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IT AIN'T EASY BEING GREEN, AL

by John DeSioNew York Press

Sometimes, it just seems like Al Gore can’t get out of his own way.

Last week Gore came under fire after it was revealed that Barrick Gold was to be a sponsor of his upcoming trip to Santiago, Chile, to discuss climate change. Barrick Gold is a mining company of some controversy in Chile, and leaders there worried that having such a dirty company sponsor such a clean event would make Gore look like a hypocrite, and make a mockery of the entire event.

For his part, Gore’s people said that the former vice president and documentarian had no idea that Barrick was a sponsor of the event and asked that the company be removed as soon as they heard. Gore has made climate change his top priority and played a major role in the development of the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Since that win, Gore has come under attack from a variety of sources, including a few who you might have thought would have agreed with him.

In March, The New York Times ran a piece which saw several climatologists, none of which could be described as right-wing partisans, blasting Gore for being too much of an alarmist on climate change. Global warming is real, they said, but Gore’s predictions on the issue are what’s unrealistic. Gore also faced some trouble last month during an appearance before Congress to discuss climate change when Republican Senator James Inhofe, asked him to sign a pledge limiting his own emissions output to that of the average American. Days earlier, Gore’s own energy usage on his Tennessee home had been made public, and the number was astronomical. When pressed by Inhofe Gore demurred, noting instead that his family purchases “carbon offsets” to make good for their pollution.

Carbon offsets, which allow those with money to pay for the privilege to pollute with a clean conscience, represent a whole other problem for Gore. As his appearance before Congress neared, it was revealed that Gore’s own purchasing of such offsets is done through a company that he helped to create. In essence, Gore is buying carbon offsets from himself. “While global warming alarmism seems to be providing both financial and political benefits to Mr. Gore,” said Steve Milloy of the right-leaning, pro-business group JunkScience.com, “The rest of us are getting a far shorter end of the stick.”

While it may be unsightly for Gore or any other individual to profit off their own hype, the main problem with Gore is that he is not a scientist, but a politician. There is no doubt that Gore, whatever his potential personal inconsistencies on climate change may be, is certainly sincere about the cause. He believes in this. But muted tones and quiet observations do not make for big headlines. Gore has revitalized his entire career through his advocacy on global warming, and that revitalization would not have been possible unless everyone paid attention. Sometimes, a little alarmism goes a long way.

It is no secret that Gore would like to be president, having come oh so close to that goal in 2000. For many, Gore is seen as the only Democrat that could potentially topple Senator Hillary Clinton in their party’s primary, though that argument has lost some of its luster now that Clinton’s Senate colleague, Barack Obama, has proved to be a more than competent fundraiser. At one point, Gore seemed like the last great hope for the Democrats. Now, according to a new poll, most Americans would rather Gore not even run.

That poll, conducted jointly by USA Today and Gallup, found that 57 percent of Americans want Gore to stay out of the 2008 race, while 38 percent want him to jump in the race. Of course, there is a partisan aspect to the poll, showing that while Democrats might long for another Gore campaign, Republicans are extremely hostile to the idea. But the poll even found independent voters, which make up the backbone of any presidential contest, less than thrilled about a Gore candidacy, preferring he stay out of the race by a margin of 57-37.

Democrats love Gore, and will always hold a special place for him in their heart as the man who should have been king. But perhaps the country-at-large prefers to keep Gore out of the race because his alarmism on climate change seems, well, less than presidential. Gore has reinvented himself, through global warming, as an activist. Apparently, Americans prefer to keep their activists out of the Oval Office.

 

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