It will cost a lot less to get the nation to go carbon free than to fix the financial mess, according to Al Gore.

The former vice president laid out a five-point plan to make America's electricity generation system "carbon-free" in 10 years in a New York Times opinion column on Sunday. The plan revolves around investing $400 billion in a "national smart grid" and projects to increase the efficiency of cars and buildings.

The plan could also help solve the country's economic crisis by creating "millions of new jobs that cannot be outsourced."

Gore's five-point plan echoes proposals he's made in the past (see Al Gore Sets Energy Goal) as well as the platform of Repower America, the public awareness campaign launched by the Alliance for Climate Protection, a group he founded to advocate for solutions to global warming.

The plan calls for:

  • Large-scale federal incentives to build solar-thermal power plants in the Southwest, as well as wind farms stretching from Texas to North Dakota and advanced geothermal plants in parts of the country where that resource is available.
  • A $400 billion investment over 10 years to create a "unified national smart grid" that could carry renewable power from the less-populated deserts and plains where it can be most efficiently produced to the country's cities, where power needs are greatest.
  • Assistance for the nation's automakers – both the "Big Three" of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, and startup companies – to convert the country's vehicle fleet to plug-in hybrid vehicles, which could ease demands for transportation fuels and the demands for electricity at peak demand times.
  • A nationwide effort to retrofit buildings, which account for about 40 percent of the nation's carbon-dioxide emissions, with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting, a move he said should be coupled with Congressional proposals to help homeowners hurt by the collapse of the housing market.
  • A national program to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions and replace the global Kyoto treaty on greenhouse-gas emissions with a new accord that caps global emissions and encourages investment in emission reduction programs.

Gore has long called for a national carbon tax (see Al Gore Backs Carbon Tax and Al Gore: World Can't Afford 'Subprime Carbon'), and last year joined the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner focused on investments to prevent climate change (see Al Gore Now Taking Elevator Pitches and Funding Roundup: Gore Gets More Green). 

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