- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

After winning an Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore appeared on Capitol Hill March 21 before an even more important crowd: lawmakers who could pass legislation that would make energy unaffordable for many Americans.

The former vice president claims we “can’t afford inaction any longer” and that ensuring our children and grandchildren “inherit a clean and beautiful planet capable of supporting a healthy human civilization… should transcend politics.”

However, nothing is more political than the claim to transcend politics, because anyone who actually represents truth (science) and virtue (morality) deserves to rule, so Mr. Gore’s admonishment is a not-so-subtle form of bragging.

Mr. Gore blasts his political opponents while posing as an apolitical Mr. Science. When he calls global warming a “moral issue,” he implies those who disagree with him have no ideas worth considering or motives worth respecting. How moral is that?

“An Inconvenient Truth” purports to be a nonpartisan, nonideological exposition of climate science. In reality, the film is a computer-enhanced lawyer’s brief for global warming alarmism and energy rationing.

Mr. Gore never considers the obvious moral objection to his agenda — its potentially catastrophic impacts on the world’s poor. Stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is not even remotely possible unless China, India and other developing countries restrict their use of carbon-based energy.

Carbon dioxide (CO2), which Mr. Gore demagogically calls “global warming pollution” (it’s plant food, after all), is the inescapable byproduct of most of the energy that fuels America’s, and the world’s, economy.

The Kyoto Protocol advocates view it as just a “first step” in a long march toward a decarbonized future. But the global economy is moving in exactly the opposite direction. Fossil energy demand is growing, especially in developing countries.

The federal Energy Information Administration projects a 71 percent increase in global energy consumption between 2003 and 2030, with three-quarters of the increase in developing countries. And in 2030 as in 2003, fossil fuels are projected to supply about 86 percent of world energy consumption.

Energy poverty is a scourge, shortening the lives and impairing the health of untold millions of people around the globe. An estimated 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity. And some 2.4 billion people still rely on traditional biomass — wood, crop waste and dung — for cooking and heating.

Relying on traditional biomass causes daily indoor air pollution many times dirtier than outdoor in the most polluted cities, and kills about 2.8 million people yearly, mostly women and children. It also takes a heavy toll on forests and wildlife habitat.

The real inconvenient truth is that nobody knows how to meet current, much less future, global energy needs with low- and nonemitting technologies.

Even in wealthy countries like the United States, energy taxes or their regulatory equivalent can inflict hardship on low-income households. Millions of families already feel pinched by the high cost of gasoline, natural gas and home heating oil. A Kyoto-style system would make energy even more costly for consumers.

Many U.S. politicians professed outrage in 2005 when gasoline prices spiked above $3 a gallon. Consumers pay twice as much for gasoline in some European countries, due to heavy motor fuel taxes. Yet from 1990 to 2004, EU transport sector CO2 emissions increased almost 26 percent and are projected under current policies to be 35 percent above 1990 levels in 2010.

How much higher than European-level gasoline prices does Mr. Gore think Americans should have to pay? He should at least admit that the pursuit of carbon stabilization has the potential to do more harm than good.

Mr. Gore calls global warming a “moral issue” but sees nothing immoral in trying to make fossil energy scarcer and more costly in a world where 1.6 billion people have never flipped a light switch and billions more are too poor to own an automobile. There is nothing moral about putting an energy-starved world on an energy diet.

Marlo Lewis Jr. is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of “Al Gore’s Science Fiction: A Skeptic’s Guide to ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ “

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