer makers such as Apple, Dell, and HP are focusing a lot of energy on the problem and working to increase computer recycling and safe disposal. He acknowledged that much more work needed to be done.
Pelosi was asked whether she accepted Gore's challenge to have American electricity coming from renewable sources within ten years. Pelosi called it "possible" and said she's enthusiastic about pursuing the idea.
She said it would be easier for Congress to do more if Democrats took the White House and expanded our majorities in 2008.
Gore was asked about batteries. He express enthusiasm for advancements in battery technology that allow us to get more power for less cost. He also observed that when demand for solar and wind goes up, the price goes down, as opposed to oil and coal, where the price rises when demand rises.
Gore was asked about nuclear energy. He says he is skeptical, echoing concerns I have made here about disposing the toxic waste that gets left behind. He also noted that there is a security concern: wherever we install a reactor, we install capacity for making nuclear weapons (which we don't need more of).
Gore was asked about the impact of global warming on developing countries. "Many of the solutions - putting up distributed energy systems and solar cells...create the jobs that we greatly need [in places like Africa]," Gore said.
"We ought to be in partnership helping these developing countries switch over to renewable energy sources...addressing poverty in the process," Gore said.
Last question (or so it appears) to Pelosi about Iraq. Specifically, this:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.Pelosi said, "I think it would be a good idea for us to have a high level meeting now with the Iraqis to work out the terms of our redeployment."
"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
"Get out there and elect a Democratic majority in the House and Senate," Speaker Pelosi said. As she stood with Al Gore and Gina Cooper the room erupted in thunderous applause and cheers, with camera flashes lighting the stage.
What an experience!
UPDATE: Gore and Pelosi have stayed to shake hands and talk to community members, a very cool gesture. I just shook the Vice President's hand. I didn't get a chance to talk to him because he did have to leave (but I did talk to him previously when he signed my copy of the Assault on Reason in Seattle).
UPDATE II: More coverage from Think Progress and Ari Melber.