Former Vice President Al Gore warned Monday against allowing lower oil prices to stall efforts to put a price on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions to combat climate change and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Gore, the Nobel prize winner who has focused on global warming since losing the presidency in 2000, told a clean energy conference that oil prices are like a roller coaster and will go up again. He said that the country must reduce carbon dioxide pollution from the burning of fossil fuels and "we've got to wean ourselves from this dangerous foreign oil."
Gore was among 28 leaders from Congress, the Obama administration, labor and the energy industry participating in a panel discussion on the need to reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil, the need to develop renewable energy such as wind and solar, and to modernize the electric power grid.
"Let's don't undersell the efficiency investment angle," said former President Bill Clinton, another participant in the conference. He too warned against being misled by falling oil prices, which have plummeted from a high of $145 a barrel last summer to the $35 range.
In the past, Clinton said, "oil dropped and everybody said give us our Hummer back."
Gore and Clinton headlined the high-profile conference on the need to develop clean energy sources. Among other participants were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California as well as the administration's top energy officials.
Pelosi and many of the other panel members called for expansion of the nation's power transmission grid and development of a "smart grid" that allows increased efficiency and access to remote wind and solar energy resources.
"In the end, unless we are able to solve this juggernaut and deal with the transmission issue we're simply going to be standing in place," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki, one of the few Republicans at the conference, said the federal government must get more involved in establishing power transmission lines.
"If you try to run a wire through someone's community that becomes about as contentious as you get," said Pataki, and if that power is going through a state "you don't have to take a poll, no one is going to be for it."