When out promoting his film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore introduces himself as “The man who used to be the next president of the United States.” There’s a pause while people laugh, then Gore deadpans: “It’s not funny.”
No, it’s not funny. Think of what an intelligent president could have done with the convergence of two powerful forces: the strong, post-9/11 sentiment to be free of dependence on foreign oil, and the growing consensus that global warming is pushing our country (and the rest of the globe) toward catastrophe.
He could have pushed the twin engines of alternate fuels and greater efficiencies hard, promoting them not just as a matter of national security (which they are), not just as a moral obligation in the face of global warming (which it is), but as an unparalleled opportunity to use the US’s legendary entrepreneurial skills to seize leadership in the everyone-knows-its-coming environmental products and services industry.
He could have used the White House bully pulpit to get his energy-industry cronies to see the handwriting on the wall, telling them, in effect, “You can’t lick them – so join them.” Then, instead of giving them billions in tax-payer financed incentives to expand their petroleum-based lines of business, give them the same billions in incentives to transition to a 21st century lines of business.
By now our auto fleets would be averaging 35 miles to the gallon and the word “hybrid” would be losing some of its meaning. Wind and solar power technologies would be rapidly improving, bringing down the cost to consumers and causing another future-oriented sector of the economy to flourish. Maybe, just maybe, we’d have had one less reason to invade Iraq.