The big news is Al Gore’s speech outlining what the United States must do to save itself and the planet. Within ten years, according to Gore, the US must have converted to carbon-free energy.

It’s a noble aim. Forgive us for being cynical, however, but in the face of the vested interests of the fossil-fuel and nuclear industries and the grip they have on US government policy, we’re not sure if we rate Gore’s chances in realising his ambitions very highly.

Gore says he’s spoken to both Barack Obama and John McCain about his radical vision. We don’t know what their responses were – Gore isn’t telling. However, we do know McCain has received large campaign donations from Big Oil and has voted in favour of the industry including in support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Obama has spoken out against Big Oil but whether or not he has received donations from it has been the matter of some dispute.

Where Obama and McCain are publicly united is in their advocacy of nuclear power. In his speech, Gore said the US needed to continue to rely on nuclear for 20 per cent of its electricity generation. McCain has gone further and called for a hundred new nuclear power plants across the country. Employees of Exelon, America’s largest nuclear operator, have contributed large sums to Obama’s campaign and there are signs that he is willing to listen to and act on the company’s concerns.

There’s much talk about ’new’ ideas but ‘business as usual’ is still the highest priority on the policy agenda. Our Energy Revolution shows that with intelligent policy and infrastructure choices made now, renewable energy such as wind and solar, along with energy efficiency, could supply 50% of global energy by 2050.

Al Gore has called for ‘a new start’. A new president could bring new ideas to the Whitehouse but it looks that whoever wins, Obama or McCain, they’ll be bringing the same old and discredited ideas with them.