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Former Vice President Al Gore, speaking to a full crowd in Derryberry Hall auditorium on Tuesday night, March 26, encouraged the public to support the development of alternative energy sources to help eliminate dependence on foreign oil supplies.

As the keynote speaker for the annual Stonecipher Symposium on Technology, Communication and Culture, Gore addressed this year's theme of balancing energy policy and environmental protection by challenging students and others to educate themselves about environmental issues and to not allow political lobbyists to influence the nation's energy policy.

"One of the biggest problems with our continuing dependence on foreign oil is that we're tying our fate to the most volatile tinderbox in the entire world. Our options are limited. We're tied to the Middle East's willingness to keep pumping oil," he said.

American families, however, would gain a number of advantages by supporting the development of alternative energy sources in order to help eliminate that dependence, Gore continued. Those advantages would include less pollution, more jobs and better lifestyles.

"The same revolution that has led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of computing — that same kind of ingenuity — is beginning to be applied to energy use. There are now a lot of new approaches that used to seem like science fiction," he said.

Many approaches are still not being applied publicly, though, because political lobbyists are still influencing national decisions about energy policy.

"Those decisions are made in the political system, and we all know the political system responds to pressure. It's a disservice to the American people not to tell them who is writing the kinds of policies that change their lives," Gore said.

He encouraged the public's active participation in the political process as a possible remedy for that situation.

"The answer is in your hands, to put your hands to the task of politics. Some of you will do it as candidates, but everyone can do it as citizens. And as citizens, you have the power to decide the future of this country," Gore told the audience.

In addition to American dependence on foreign oil, he cited a number of other environmental problems confronting the nation and the world, including global warming and extinction.

"I think the global environmental crisis is the principal challenge confronting our civilization today," he said.

Unless positive changes are made in environmental policies, "human beings will have the same impact on species today as the asteroid had on dinosaurs 65 million years ago," Gore said.