- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2000

As he demonstrated throughout his apocalyptic 1992 book, "Earth in the Balance," which was ostentatiously reissued in April in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, Al Gore has a ton of convictions. Already, however, he has demonstrated that he has not an ounce of courage to defend them.

What are those convictions? In his book, Mr. Gore argued that the automobile's "cumulative impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront." Pretty heady stuff, eh? To counter this "mortal threat," Mr. Gore called for a "moral alertness," which he argued the nation lacked in the 1930s as Hitler prepared for the Holocaust. "Now warnings of a different sort signal an environmental holocaust without precedent," Mr. Gore wrote in 1992. "Once again world leaders waffle, hoping the danger will dissipate. Yet today the evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of glass shattering in Berlin." By failing to "provide world leadership … in the face of the assault by civilization on the global environment," Mr. Gore blamed the United States for "once again inviting a descent toward chaos." To Mr. Gore's mind, the time for action had long passed: "How much more evidence is needed by the body politic to justify taking action?"

What was Mr. Gore's solution? Despite the fact that "almost every poll shows Americans decisively rejecting higher taxes on fossil fuels," Mr. Gore made clear where he stood on the matter: "That proposal is one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment." In fact, it was the only solution he mentioned in the chapter warning the world about impending "environmental holocaust."

Condemning the Bush administration for pursuing a "disastrous and immoral policy" and taking only "symbolic action," Mr. Gore observed that "voters are willing to go much further to meet the crisis than most politicians assume is possible but they are waiting for leadership. Indeed," Mr. Gore asserted, "I am convinced they are hungry to hear hard truths." The American people, he said, were giving their leaders "permission to challenge the nation to take bold, visionary and even difficult steps to confront the environmental crisis forthrightly."

And what sort of "bold, visionary and even difficult steps" did Mr. Gore propose late last month? What policies would he pursue to fill the leadership vacuum in order to prevent an "environmental holocaust"? He offered a grab bag of incentives tax credits, loans, grants, bonds, royalty moratoriums, etc. to encourage energy companies and consumers to reduce pollution and oil consumption by developing and using alternative forms of energy. Talk about "symbolic action": He proposed creating an "Energy Security and Environmental Trust" in order to "reduce America's dependence on big oil and imported oil for the long term by finding new and better ways to produce clean, affordable and reliable energy here in America."

In the place of "moral alertness," "leadership" and "hard truths," Al Gore offered tax credits for fuel-efficient pickups ($4,000), fuel-efficient 18-wheel cargo trucks ($15,000), solar water-heating systems ($1,000) and solar electricity systems ($2,000). He would double the tax credit for businesses that turn landfill methane into electricity. Yes, tax credits for landfill methane. In Mr. Gore's newly quixotic world, Americans will learn to love windmills. Altogether, Mr. Gore's hodgepodge of proposals would cost $150 billion over 10 years.

Conspicuously absent from Mr. Gore's plethora of incentives, however, was the single most important proposal higher taxes on fossil fuels he has advocated since "Earth in the Balance" was published in 1992. In his Tuesday speech, which he hypocritically began by noting that "the cost of gasoline is simply too high for American working families," Mr. Gore neglected to tell voters that he has long advocated massive price increases on fossil fuels, including gasoline. To be sure, Mr. Gore would have preferred to have induced these price increases by raising energy taxes, including gasoline taxes; but there can be no doubt that the policies Mr. Gore has long advocated would profoundly increase the price of oil-based energy.

In fact as he unveiled his "Energy Security and Environmental Trust," Mr. Gore audaciously denied the policies he fervently advocated in his book and has never disavowed. Mr. Gore denied ever calling for raising gasoline prices. "I've made no such comments," he said. "I'm in favor of cutting taxes, not raising them."

Where was the courage of his convictions? Where was his leadership? The vice president has none for the simple reason that the No. 1 concern of Americans today is high gas prices. Mr. Gore's hypocrisy is especially revealing in the context of this passage from his book: "A more subtle and pervasive temptation [than the moral compromises involved in corruption for personal enrichment] is the desire to attain and hold on to power, even when doing so means avoiding hard choices and ignoring the truth. In this regard, one of the most deadly threats to the stewardship of democracy is a lack of leadership."

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