Former Vice President Al Gore--now a Nobel Prize winner and the world's most prominent environmentalist--isn't looking for another job in Washington. But his eloquent warnings about the dangers of global climate change have obviously helped shape the priorities of the incoming Obama administration. Gore sat down with NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria recently to talk about a bailout for Detroit, the greening of China and the elusive promise of "clean coal." Excerpts:
ZAKARIA: Would you bail out the carmakers?
GORE: Whatever assistance might be forthcoming should be focused on speeding the changes that are absolutely essential to ensure that our companies are competitive in the global marketplace. When I was vice president, I initiated a program called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. The federal government invested over a billion dollars in partnership with the Big Three to focus on the accelerated development of advanced high-efficiency vehicles. But as soon as they felt they were off the hook at the end of 2000, they pulled the plug and walked away.
How would you do it? Would you provide loans but force the automakers to raise fuel efficiency or speed up hybrid production?
I think the whole industry should be transformed. It's really tragic that General Motors, for example, allowed Toyota to get a seven-year head start on the hybrid drivetrain in the Prius. I personally believe that the U.S. auto fleet should make a transition as quickly as possible toward plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.