Just a few minutes ago, Al Gore surprised an audience of 1000 bloggers here at Netroots in Austin, TX by showing up unannounced in the middle of a moderated conversation with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He received an instant standing ovation from the bloggers. Mick Jagger would not have received a bigger whoop-up.
Prior to Gore entering the room, Pelosi was having an up and down experience with the audience. The bloggers clearly see her as a champion, but are VERY disappointed in Congress for allowing immunity for telecom companies in the FISA law and VERY upset that Congress could not force the President's hand on a timetable in Iraq.
Gore just put out his call to the nation this week to get off of fossil fuels within ten years. He clearly realized what an uphill battle this quest is and flying in last minute on a Saturday morning to a blogger conference means that he wants to engage these influences.
Gore and Pelosi are now answering questions from the bloggers. This is not a shy audience.
The first questions are on energy security:
"Mountaintop mining is an atrocity," says Gore. He cited a film called Mountaintop Mining from which "he learned more about the issue" than he ever knew before.
Gore wants to secure jobs and a future of the coal miners: "We should guarantee a job and health and sunshine to every coal miner."
"The idea of turning coal into fuel for our gas tanks is insane, " said Gore, adding that "it would vastly increase the amount of CO2 in the environment."
The bloggers asked if Gore would join an Obama administration -- he of course said he would not.
Pelosi's decision to share the stage with Gore is an interesting one. She clearly knew he was coming. Her association with him helps her with the bloggers who are excited about the idea of an Obama administration with a D-controlled Congress, but see a large number of Democratic leaders stray from their agenda.
Pelosi is calling upon the president to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.That, she says "would bring down the price of gasoline in 10 days, not the 10 years that drilling would take."
Can Gore manage to stay out of the political arena as he skirts so close to it? He clearly enjoys his private citizen status now, but also refuses to stand on the sidelines.
The question is, how we will we really move to 100% renewables in 10 years? Solar and wind and geothermal COMBINED are less than 2% of all power generation in the US today. This is indeed a moonshot moment. Gore knows that he will have to engage the grassroots to make this happen and knows what a role blogger can serve in this goal. What else should he do (or we do) to engage America more broadly?
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