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Mr. Green Goes to Washington

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

Wednesday’s Al Gore performances before committees in the House and Senate were witnessed by overflow crowds. Gore sparred with elected representatives of Big Energy and repeatedly sounded this alarm: “Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it’s a challenge to the moral imagination.”

Yeah. I’m one who believes that human-caused climate change is indeed a threat. However, it’s not Gore’s imagination or his morals, but his well-documented self-promotional instincts that should be looked at here. Aside from the facts that when the supposed author of “Earth in the Balance” was vice-president for eight years, average fuel efficiency on our nation’s fleet of vehicles went down, toxic waste burners couldn’t be approved quickly enough nor could he and Bill Clinton suspend the laws to facilitate clear-cut logging of our nation’s forests, i.e., what Gore now calls “carbon reserves,” fast enough; etc,; a very large elephant roams the living room of Global Warming activism.

Modern Day Indulgences

Let’s start with the considerable living room of Gore himself. His 10,000 square foot mansion (one of three he owns) in Tennessee uses 20 times the energy of the average American household. When the right-wing noise machine gleefully pointed this out, Gore responded by citing his purchase of “carbon off-sets” as somehow absolving him of his huge carbon footprint, much like the wealthy in Medieval times bought indulgences from the church to off-set their sins. This feel-good dodge, in the end, does nothing to reduce the carbon released in the first place.

When baited by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Big Oil, to sign a Personal Pledge on limiting his energy consumption to just that of the average American household – an average Gore has said is itself unsustainable – Gore simply refused and again cited his carbon indulgences.

 

This is the Pledge Gore refused to sign:

“As a believer:

· that human-caused global warming is a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue affecting our survival;

· that home energy use is a key component of overall energy use;

· that reducing my fossil fuel-based home energy usage will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions; and

· that leaders on moral issues should lead by example;

I pledge to consume no more energy for use in my residence than the average American household by March 21, 2008.”

Hmmm? Why wouldn’t Gore sign on to something he himself advocates all the rest of us do? To find Dumbo amongst the furniture we need to look into where Gore buys his carbon indulgences to see what is really going on here.

Major League Green Scammers

But first we have to go back to Earth Day 1995 for a little history. Vice-president Gore (three months before Clinton signed the infamous Salvage Rider which suspended all the environmental laws covering public lands logging) went to Fall River, Massachusetts and gave a promotional speech at the HQ of a company called Molten Metal Technology, Inc. (MMTI). MMTI claimed to have invented a process to extract metals from trash.

MMTI was headed by Clinton/Gore major campaign contributor Canadian Maurice Strong, the former Secretary General of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ­ the famed Rio Earth Summit – though Gore left Strong, the former head of Petro Canada’s involvement – and the fact that his former top Senate aid Peter Knight was MMTI’s registered lobbyist out of his fawning sales pitch.

MMTI went on to quickly garner over $33 million in Clinton administration Department of Energy (DoE) research and development grants. These tax dollars proved to be the firm’s only source of revenue as MMTI never did achieve anything close to commercial production.

Yet MMTI’s stock soared to $35 a share mainly on the basis of Gore’s glowing support. But by March 1996, DoE officials decided to end the subsidies. Between March and October that year, Strong and eight other officers of MMTI dumped over $15 million in personal shares at $31 per, knowing full well that the government handouts were to end. As soon as Wall Street also figured that out, after MMTI issued an October 20th Sunday press release revealing for the first time the loss of DoE funding, MMTI’s stock crashed the next day, eventually plummeting to 13 cents a share, prompting investor lawsuits.

This was not a first for Strong. In 1981 Strong headed Denver oil promoter AZL Resources. AZL paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit that he had falsely inflated the price of AZL stock, again cashing in. However, in the end, Strong made out like a bandit. AZL also owned a number of western ranches and when AZL merged with the Tosco oil refining company in 1983, Tosco sold Strong the 160,000-acre Baca Ranch in southern Colorado for a pittance. The Baca Ranch, not to be confused with New Mexico’s Baca Ranch, after many shifts in ownership and reduction to 97,000 acres, was eventually purchased by the Nature Conservancy for $32 million in 2004, with 27,000 acres deeded to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, with over $13 million in federal Land and Water Conservation funds going to the ranch’s owners for water rights that dated back to a Strong proposal to tap the aquifer and sell off the water.

Part of the original ranch is still owned by Strong’s Manitou Foundation and is the HQ for a series of religious groups ­ from a Carmelite Monastery to Tibetan Buddhist retreats.

These guys make the Big Greens’ scamming for foundation grants seem positively minor league.
Father Earth and the Ozone Man

So, now who do you suppose joins Al Gore as chief evangelists of Carbon Off-sets? None other than Maurice “Father Earth” Strong, now headquartered in China. Strong primarily does this though his chairmanship of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the world’s first trader in greenhouse gas credits. Gore is the founder and chairman of another such entity, Generation Investment Management LLP, which has headquarters in both London and Washington, DC.

Perhaps the biggest pachyderm in the living room is that Al Gore buys his carbon off-sets from himself. No wonder he won’t sign the pledge. It would lower the bottom line of his own company. His job, like Strong’s, is to cash in on climate change, pimp more feel good indulgences to naïve citizens and use the issue for his third run for president, not to use less energy.

The Carbon Off-sets Shell Game

And just what is a “Carbon Off-set?” Well, it is based primarily on a the theory that trees absorb greenhouse gasses, so companies and individuals that use energy can balance the resulting carbon production by planting trees. There are other such things – Renewable Energy credits and Emissions Trading credits, which Alexander Cockburn rightly dubbed Cancer Bonds, etc. but mostly the indulgence Gore claims is related to tree planting.

Trees do absorb carbon and serve as a carbon sink. They also shade the earth and release moisture that forms clouds that also help cool the planet. However, they also warm the Earth as their dark green color absorbs more sunlight than the sun-reflecting snows many forests shade. Most importantly, the carbon off-set hallelujah choir fails to note that trees eventually die and rot (if they are not cut for lumber) and the carbon stored in them is then released ­ merely postponing the climate change effects of the energy use they supposedly off-set. (Is there any debt that politicians and industrialists won’t pass on to future generations?) It takes planting 900 trees in the tropics to off-set the energy use of the average American household – 18,000 for an Al Gore household. A Lawrence Livermore study shows that there is no net global cooling from planting trees in temperate climates due to much slower growth rates and the shading of snow.

Al Gore summed up his DC performance stating, “The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say, `Well, I read a science fiction novel that told me it’s not a problem.’ If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action.”

The crib may very well be on fire. Al Gore’s pants certainly are.

MICHAEL DONNELLY fought diligently against the Clinton/Gore administration’s resumption of Old Growth logging on public lands. He continues to fight to keep existing forests standing. He admits his carbon footprint is far too big. He is part of a Land Trust that preserves over three million trees in three states. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

 

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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