Al Gore: Oil “Junkie” America Needs Third World Help

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The former Vice President, clean-shaven in a dark suit and black cowboy boots, pauses. “Junkies find veins in their toes, when the veins in their arms and legs collapse,” he says to Charlie Rose. The audience suffers an uncomfortable pause, and then laughs. Gore keeps a straight face. He isn’t joking.

This is the closing panel of the Cornell Global Forum on Sustainable Enterprise, held on New York’s Upper East Side on June 3. The panel includes Gore, Ratan Tata, Chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata Group, Fisk Johnson, Chairman of SC Johnson, and Stuart Hart of Cornell’s Johnson School of Management. Rose is moderating the talk; he’s just asked whether clean energy tech will be made moot by the oil companies’ efforts to wring oil from deep sea drilling, shist, and shale.

No, Gore says–oil is still there to be found, but it’s increasingly inaccessible and expensive. In most discussions about climate change, this is usually the point everyone veers off into fatuous discussions of tomorrow-land: fancy clean cars, smart grids, carbon capture, solar, and so on. But tonight is different; none of the venture capital projects come up.

Instead, the participants discuss how the U.S. can’t build a market for sustainable enterprises without developing countries–or as the panelists call them, the countries at “the base of the pyramid.”

Source: Fast Company (link opens in a new window)