Monday, March 19, 2007

Democrats, environmental activists and presidential hopefuls are angling to share the spotlight with former Vice President Al Gore this week as he comes to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming.

Mr. Gore, who has made a personal crusade out of climate change, will appear Wednesday before House and Senate panels to urge Congress to attempt to halt climate change, and he expects to bring a mailbag filled with the nearly 300,000 postcards he has collected since Christmas.

“You and I know that political will is a renewable resource, and enough already exists to start solving this crisis,” Mr. Gore, a Democrat, told supporters Friday in an e-mail, noting he’s collected 294,000 cards and is aiming for at least 50,000 more. “We just have to communicate that forcefully to the political leaders of our country.”

The testimony caps a lengthy stint of popularity for Mr. Gore, with headlines and buzz unmatched by any politician. Mr. Gore starred in the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” which was honored with an Oscar for Best Documentary and caused hundreds of articles to speculate on the 2000 presidential nominee’s political future and reinvigorated “Draft Gore” movements.

Taking advantage of the panel hearing are environmentalists, who will march on the Capitol as part of Climate Crisis Action Day tomorrow. They also will hold a rally there from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., starring members of Congress and state leaders.

“Temperatures are rising across the globe, and the impacts are devastating,” reads one advisory for the rally, being promoted by the liberal activist group “But a new Congress is in session, and we have an opportunity unlike any we’ve seen in years.”

One group promised to walk the halls of the Capitol, lobbying for “sensible solutions” to global warming, a “path to a clean energy future,” and “permanent protection” for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is eyed as a potential source of oil and gas.

Presidential candidates are jumping onto the bandwagon as well.

Several senators making 2008 bids for the White House have sponsored a bill aimed at curbing carbon emissions, but those outside of Washington have plenty to say on the topic.

Two Democratic presidential hopefuls Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina appealed to their supporters last week on climate change.

“Global warming doesn’t stop at party lines, and neither should our commitment to preventing it,” Mr. Edwards said in a campaign e-mail, noting he is attempting to run a “carbon neutral” campaign.

To do so, the Edwards campaign is buying carbon offsets to balance the “enormous” energy it takes to travel the nation and run for president, and he encouraged all his challengers to do the same.

“Good ideas for achieving carbon neutrality should be shared freely,” he said.

Not to be outdone, a Richardson staffer sent an e-mail touting his boss’s record on energy independence.

“Take a moment to tell five friends who are committed to curbing global warming and expanding alternative energy that Governor Bill Richardson is the candidate with an outstanding record of real accomplishments,” the message read.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, was among the lawmakers trumpeting Mr. Gore’s expected appearance, saying: “His testimony will help us shape the kind of reforms we need and garner even more attention to this growing crisis.”

Mrs. Pelosi has been one of the biggest champions of climate-change legislation, creating a special committee for global warming and calling for staffers to implement “green” practices in the Capitol.

“Reversing the effects of global warming may be the greatest challenge of our time, setting at risk our economy, environment, national security and our children’s future,” Mrs. Pelosi said in an e-mail from the Democrats’ campaign-fundraising group. “Every choice we make can help it can be as simple as walking instead of driving or installing energy-efficient light bulbs.”

Lawmakers say that Mr. Gore’s appearance can ratchet up pressure for doing something about global warming. The speaker set a summer goal for voting on a legislative package.

Mr. Gore will testify Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at a joint hearing of House Energy and Commerce energy and air quality subcommittee and the House Science and Technology energy and environment subcommittee. At 2:30 p.m., he will appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a hearing titled “Vice President Al Gore’s Perspective on Global Warming.”

In between, he’s sandwiched meetings with politicians and environmental leaders for what staffers have nicknamed “Gorefest.”

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