Can a total revamp of the energy industry be a way out of the current economic crisis?
Former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore thinks so.
Gore is joining a growing list of Silicon Valley notables, including John Doerr and Eric Schmidt, in saying that the government should undertake a massive investment in the energy infrastructure, not just to tackle global warming but to create jobs.
The plans argue that we can replace the burning of fossil fuels with renewable power by putting solar collectors in the desert Southwest, wind turbines near the coasts and in the mountains, and geothermal plants near sources of that energy.
Gore's plan, as explained to the audience at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, would cost $400 billion and take 10 years to complete.
The investment will pay for itself, as the cost of problems related to the existing infrastructure costs $120 billion a year, while importing oil costs $328 billion.
While that's an aggressive time line compared to the 20 year-plan Schmidt and Google have proposed, Gore said it can be done. He likened it to the challenge that President John F. Kennedy make in his 1961 inauguration speech to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade.
The U.S. met the goal in July, 1969.
According to Gore, the average age of the engineers in the NASA control room at that time were 26, which means they were 18 when Kennedy made his challenge.
Gore says that President-elect Obama should issue the same type of challenge to a new generation of young Americans in the name of saving the planet from the effects of global warming.
In addition to meeting that "existential threat," as Gore calls it, the investment and the jobs they create will help pull the economy out of its malaise.