Over the last year, however, the prophet of doom has become much more a prophet of possibility — even, perhaps, an optimist. Still an object of derision for the political right, Mr. Gore has seen support for his views rising within the business community: Investment in renewable energy sources like wind and solar is skyrocketing as their costs plummet. He has slides for that, too. Experts predicted in 2000 that wind generated power worldwide would reach 30 gigawatts; by 2010, it was 200 gigawatts, and by last year it reached nearly 370, or more than 12 times higher. Installations of solar power would add one new gigawatt per year by 2010, predictions in 2002 stated. It turned out to be 17 times that by 2010 and 48 times that amount last year.Some of this may have to do with his new career as an investment expert specializing in alternative energy, but he has a point: people are very bad at estimating the future impact of new technologies:
In 1980, one slide shows, consultants for AT&T projected that 900,000 cellphones might be sold by 2000. In fact, there were 109 million by then. Today there are some seven billion. “So the question is: Why were they not only wrong, but way wrong?” he says.I agree with Gore that alternative energy is a wave that has not even started to crest, and that it has only begun to revolutionize the world. Some of Gore's opponents have added his newfound investment wealth to their litany of complaints about him, but I think that is a red herring. Gore genuinely believes that clean energy is essential to the future of the earth, so he is, as they say, putting his money where his mouth is. Shouldn't proponents of capitalism applaud that?