Gore Embraces a High-Priced Energy Future
August 29, 2000
by Dennis T. Avery
BRIDGE NEWS August 25, 2000
CHURCHVILLE, Va.--During this summer's controversy over high gas prices, Vice President Al Gore accused Gov. George W. Bush of wanting higher oil prices to benefit Bush's friends in the oil business.
But even as Gore runs for president on the Democratic ticket, he remains a strong advocate for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the international emissions-control treaty he personally negotiated three years ago.
He admits the Kyoto treaty would obligate the United States to cut its energy use 25 percent below currently projected levels by 2012. Some analysts say a 40 percent cut would be required. Commodity analysts such as the WEFA Group say such reductions in energy would require a near- doubling of energy prices from the last decade.
After 2012, the Kyoto treaty would force U.S. energy use to be cut even more radically, driving gasoline prices perhaps to $5 or even $7 a gallon--and taking the prices of all other fuels to similarly agonizing levels, permanently. Gore hasn't dared reveal the potential magnitude of these second-phase Kyoto cuts.
Automobile drivers, truckers, boaters and snowmobile riders nationwide could expect far higher fuel prices than the Midwest agonized through this summer. Homeowners would face sharply higher costs for heating and cooling. Rarely in American history have the policies of a major-party candidate threatened such a harsh change in the country's standard of living.
Equally startling, the high-priced energy approach would hit hardest at the Midwest, the key battleground for swing voters in the 2000 election.
The Midwest might be thrown back into the Rust Belt era--or worse. At least one million Midwestern jobs are supported by the motor industries, and Kyoto would mean fewer vehicles, driven less.
Countries such as China and Brazil haven't signed the Kyoto treaty, so their products would undersell the Midwest and take those jobs. Midwest farmers would likely face fertilizer rationing and higher diesel prices - along with cut-rate competition from all the Third World countries that refuse to sign the treaty.
The Midwest also depends more heavily on high-sulfur coal for its power plants than other U.S. regions. Gore recently said he stands behind "every word" of his newly reissued book, "Earth in the Balance."
In the book, he claims continued burning fossil fuels is more dangerous than any future war--and high fuel taxes are the best way to limit their consumption.
Unfortunately, the United States would be almost the only country required to slash its energy use under the treaty. Europe already has punitive energy taxes. Third World countries have simply refused to sign it.
Bush has told The Washington Post, "I oppose the Kyoto Protocol. It is ineffective, inadequate and unfair to America."
In his speeches, Gore has warned, "the unrestrained burning of cheap fossil fuels has many defenders." But instead of praising the summer's high gasoline prices, Gore blamed them on price-fixing by big oil companies and pledged to bring them down.
Gore did not even concede an Energy Department report that said Environmental Protection Agency requirements for reformulated gasoline helped jack up Midwest gas prices. A former Gore staffer, Carol Browner, runs the EPA.
"Were (Gore) running for president on his principles," wrote the editor of Car and Driver magazine in June, "his stump speech would include the line, 'I applaud the higher price of fuel, and if you elect me president, I promise to work hard to raise the price even higher.' Strangely enough, nothing resembling these words has escaped his lips--at least not in public. Good thing, lest the long-haul truckers string him up."
Gore tells audiences that "just over the horizon is a future where you can power your own home with solar energy, and then make money by selling some of the energy you generate back to the local utility." Gore recommends doubling the tax credit for renewable energy sources.
However, the Energy Department's Dan Riecher testified last year that the administration hoped to see a "tripling of non-hydroelectric U.S. renewable (power generation) to 25,000 megawatts by 2010." That would supply only 3 percent of America's huge 750,000 MW power requirement.
Kevin Bell of the energy consulting group Convergence Research notes "Non-hydro renewables are trivial at this point, and will still be trivial in 10 years at any rate of growth that passes the laugh test."
Some may even call it "a risky energy scheme."
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.