Gore And An Uncomfortable Congress

Bill Scher

Former vice president Al Gore testified before both House and Senate congressional committees on Wednesday, giving both houses and both parties time to consider his “inconvenient truths” about global warming —and forcing members to choose between action and obfuscation.

Gore came to Capitol Hill with  516,000 petition signatures calling for immediate action to stop global warming.More than 200,000 of those have come in since Thursday.

David Roberts, over at Gristmill, was liveblogging the Gore hearings before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and has a colorful summation of Gore’s 10-point plan to stop global warming.

No. 1: immediate carbon freeze! Then a program of reductions — 90% reductions by 2050! Wow, that’s ballsy.

Second: reduce taxes on employment and production, and make up the difference with pollution taxes, mainly CO2. … It would make us more competitive. Discourage pollution while encouraging work. But carbon pollution is not priced into the marketplace…

Third: a portion of the revenues must be earmarked for low-income people who will have a difficult time making this transition.

Fourth: strong global treaty … We should work toward “de facto compliance with Kyoto.” We ought to move forward the start date of the next treaty, from 2012 to 2010, so the next president can use his or her political good will to act immediately. We have to build more confidence that China and India will join sooner rather than later.

Fifth: a moratorium on construction of any new coal-fired power plant not compatible with carbon capture and sequestration. Wowzer.

Sixth: develop an “electranet” — a smart grid. Just as widely distributed info processing led to a big new surge of productivity … we need a law that allows widely distributed energy generation to be sold into the grid, at a rate determined not by a monopsony, but by regulation. Then, you may never need another central power generation plant. This is where Dave has a wonkgasm.

Seventh: raise CAFE standard [fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks]. Yes, [auto industry ally Rep. John] Dingell, I heard you, it should be part of a comprehensive package. It’s only a slice of the problem, but it is a big slice. The problem is “cars, coal, and buildings.”

Eighth: set a date for the ban of incandescent light bulbs. Give industry time to prepare, but set a date. They’ll adjust.

Ninth: create Connie Mae, a carbon-neutral mortgage association. All the things we do to cut carbon add to upfront selling price, but don’t pay off for a few years. … Connie Mae will help put those costs aside.

Tenth: [SEC] ought to require disclosure of carbon emissions in corporate reporting.Al Gore wrapped up his House testimony earlier this afternoon, and blogs are weighing in.

Climate Progress writes:

[Gore] was beyond well-versed in the diplomatic, scientific, economic, environmental, political and moral issues at hand.

After also watching the treatment of James Hansen at yesterday’s House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, I’m still grappling with how smeared Hansen was versus how well-received Gore was.

Complaints that science should not meddle in politics and that politics should not meddle in science commonly surround the global warming predicament. But we are witnessing a rare, sensitive, and urgent overlap in which both actors are equally critical.

I realize that Gore is one of the politicians’ own and has held an executive title more prestigious than theirs, but I remain confounded at the demand for sound science yet the frankly childish treatment of Hansen.

Brian Beutler offered this review:

He did pretty well. I’m not under any illusions. I know that even a serene and captivating performance by the worlds finest orator/climate expert wouldn’t make a huge or immediate difference.

But the Democrats’ strategy for this congress is to peck and peck and peck away at these big issues with votes and testimony and celebrity figures like Gore until the doubters and obstructionists cede ground or look foolish. I’m not ready to discount that strategy yet.

Gore was at times rambling, at times a prisoner to the word “consensus”, seldom irritated, but never flummoxed, and ultimately he found an poised and statesmanlike stride.

The Intersection concludes:

I found Al Gore’s opening testimony–which I just watched–deeply stirring. Whenever I hear the guy talk, my feeling is always the same: He exudes intelligence.

By contrast, I found the behavior of Rep. Joe Barton–constantly raising petty parliamentary objections, quibbling over whether Gore’s actual presentation did or didn’t match his written testimony closely enough, and then trying to fight over the science once again–to be small indeed.

And the Gristmill’s David Roberts looks at Gore’s policy proposals and finds:

My initial reaction is that Gore is going for the whole enchilada. He’s pushing the envelope. These are radical proposals.

During Al Gore’s testimony at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he offered his support for the global warming bill cosponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which by 2050 would slash greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels.

It’s considered to be the most aggressive bill on the table, but not considered to be a candidate to reach the Senate floor, even though Boxer is chairwoman of the committee. Gore’s endorsement could strengthen its position.

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