Albert Gore, Jr. photo

Remarks in Chevy Chase, Maryland

September 29, 2000

Yesterday, I talked about the responsible choices we have to make on the economy — about the need to choose the hard right over the easy wrong, so we can build a strong and growing economy for the long haul.

Today, I want to focus on the right and responsible way to make sure America has clean, secure, affordable energy, while protecting the environment for generations to come.

For me, this issue has always been fundamental. I believe that pollution should never be the price of prosperity.

I believe that we don't have to degrade our environment in order to secure our energy future. And that is one of the most important differences in this election.

The other side now proposes to misuse high oil prices as an excuse to let oil companies invade precious national treasures -- like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

If you entrust me with the Presidency, I will not let that happen.

I will fight for consumers, who deserve a reliable, affordable supply of energy. And I will fight for all Americans, who deserve to have our environment protected against those who would set the oil companies loose in the most beautiful, fragile parts of our nation.

Our opponents would have us choose between a clean environment and energy security. That is a false and outdated choice. We can achieve both — if we make responsible decisions.

Today, we have the greatest chance in our lifetimes to create the America of our ideals — to make sure prosperity enriches not just the few, but all our families.

We have a chance to create and sell to the world the new technologies that will give us a healthier, stronger, more prosperous planet — like cleaner cars that can go 80 miles per gallon.

That's the future we can have. But we'll never get there if we're weighed down by old-fashioned energy policies, and held back by those who want to put short-term profits over the long-term interests of our economy and our families.

Last week, crude oil prices reached a ten-year high. If you drove here today, then you know what that means for the price of gasoline. If you're one of the families that's starting to stock up on home heating oil for the winter, then you're facing a double squeeze.

And the significance of a sudden, sharp increase in oil prices goes beyond even this — to the strength of our entire economy. A spike in oil prices can set off inflationary pressures, lead to slower growth, and impose higher production costs on business.

Strong economic leadership demands swift and decisive action to deal with emerging threats to our prosperity — even when that action is controversial.

The fact is, oil company profits have more than doubled while consumers pay more at the pump and businesses pay more to stay in business.

Several months ago, I called for an investigation into oil company pricing in the Midwest. Last week, I called on the oil companies to behave more responsibly. I called on OPEC nations to honor their agreements and increase oil production as promised.

And I called for a series of national measures in the short-term — because families who have to heat their homes this winter can't wait for the long-term.

Last week, I urged Congress to create a permanent home-heating oil reserve to provide continuing help in our coldest regions.

I'm asking Congress to increase annual heating assistance for low-income families.

And I supported a series of oil "swaps" from our nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Companies that receive oil now from the reserve will return that amount and more to the reserve at a later date. The nation will have greater oil supplies now, and our national reserve will have even more oil in the years ahead.

I was criticized for this policy. But I became convinced that waiting hadn't worked — and inaction was no longer an option.

And any political heat that was generated is a lot less important than the heat families need this winter.

There are now signs that we are making some progress. Oil prices in the last week have fallen by six dollars a barrel. And the economic ministers of the G-7, the world's major industrial nations, have welcomed this policy for its contribution to the stability of the global economy.

So I believe these short-term measures are vital. But I believe they are a first step — the beginning, not the end, of a continuing and essential effort to achieve real, long-term energy independence.

We don't have to accept a future of old engines and power plants that waste too much energy and cause too much pollution — making our air less healthy, and our climate less stable.

We don't have to build our lives around a fuel source that is distant, uncertain, and too easily manipulated.

If we do things right — if we make responsible choices? if we invest in the job-creating, environment-protecting technology of the future — then we can have cleaner air, more reliable energy, and a more prosperous economy all at the same time.

I'll tell you: that's a future worth fighting for.

That's why, over three months ago, I proposed an Energy Security and Environment Trust --a dramatic new commitment to clean energy and energy independence.

There is more than one kind of national debt. Pollution and energy dependence are also a borrowing from future generations.

We should no more saddle our children and grandchildren with the cost of cleaning up our pollution and paying for short-sighted energy policies than we should saddle them with the burden of paying our budget deficits.

Let's give new incentives to industry to transform dirty old power plants into modern, clean sources of energy.

Let's say to inventors and entrepreneurs in the private sector: if you invest in new technologies that clean up the environment, America will invest in you.

Let's make sure America leads in the global market for new energy technology that is expected to reach $ 10 trillion in the next two decades — to create good jobs and reduce our dependence on big oil and imported oil.

Let's keep working with Detroit to bring cleaner cars, trucks, and S.U.V.'s to showrooms and streets around the world. We're just a few short years away from revolutionizing the auto industry. This is a multi-hundred-billion-dollar opportunity; we have to take it, and not leave it to others.

So let's provide targeted tax cuts to help families buy those 80-mile-a-gallon cars the minute they roll into the showrooms.

And let's invest in light rail and mass transit — to reduce our dependence on gasoline, and give families more choices about how to commute between work and home.

I know these aren't always the easiest investments for a nation to make, because we don't always see the benefits right away.

But recent events powerfully remind us that we have to think now about the future. We have to be willing to make hard choices now, because that's the only path to a cleaner, stronger, more prosperous America in the years ahead.

And there is a real difference in this election on this issue — a difference as clear as the one on economic policy.

Yesterday, I discussed the other side's tax plan — a plan which spends $ 667 billion on a tax cut for the wealthiest one percent of Americans, and would wreck our good economy in the process.

I don't believe we should mortgage our economic future for anyone's short-term gain — especially not for those who already have the most.

And we need to make the same kind of responsible choices on energy and the environment.

The plan the other side has proposed would not only endanger our environment -- it wouldn't even meet our short-term energy needs.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — one of our greatest national treasures — is bad environmental policy, and bad energy policy.

Framed by the majestic Brooks mountain range, this area is one of the last places where our land is preserved as it once was.

The area is fragile. It would take years and years of development — which would cause decades of environmental damage — to reap just a few months of increased oil supply. I oppose it — and I will oppose any plan that would drill for oil in the wrong places, and degrade our irreplaceable natural heritage.

We face a fundamental choice on the environment and energy policy in this election.

My plan helps families afford gas and home heating oil for the short-term. It invests in cleaner technology for the long-term. It can give us a greater and more reliable energy supply. It protects the environment and helps reverse the tide of global warming, an effort that is essential to the fabric of life itself.

Now here's the bottom line on the other side's plan: no real action to bring oil prices down now. No real investment in new environmental technology. No real prospect of freeing ourselves from dependence on big oil and foreign oil. And a clear, unmistakable agenda that would sacrifice the environment for short-sighted and short-term energy policies, and would not even yield any additional oil for years to come.

I have been committed to a clean environment and real energy independence for all my public service — since I held some of the first hearings on cleaning up toxic waste in our communities, and joined in some of the early fights to reverse global warming. And ever since, I've been there in the fight for the environment.

When it comes to clean air and clean water — when it comes to protecting our wilderness and wildlife — when it comes to choosing consumers over polluters --

I've never given up, I've never backed down, and I never will.

I'm running for President to fight for you; to fight for your families; to fight for your future.

After all, the Presidency isn't a popularity contest. Sometimes, you have to be willing to spend your popularity. Sometimes, you have to be willing to do what's difficult or unpopular. Sometimes, you have to think not just of the next 39 days, but of the next 39 years.

If you entrust me with the Presidency, I know I won't always be the most exciting politician.

But I will work every day for a cleaner, stronger, more prosperous world. I'll fight with all my energy for real energy independence for America. And I will never let you down.

Thank you — God bless you — and let's win this fight!

Albert Gore, Jr., Remarks in Chevy Chase, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project