To The Moon, And Beyond

Last modified on July 18th, 2008

On September 12th, 1962, John F. Kennedy took the stage at Rice Stadium, and made one of the most ambitious pledges of any presidency – in less than ten years, the United States would put a man on the moon:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. [JFK]

Today, nearly fifty years later, former vice president Al Gore took to the stage and asked Americans to join together with a new pledge, a ambitious goal that will ultimately better humanity. He has asked everyone to pledge to move to a 100% renewable energy system in the United States within ten years.

I’m proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It’s not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

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.

There are those who will undoubtedly think that such a goal is unattainable, or that the economic burden of such a feat will simply be too large. And yet history has shown us that when people band together with a collective goal, nearly any feat is possible.

While Kennedy didn’t live to see it, the United States made it to the moon, only eight years after his initial pledge. There were those who thought it wasn’t possible, or that the moon was a place we should not go. And yet everyone from that generation can tell you exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong touched down on the surface of the moon for the first time, and what it felt like to be an American that night.

Most people would be surprised to learn that alternative energy sources are already available, and within economic reach of most individuals. Ireland just launched a tidal generator that can power over 1000 homes using the power of the tides. Wind power already exists in many parts of the United States, especially along the windy corridor in the midwest. Solar power, which today costs around $5/watt, is expected to reach the coveted $1/watt range sometime in the next 18-24 months, making it as cost effective as fossil fuels, and obviously much cleaner.

To convert an average home to use solar energy would be around $20,000 today. In a few more years, that number will come down drastically, most likely being obtainable for around $5,000 or so. Considering most provinces and states already have government grants available for clean energy initiatives, the economic disadvantages of going green are disappearing rather quickly.

Gore’s right, the time to act is now. In less than ten years, the United States took the space program from virtually non-existent to an historic mission that put a few men on the moon. Given the advances in alternative energy that have occurred, and will occur in the next few years, I think what Al Gore is proposing is certainly obtainable, and like the moon mission, for the betterment of all humankind.

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