As part of his presidential candidacy campaign, vice president Al Gore has unveiled a far-reaching environmentally friendly energy plan. The proposals, which are to be set out in detail over the coming weeks, will use tax breaks and other financial incentives to encourage businesses to develop alternative energy sources and help consumers put them into use. The programme is also designed to reduce US dependence on foreign imports of oil and improve energy efficiency.

The 10-year scheme has an estimated price tag of $75 billion and will use anticipated budget surplus to fund the tax incentives on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Gore’s plan also included a commitment to establish an Energy Security and Environmental Trusts that would be used to develop and improve the country’s power generation systems, using some of the Treasury’s excess to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants. With $68 billion in tax breaks, loans and grants, the programme will increase funding for small businesses bringing new technologies to the market by $5 billion and will set aside $2 billion to encourage on-site generation and combined heat and power (CHP). The programme is also designed to encourage exploration for gas in the Gulf of Mexico and the generation of electricity from alternative sources such as wind or biogas through the tax system. Other credits will subsidise energy bought from such facilities.

The scheme has in part been prompted by high petroleum prices seen in the states, which both presidential candidates are blaming on each other, and is likely to fuel criticism that Gore is an environmental extremist with an incoherent energy policy. Gore’s typical response is to blame “big oil” for the high petroleum prices and try to embarrass the Republican candidate, Governor George W. Bush, a former oil executive whose campaign has funding links to the oil industry.