Third Party & Independents Archives

Gore Power

A recent interview of Al Gore by David Roberts reveals details about his upcoming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and his thoughts on our impending “climate crisis”. He discusses aspects of making the movie but also opines on nuclear energy and ethanol, as well as how little time we really have left to make substantial changes in the way we live our lives before global warming reaches a tipping point and becomes irreversible. It is this discussion that held my interest.

Ten years, that's it. Jason Hansen, the NASA researcher being muted by the Bush administration, says that is as long as we have before the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere reach a level that gives global warming unstoppable momentum. Yikes! Hind sight is always 20-20 but we've known this day has been coming for a long time. Too bad with every battle on either side of the political aisle the environment has almost always lost.

Through recent battles Gore has always appeared almost too "green" oriented to pander to the demands of every special interest group, from Big Oil to the unions, and is part of the reason many Democratic groups never truly identified with him. But, he has been on the forefront of the global warming discussion for decades. Even before the globe's biggest polluters tried to convince the world otherwise, through lies and deception no less, Gore has been fighting for the planet. Surely the Democrats have done less damage than the Republicans, but we are where we are today because of the lack of effort from everybody.

Gore thinks nuclear energy won't play that large of a roll in our future. Why? He says:

There are serious problems that have to be solved, and they are not limited to the long-term waste-storage issue and the vulnerability-to-terrorist-attack issue. Let's assume for the sake of argument that both of those problems can be solved.

We still have other issues. For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal -- which is the real issue: coal -- then we'd have to put them in so many places we'd run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale. And we'd run short of uranium, unless they went to a breeder cycle or something like it, which would increase the risk of weapons-grade material being available.

When energy prices go up, the difficulty of projecting demand also goes up -- uncertainty goes up. So utility executives naturally want to place their bets for future generating capacity on smaller increments that are available more quickly, to give themselves flexibility. Nuclear reactors are the biggest increments, that cost the most money, and take the most time to build.

In any case, if they can design a new generation [of reactors] that's manifestly safer, more flexible, etc., it may play some role, but I don't think it will play a big role.

After hearing that nuclear energy isn't going to provide the boon so many people had hoped, Roberts asked for Gore's opinion on ethanol.

Cellulosic ethanol. Different from corn-based ethanol. I think it is going to be a huge new source of energy, particularly for the transportation sector. You're going to see it all over the place. You're going to see a lot more flex-fuel vehicles. You're going to see new processes that utilize waste as the source of energy, so there's no petroleum consumed in the process -- that makes the energy balance uniformly positive, so you can regrow it and it does become, in a real sense, renewable. You may also begin to see a new generation of fuel cells that run on cellulosic ethanol, where you can grow your own electricity. I think it's going to play a huge role.

Gore makes a very important point in this statement, and it's one that is purposely avoided in ethanol marketing in the U.S. The simple fact is that corn-based ethanol isn't all it's cracked up to be. But the U.S. grows corn and corn growers have well-paid lobbyists. If we make the mistake of moving heavily to a corn-based ethanol we will have taken two steps forward only to take one and a half steps back. Sure it's progress, but in the end it will be another half-assed attempt at solving a problem when more bold action is warranted. Ethanol derived from sugarcane and other agricultural plant waste provides for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases, versus a 20% to 30% reduction from corn ethanol. There's no debate to that fact.

Roberts points out that two and a half of the ten years we have left will transpire during leadership by the Bush administration. Personally, I'm pessimistic enough to think that Bush will dawdle and cry of partisan politics, especially if the Republicans lose seats during the mid-term elections. Gore says, "We can't spot the problem two and a half years. We've got to concentrate on changing the country's mind even during this president's term." And in a genius response, Roberts asks:

Yes. But whoever is president next has four of the remaining seven years. Whoever it is will have history-changing effects, pro or con. I don't see any candidate in either party who shows signs of having internalized the scope and severity of the problem. All of which you surely realize is leading to the inevitable question: Do you not feel some obligation to jump into the race?

Gore responds as expected, "I'm not planning to be a candidate again. I appreciate the way you asked the question, I really do, but I'm not planning to be a candidate again."

Whether he runs or not, Gore has been saying we aren't trying hard enough for years. Hopefully now people are ready not only to listen, but to act.

Posted by Vihar Sheth at May 16, 2006 11:57 AM
Comments
Comment #148634

Excellent post, Vihar. Recognition that global warming is our biggest challenge — and that the clock is ticking on it — is one of my top criteria for selecting representatives this year and in 2008.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 16, 2006 12:35 PM
Comment #148636

Great job Vihar. Unfortunately, as Gore pointed out, the American “Category 5 denial” of global climate change being the result of Man is our major obstacle to a solution.

Posted by: Dave at May 16, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #148637

AP, one of our biggest challenges. The escalation in the arms trades around the globe and increasing demand with higher dollar offers for nuclear technology, combined with the growing civil unrest in dozens and dozens of nations is another one of our biggest challenges, which could bite us severely long before global warming drives the final nail into our coffins or sends us back to the stone or iron age through abrupt dissolution of global markets.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 16, 2006 12:45 PM
Comment #148652

David,

Current science says we have less than 15 years before we reach “critical mass” on the environment. What you describe is localized and has been going on for thousands of years, just with bigger guns.

Posted by: Dave at May 16, 2006 1:55 PM
Comment #148660

No mention of the shift in the axis of the earth??

Posted by: bug at May 16, 2006 2:34 PM
Comment #148664

I am crying that he’s not our president. He would have been so good. I can’t imagine Bush talking like that if it were written down for him and he two months to memorize it.

This was very informative. I’ll remember this post the next time Jack goes on one of his nuclear energy rants. And the corn thing is huge. So I guess Bush is selling us out and not really solving the problem. Color me surprised.

Posted by: Max at May 16, 2006 2:49 PM
Comment #148669

Dave, al-Queda is one bullet away from governing Pakistan with ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. We can ask them to wait 20 years until we get this global climate thing out of the way, but, somehow, I don’t think they will be very obliging.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 16, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #148673

Ever consider co-presidents??

Posted by: bug at May 16, 2006 3:20 PM
Comment #148682

As for Gore, Gore got gored by an elephant tusk. End of story. Has been, smart guy, but, no longer respected. He is a loser, by historical fact. Find someone who can bridge left and right, govern for the great middle class, make their arguments plainly and succinctly, and whose past isn’t full of corruption, ethics violations, and lack of personal self restraint in the Oval Office.

Find someone like that, and I might even vote for Democrat.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 16, 2006 3:36 PM
Comment #148708

Yeah, sure you will, David - when Hell Freezes Over - oh, wait, that just might happen

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 16, 2006 5:41 PM
Comment #148711

Good post Vihar, thanks for the info.

Posted by: gergle at May 16, 2006 5:43 PM
Comment #148763

David,

You think Al-Guappo would take over Pakistan if Mubarrak is assasinated? Not likely. It’s a military junta dictatorship. Some other general would be in charge and not all Islamic states are terrorist states. Even Iran has no real use for Nukes except to keep us from invading.
And, finally, why do you consider the goals mutually exclusive? Why do you feel that an anti-environment pro-war Bush-alike would be better than a pro-environment anti-war Gore-alike?

Posted by: Dave at May 16, 2006 8:47 PM
Comment #148810
An Inconvenient Truth,

All truth is inconvenient for Gore.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 16, 2006 11:55 PM
Comment #149012

Dave, I think Musharraf’s assasination will lead to civil war amongst various militarized factions including an al-Queda/Taliban alliance supported by an influx of resources from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and factions in other countries like Indonesia. Your crystal ball may be clearer than mine, but, such a conflict is by no means assured of not falling to a non-taliban/al-Queda alliance in my crystal ball.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 17, 2006 4:40 PM
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