Appearing before House committees and the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee, Al Gore, as we all know, made an impassioned plea for all to take cognizance and to start seriously doing something about what he cogently termed as our "planetary emergency". We know where Al Gore stands on these issues. Yet the hearings were enormously informative in that they gave the "other side" an opportunity to speak and for us to learn and experience clearly what they had to say. It's not a pretty picture.
Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, Representatives Barton, Hall (Texas) et al were quick to challenge Gore's argumentation trying to dismiss it as unfounded and unproven. Not surprisingly they come from oil-producing States and therein lies the crux of our political, and if Gore is right, our existential dilemma. Their opposition is firm, active and powerful. They have the support of the oil industry and all those who benefit by that industry's wealth and breadth. And while the rest of Congress is prone to accept much of Gore's argumentation their support for real action is muted at best, rendered impotent by the influence of the oil lobby and oil campaign contributions.
Representative Ralph M. Hall of Texas was quoted during the hearings that cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases accounted "for an all out assault on all forms of fossil fuels...that could eliminate jobs and hurt the economy". Was he counting the jobs gained soldiering in Iraq? Or for that matter the 'hurts' and deaths inflicted on our soldiers there. Certainly in this administration and sadly this Congress, our inalienable right to burn as much fossil fuel as we desire has barely been challenged. If Gore and much scientific consensus are to be believed then we are irresponsibly consuming fossil fuels at grave risk to ourselves and that of our progeny. As the hearings have shown, there are powerful and influential forces who will do their utmost to assure that the challenge is never raised in seriousness.
In a glimpse of things to come if all continues as is, there was the recent election debate in Hong Kong. The polluted air drifting over Hong Kong from mainland China was a key electoral issue. The problem extends far beyond Hong Kong with China's factories spewing toxic air emissions towards its neighbors and across the Pacific with particles detectable as far as our West Coast. All of which inevitably raises the question of how can we begin to deal with China and others if our own house is not in order.
Al Gore has a passion and a righteous mission. How serious is he? Let me proffer a clear litmus test. If he believes, than he must reach for the ultimate bully pulpit, the American Presidency. It is only from that vantage point that he can deal with a somnolent Congress and the deeply vested interests that will ultimately overwhelm his issues. It is only the Presidency from where he will be able to rally a now leaderless citizenry to take this issue in hand and change the direction of the nation and reestablish its position of respect in the world. Anything less will leave the field to those whose interests are at variance with America's future. "Time, it is a wastin"!
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