Is Al Gore Bad for Big Environmentalism? (A shriller gone sour)
“‘I think Al Gore’s done more to hurt this cause than he has to help it…. There are a lot of Democrats who don’t want to get within 10 miles of Al Gore on climate policy, because he’s seen by a lot of Americans as being on a crusade, and he doesn’t mind turning the economy upside-down because of sort of a religious zeal he has.”
- Lindsey Graham (R-SC), quoted in Jean Chemnick, “Graham says Gore to Blame, not Obama, for Congress’ Antipathy toward Climate Bill,” E&E News (sub. req.) June 23, 2011.
Al Gore in his most recent pronouncements on the climate-change issue (“Climate of Denial,” Rolling Stone, June 22, 2011) went so far as to pin blame on President Obama for the failure to excite the electorate on energy sacrifice in the name of averting catastrophic climate change. “In spite of [his climate-change related] achievements,’ Gore opined, “President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change.” Gore explained:
After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.
But even the Left has questioned Gore’s complaint. And more politicos than not see what perhaps Mr. Gore himself refuses to see: climate alarmism fatigue and Al-Gore fatigue.
“Thank you for existing and speaking on this issue,” I hear Gore’s critics saying. And remember what happened to Jimmy Carter when he went the oil-and-gas alarmism/self-sacrifice route back in the 1970s (see here and here)?
Still Alarmist–and Energy Postmodernist
Gore also goes alarmist. “What we are doing is functionally insane,” Gore penned in his 7,000-word essay. “If we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses for several millennia to come.”
But one sympathetic environmental rag had to ask:
Did Al Gore’s fusillade against the press, the president and oil — indeed, everyone — slap a slumbering nation to attention on climate change? Or did he walk into a naysayer’s trap set for a liberal blowhard whom conservatives love to quote at rallies and fundraisers?
And how wrong is this statement by Gore in Rolling Stone:
Renewable energy sources are coming into their own. Both solar and wind will soon produce power at costs that are competitive with fossil fuels.
Such claims have been made periodically since at least the early 1980s. And as Robert Murphy recently blogged, if this were really true, government favor would not be necessary. Is the American Wind Energy Association ready to advocate an end or phase-out of special subsidies? No way….
Gore’s Problem Explained (Mead)
The predicament of Al Gore for the Left was well explained in a recent commentary in The American Interest by Walter Russell Mead:
The peril is imminent, [Gore] says. It is desperate. The hands of the clock point to twelve. The seas rise, the coral dies, the fires burn and the great droughts have already begun. The hounds of Hell have slipped the huntsman’s leash and even now they rush upon us, mouths agape and fangs afoam.
But grave as that danger is, Al Gore can consume more carbon than whole villages in the developing world. He can consume more electricity than most African schools, incur more carbon debt with one trip in a private plane than most of the earth’s toiling billions will pile up in a lifetime — and he doesn’t worry. A father of four, he can lecture the world on the perils of overpopulation. Surely, skeptics reason, if the peril were as great as he says and he cares about it as much as he claims, Gore’s sense of civic duty would call him to set an example of conspicuous non-consumption. This general sleeps in a mansion, and lectures the soldiers because they want tents.
And didn’t Gore himself drop climate alarmism when the political heat was on, and doesn’t Gore know that repeated shrillness doesn’t sell to the large majority of Americans?
Back in the summer of 2000, with high gasoline prices an issue, presidential candidate Al Gore went Republican. “I think we need to bring gasoline prices down,” he intoned.
I have made it clear in this campaign that I am not calling for any tax increase on gasoline, on oil, on natural gas, or anything else. I am calling for tax cuts to stimulate the production of new sources of domestic energy and new technologies to improve efficiency.
This from the Obama basher and would-be savior of our “dysfunctional” society?  This from the numero uno climate alarmist who wrote: “We now know that [the automobile’s] cumulative impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront”?
And did Gore seize the moment to advocate a big gasoline tax increase given what he also penned in his manifesto? He once said:
Minor shifts in policy, marginal adjustments in ongoing programs, moderate improvements in laws and regulations, rhetoric offered in lieu of genuine change—these are all forms of appeasement, designed to satisfy the public’s desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle, and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary.
In reaction to politician Gore, his erstwhile climate ally Bill McKibben complained:
No American politician can bear to do anything to restrict our piggish use of coal and gas and oil–not to raise energy prices or legislate against the plague of gas-guzzling SUV’s. During the campaign, Mr. Gore even demanded that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve be opened to keep fuel prices down.
Stop Shrillness, Says EDF’s Fred Krupp
“There has to be a lot of shrillness taken out of our language,” Environmental Defense Fund chief Fred Krupp said recently. “In the environmental community, we have to be more humble. We can’t take the attitude that we have all the answers.”
Thank you, Mr. Krupp. If this means open mindedness, can you and other Big Environmentalists rethink your energy philosophy with the the negative correlation between energy density and the environmental footprint in mind?
Regarding Krupp’s above wisdom, Al Gore is obviously not listening as he redoubles his bad bet on climate alarmism. (So too shrills Joe Romm at the Climate Progress blog of the Center for American Progress, as described in a previous post at MasterResource.)
Exaggeration, shrillness, and hypocrisy all go together when it comes to Al Gore.
 Al Gore, quoted in Bennett Roth, “Gore Drops Fuel Tax Proposal, Introduces Tax Credit Incentives,” Houston Chronicle, June 29, 2000, p. 10A.
 Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (New York: Plume/Penguin, 1992, 1993), p. 237.
 Ibid., p. 325.
 Ibid., p. 274.
 Bill McKibben, “Too Hot to Handle,” New York Times, January 5, 2001, p. A21.