Al Gore is not one of those Power Point politicians whose standard spiel is to pledge to carry on:
• The war against cancer
• The war against terrorism
•The war against sexual exploitation of children
• The war for medical insurance coverage for all
• The war against poverty
• The war against the war against the middle class
•The war against drugs
•The war for family values
•The war for God
•The war for diversity
Plus other wars which momentarily slip my mind.
Al Gore does not play those politics. Instead of a war-against list, Gore can speak on a single topic for half an hour, an hour, an hour and a half. He has facts. He has figures. He has long thought out complicated ideas. The man has something to say.
There Gore was testifying before Congress the other day on the subject of global warming, and he pigmy-tized many small-minded Senators and Representatives. They dwarfed out when they were caught in the same room with him.
On the subject of global warming Gore has more to contribute than the politician’s standard ethanol pitch and the promise that if you wait, the science boys will come up with something to save us from having to make changes or adjustments or do anything at all.
Some of his ideas are sweeping and some are intriguing. He proposes an immediate cap on any further growth of carbon dioxide emissions. To stop emissions growth everything from industrial plants to lawn mowers and snowmobiles would have to be rejiggered in a serious way.
To achieve that goal he would require that no new electric generating plants be built without carbon dioxide traps to prevent the gas from puffing out into the atmosphere.
He would strictly tax carbon dioxide emissions by businesses, providing a sharp and painful incentive for businesses to find ways to green up. The money, which there would be a lot of, would be used to cut payroll taxes, which include Social Security, Workers Compensation, etc. That would put more money in people’s paychecks, a lot more for the millions whose Social Security tax is larger than their income tax. It would also make it cheaper for employers to hire people, thus creating more jobs.
Another Al Gore idea would be to require corporations to include an energy/carbon dioxide audit statement in their annual report and stock prospectus. Companies which do not have their energy emissions under control would be less desirable as investments than those which do.
Gore would end the era of the incandescent light bulb. They burn too much electricity. He would fix a date about ten years from now after which their manufacture would be illegal. From then on, instead of bulbs, our bright ideas will come in the form of those high-intensity, low-power squiggly bulbs which, Gore says, are getting better.
Gore has something of the 19th century about him. He is almost courtly in his manners. He can talk to Republicans, at least of the non-flat-earth variety. He has a deep voice and sometimes he thunders as few modern politicians can. At the same time you would be hard-pressed to find another major public figure so conversant with such a wide span of technology and with the earth, air, fire and water problems which are reaching crisis proportions in our century.
It has been so long since we have seen one that we may not remember what one looks like. We may not recognize that Al Gore has become a statesman.
Nicholas von Hoffman is the author of A Devil’s Dictionary of Business, now in paperback. He is a Pulitzer Prize losing author of thirteen books, including Citizen Cohn, and a columnist for the New York Observer.
Copyright © 2007 The Nation