THE BLOG
07/30/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Did Tom Friedman Misrepresent Al Gore's Challenge?

"The phrase clean coal is a contradiction in terms. There's no such thing as clean coal now."
Al Gore, Meet the Press, July 20, 2008

In his New York Times column this past Sunday, Tom Friedman rewrote and distorted Al Gore's new energy challenge, which called for an energy policy based on 100 percent renewable sources, by including the role of coal.

Coal? Isn't coal a nonrenewable fossil fuel?

Friedman slyly wrote:

"Mr. Gore proposed dramatically improving our national electricity grid and energy efficiency, while investing massively in clean solar, wind, geothermal and carbon-sequestered coal technologies that we know can work but just need to scale."

Carbon-sequestered coal technologies that we know can work? Does Friedman know any scientist or coal lobbyist that can confirm that we will successfully perfect "carbon-sequestered coal technologies" in the next 10 years?

Not Al Gore. On Meet the Press last Sunday, Gore spelled it out clearly:

"We're building up CO2 so rapidly that we're seeing the consequences scientists have long predicted. And the only way to take responsible action is to get at the heart of the problem, which is the burning of fossil fuels. And the quickest and easiest way to back out the coal, which is the worst of the problem...

"The phrase clean coal is a contradiction in terms. There's no such thing as clean coal now."

In his speech last week, A Generational Challenge to Repower America, this is what Gore actually posited:

"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...

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."

Key words: 100 percent renewable energy, solar power, wind power and geothermal power.

More so, Gore called for retraining coal miners for clean energy jobs, not re-employing them to strip mine or return underground to dig coal.

Appearing at the Netroots Nation gathering this past weekend, Gore also noted the devastating impact of strip mining coal even before it arrives at a futuristic coal-fired plant. He responded to a question on mountaintop removal coal mining in more detail:

"Mountaintop mining is an atrocity. It's part and parcel of the energy system that's causing global warming and the same moral blindness.

We should guarantee a good job for every miner affected by the transition.

Using coal to make liquid fuel is "insane." If you only care about independence, you could do it at great cost. But we've got to walk and chew gum at the same time -- energy independence and climate change. Not just domestic fuel, but renewable energy."

No one is arguing if Friedman has to the right to support the delusional slogan of "Clean Coal," which debuted as a marketing tactic as early as 1907 in Chicago. That's his corporate business, and he seems happy to play the green PR man for dirty coal .

Yet, according to a MIT report, The Future of Coal, which concluded that the first commercial CCS (carbon capture and storage) plant won't be on stream until 2030 at the earliest.

In fact, virtually every scientist sees 2030 as a remote possibility at best. And the human and environmental toll of coal mining in the process remains exorbitant.

But for Friedman to distort Gore's new challenge is out of line, if Gore, in fact, believes in a new challenge based on 100 percent renewable energy.

Makes you wonder: Does Tom Friedman owe Al Gore an apology?