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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Short-Sightedness Of Al Gore's Crusade


I'm very happy for former Vice President Al Gore. Being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is an honor no matter the circumstances. Beyond that, however, I have a hard time jumping on Gore's bandwagon to "save the world."

From THE NATION I read this speech by Al Gore, A Precious and Painful Vision of the Future . I'm not saying that Gore's climate change crusade is all bad; quite the contrary. But, in his zeal to address the issue his approach and solution bank leave me rather skeptical.

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."


More than two decades ago,scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world's resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent "carbon summer."

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice." Either, he notes, "would suffice."

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.


We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon--with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance--especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they've taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

Matthew O'Keefe of Papamoka Straight Talk recently wrote a piece, CLOCK TICKING ON BIG OIL. The title itself addresses the main fear put forth by Mr. Gore. Environmentally the party is over. Yet economically it is also. When it reaches the point that a temper tantrum by some Mid-East tyrant, or South American tyrant drives the price of oil up overnight, then it's time to take serious stock of where we are and where we're going.

Where we are is stretched over an oil barrel. I have not heard it yet put forth by anyone that there might be a cheaper, more abundant, and cleaner form of energy for daily use. There MIGHT be, but that political will mentioned by Mr. Gore is missing. While it is believed by many (including me) that the current administration is more than happy to let the chips fall where they may....this sacred "free market solution" is also fair to ask why Mr. Gore did not use his influence to have then-President Clinton get the ball rolling while oil was stable and relatively cheap.

Re-reading Gore's entire speech, I get this weird feeling like I'm listening to Noah demand that someone build an Ark; that the world is on the edge of total life-ending disaster. But Noah in this case is shouting from his private yacht.

To say that we are at war with our planet and must make peace with it goes beyond a rational warning to an incitement of irrational fear. Pushing for "carbon credits" is to me a nice hypothetical high school solution, but not much else.

And despite Mr. Gore's strong belief in the collective action of treaties and laws, there is NOTHING in economic terms that does the trick like individuality. Americans drive millions of cars dumping millions of tons of pollutants every year. Yet those vehicles give people individual freedom that is not going to be forsaken in favor of trolleys and light rail.

The push should be in the direction of what form of energy is used in the future. Let me pose this question: how far do most people drive their cars to and from work each day? Mat O'Keefe and I discussed this, and it is plainly clear that battery-powered vehicles would suit the needs of the vast majority of commuters.

New battery technology would have to be developed. In two areas..nuclear power and computer technology....private enterprise has done well AFTER the government gave things a shove.

Taxes of any kind affect economic affairs; that is easily understood. Carbon taxes as proposed are one-dimensional...they would make some people feel good (like tossing money into the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas) but would impact those at the lower end of the scale the most. Anyone who says that taxes can be imposed on businesses and not be passed on to consumers is either a fool or a liar.

Tax incentives on the other hand can always lure someone to take a chance. We desperately need leadership on this, no doubt. But scaring the hell out of people without offering hope through a clear and concise policy change is not helping matters.

I know; I know...Al Gore offers some but most of his message is that dire warning harangue. What opponents of Mr. Gore's climate change warnings must not lose sight of is that the debate about whether there IS global warming or not is quickly becoming irrelevant.

What counts most is that ticking clock on oil. Those with the power and influence are betraying national security by not giving us that clear and concise lead.

Towards a stable tomorrow, free of oil speculators and oil tyrants.
Cross-posted at
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Blogger Papamoka said...

Holy crap Mike... Do I have to watch everything I say to you on the!!! Just busting ya my friend.

Seeing that you and I were both parties of the conversation I don't feel like I have anything to add to your post. Great read Mike.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. Gore won the peace prize for making aware, not solving.

The following is the only solution I can see.

This is the most transparent, most efficient, and least expensive way to get to sustainable energy and end energy imports and global warming; guaranteed!

The Free Market Solution Part 1
This is about using the power of the free market to provide to solution to oil imports and global warming.

The next president should appoint a commission, of wise people, with no significant financial interests in energy, to come up with the most effective and least costly means to reduce greenhouse gases.

This is what they would come up with:
An assessment against fossil carbon release and then returned equally to all tax filers.
Here’s why:

1.It avoids a tax that to many people means wasteful spending.
A carbon tax would do many of the same things an assessment would do, but would not be as efficient (motivate) and certainly would not be popular.
2. A carbon tax is regressive, since low income people spend a greater portion of their income for energy. A carbon tax would be especially unfair and unpopular with lower income people.
3. An assessment does not make reduction of energy use mandatory.
Free choice is always desirable and would motivate more people. Those who chose not to participate can feel free not to as they will be paying others to reduce their use and will pay for renewable fuel development.
4. As non-fossil energy comes on line, the assessment becomes less until it disappears.
An assessment is temporary and disappears as fossil carbon emissions drop.
5. It would be inexpensive to collect, since it would involve the few oil or coal companies
and they already collect the necessary information.
6. It would cost very little to pay back, since a tax filing system is already in place.
7. An assessment would be fair, if the assumption is made, that all people are born equal and have an equal stake or equal rights to a clean environment.
8. Most important, an assessment would allow free market principles to work.
Why would anyone think congress would make the best decisions on what energies to
support with grants, subsidies, tax breaks or mandates. The reason an assessment would work is the complete transparency and everyone can choose whether to be
involved and those risking their investment money will make more knowledgeable decisions than congress.
Go to for parts 2 -6

10:19 AM  

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