Al Gore: Web 2.0 can help save the planet

November 7, 2008: 9:50 PM ET

By Michael V. Copeland and Yi-Wyn Yen

SAN FRANCISCO - Al Gore didn't take credit for inventing the Internet at the Web 2.0 Summit Friday, but he did credit it with enabling the victory of President-elect Barack Obama and helping restore faith in the principles upon which the United States was founded.

"The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration, that all human beings are created equal," Gore said to a cheering crowd, "would not have been possible without the addition of the empowerment of individuals to use knowledge as a source of power that has come with the Internet."

In a speech that ranged from the foundations of printing, computing and other disruptive technologies, to the subject of the dampening effects of television and the need to tackle climate change, Gore returned to the Internet and Web 2.0 as tools to bring about huge leaps forward in society. He highlighted the way in which people organized and spread information using web-based databases of names, numbers, and ideas to support the Obama campaign.

"What happened in the election opens up a whole new range of possibilities, Gore said. "Now is the time to really move swiftly, to seize these new possibilities and to exploit them…Web 2.0 has to have a purpose. The purpose I would urge as many of you as can take it on, is to repair our relationship with this planet and the imminent danger we face."

"We have everything we need to save it and in the process create millions of new jobs, create energy security," he continued. "But the only way this is going to be solved, is by addressing the democracy crisis   - a great blow was landed during the election - and taking this issue and raise it to the awareness of everyone."

Gore advocated for  the construction of a $400 billion "smart-grid" to tap renewable energy sources like wind, geothermal and solar and bring green power. He said a smart-grid infrastructure would pay for itself within three-and-a-half years. He urged Obama to set a goal of generating all of the nation's power from renewable sources within a decade.

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Michael Copeland
Michael Copeland

Michael V. Copeland joined FORTUNE as a senior writer in September 2007. Copeland has covered everything from electric cars to e-readers. He is a creator of Tech Mate, an irreverent video series in which he debates (and skewers) digital issues of the day. Before joining FORTUNE, Copeland was a senior writer at Business 2.0. Copeland graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

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