It Could Have Happened Here
The entirety of three current generations were either not yet born or too young to vote in the 1992 presidential election: Millennials, Generation Z, and (apparently what we’re being told to refer to as) Generation Alpha.
Similarly, the oldest of GenX (born 1965–1981) were just 27 that year, and the youngest weren’t yet in middle school.
So, most of today’s America has either come of age or lived their entire lives since 1993. They have experienced Al Gore mostly in the roles preferred by today’s corporate media: vice president, “man who used to be the next President of the United States,” venerated Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Oscar-awarded filmmaker, best-selling author, and environmentalist hero.
As argued to this point, overwhelming evidence indicates that he remains the mediocre, yet personally ambitious federal politician who was forced into a quick and quiet exit from the 1988 presidential race. In the words of former hockey coach Don Cherry, finding evidence of that man today “ain’t rocket surgery.”
But outside of his days as understudy in the scandal-seeking Clinton administration, the conventional media hasn’t broken a sweat to talk about that Al Gore. Their collective credulity has helped transform him from easily forgettable to a very wealthy and influential figure.
That influence matters. Gore and others of his stature are major drivers of bad energy policy decisions in America and across the world. Three billion people worldwide still live in what energy analysts refer to as “energy poverty”— defined as little to no access to modern electricity and fuel for heating and cooking meals. More of them will remain in the cold, in the dark, and poor because of the media’s sins of omission regarding what Gore and those like him are selling.
Even the wealthy could get left in the cold following Gore’s advice. To find an example of where it may lead America, look to Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy and third-largest wealthy industrial economy behind Japan. (China, though the planet’s second largest economy, still had a GDP per capita in 2021 that lagged behind nations such as Romania and Iran).
In 2000, Germany launched Energiewende—or “energy transition”—a radical plot to kick the major industrial giant off fossil fuels and onto “renewable” energy. Over the next 20 years, they provided massive subsidies to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars to juice the buildout of wind turbines, solar panels, and biogas from fermenting crops. It was everything Al Gore could have asked for, with the added extra-Gore-y decision in 2011 to go at it by phasing out Germany’s zero-carbon nuclear power stations.
In September 2013, the German newsweekly Der Speigel ran a progress report titled “How Electricity Became a Luxury Good.” The phrase “energy poverty” was already being used to describe the plight of some of Germany’s citizens. “If the government sticks to its plans,” said the magazine, “the price of electricity will literally explode in the coming years.”
They did, and it did. By 2019 German households were paying 55 percent more for electricity than the French (who were also emitting far less carbon, due to their extensive use of nuclear energy) and 162 percent more than Americans.
A 2019 Der Speigel report on the situation was titled “German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future” and characterized Energiewende as a “massive failure.” Driving the bad policy dagger in deeper, it said “German CO2 emissions have only slightly decreased this decade,” while in the United States, because of the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation, “the country’s CO2 emissions are trending in the right direction.”
By August 2022 the Russian attack on Ukraine was forcing an energy-desperate Germany to scramble for new natural gas supplies. The German chancellor begged Canada for access to its rich bounty . . . and got turned down. In November, Germany landed a natural gas deal with Qatar, during the same month that Germany’s World Cup soccer team was in Qatar trying to shame that same nation over its odious human rights record.
Before the Qatari deal, Energiewende reached peak stupid in October 2022 when one of the once-celebrated wind turbine facilities was partly dismantled so Germany could make expanded use of a century-old coal mine.
It’s far from unfair to draw a direct line from these fiascos to Al Gore. In a very plausible alternative universe, 300 Floridians might have changed their mind on Election Day 2000 and switched their vote to Gore. By April 2018, he may have been in the second of two terms in the White House.
Back in the world as it was, Gore founded and was chairman of the Climate Reality Project, a worldwide advocacy nonprofit promoting the feckless energy and climate policies he may have implemented as president. In April 2018, promoting a seminar scheduled for Germany, Gore heaped effusive praise on Energiewende: “As a global leader on climate action, Germany has demonstrated that investment in renewable energy and technology can help usher in a successful transition toward a clean energy economy without compromising economic strength.” He added, “I look forward to meeting and hearing from the inspiring climate activists in Germany who are helping drive climate action that will continue to accelerate the global shift away from fossil fuels.”
Following the quote from Gore, the Climate Reality Project news release added this:
Germany has taken initiative to implement a far-reaching energy transition strategy to help move the country away from coal . . . climate action policies like these have influenced other countries in Central and Eastern Europe to reexamine their own.
According to Our World in Data calculations, German CO2 emissions per capita declined by 7.1 percent from 2010 (the year Energiewende was enacted) through 2017 (just before Gore’s praise for Germany in early 2018).
The decline in the United States over the same period was 13.5 percent.
Stepping back from that snapshot, consider the bigger picture from 2000, the year Gore became “the man who used to be the next President of the United States,” through 2021, the most recent year measured by Our World in Data.
Over that span, American CO2 emissions per capita fell 30.2 percent. In Germany, the nation Gore has praised as the shining policy example for how to save the planet, the cumulative decline over the same period was 28.4 percent.
The United States achieved better results, with far lower electricity prices and a booming natural gas revolution. We did it without energy poverty, without embarrassingly begging Canada to ship us some natural gas, and without the lifeblood of our economy being held hostage by Vladimir Putin.
We did it all without following Al Gore and his highly influential, awful ideas. It was a near miss, and it’s still a mistaken path he’s trying to send us down.