Give Al Gore a Break — Seriously

As a falsifying, exaggerating, sanctimonious propagandist of global-warming doom, DOOM!, former Vice President Al Gore deserves all the jibes and condemnation that come his way. (Like these criticisms, for example.)

Nevertheless, the latest anti-Gore environmental excitement strikes us as a stretch. The Tennessean newspaper published a Sunday news package implying piggish hypocrisy on Gore’s part because he benefits monetarily from a zinc mine. “Tenn. mine enriched Gore, scarred land,” is the headline. Enriched…Scarred…Which we take to mean that this mine, and mining by its nature often does “scar” land, was profitable. Well, good. Glad for it. The package’s subhead: “No major pollution violations, but threat remains.” So, environmentally, it hasn’t been a major problem. And the story is?

CARTHAGE, Tenn. – Al Gore has profited from zinc mining that has released millions of pounds of potentially toxic substances near his farmstead, but there is no evidence the mine has caused serious damage to the environment in the area or threatened the health of his neighbors.

Two massive white mountains of leftover rock waste are evidence of three decades of mining that earned Gore more than $500,000 in royalty payments for the mineral rights to his property.

New owners plan to start mining again later this year, after nearly four years of inactivity. In addition to bringing 250 much-needed jobs to rural Middle Tennessee, mine owners will resume paying royalties to some residents who, like Gore, own land adjacent to the mine and lease access to the zinc under their property.

The Tennessean gives the readers loads of information, including sidebars, photos, website videos — the whole package that screams out, “This is an important story! Pay attention!” But in the end there remains only a simple thesis: Al Gore is a high-profile environmentalist, mining damages the environment, Al Gore makes money from a zinc mine, therefore he is a high-profile hypocrite. Many bloggers heartily agree.

When it comes to global warming, accusations of hypocrisy against Gore are well-justified. As the Tennessee Center for Public Policy demonstrated — scooping The Tennessean on a story the paper was just sitting on — Al Gore’s mountain mansion sucks up incredible amounts of electricity. (Carbon offsets, yeah, sure.)

With the mine story, however, The Tennessean sets an implied standard holding that Gore, and any environmentalist for that matter, cannot profit from any economic activity without being labeled a hypocrite. Remove zinc mining — and mining does cause waste — from the equation, and what economic activity would be left in a modern, industrialized society? From the American Zinc Association:

Over 7 million tons of zinc are produced annually worldwide. Nearly 50% of the amount is used for galvanizing to protect steel from corrosion. Approximately 19% are used to produce brass and 16% go into the production of zinc base alloys to supply e.g. the die casting industry. Significant amounts are also utilized for compounds such as zinc oxide and zinc sulfate and semi-manufactures including roofing, gutters and down-pipes.

These first use suppliers then convert zinc into in a broad range of products. Main application areas are: construction (45%) followed by transport (25%), consumer goods & electrical appliances (23%) and general engineering (7%).

Al Gore ranks as world’s chief global-warming alarmist and advocate of silencing debate; as such, he warrants constant, critical attention and, for his many excesses, condemnation.

But in this case we say, lay off. Gore has nothing to apologize for.

UPDATE (6:05 p.m.): Although Glenn Reynolds, a Tennessean, has a sensible observation:

[If] you adopt a quasi-messianic posture, people will judge your actions very differently than if you do not.

UPDATE II (9:45 a.m., March 19): John Fund of the Wall Street Journal calls Gore to task for hype, hypocrisy and hectoring, the zinc mine being a prime example. Good topic to explore at the NAM’s Public Affairs Conference tomorrow.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Dana H. says:

    You wrote: “With the mine story, however, The Tennessean sets an implied standard holding that Gore, and any environmentalist for that matter, cannot profit from any economic activity without being labeled a hypocrite.”

    This standard is in fact correct, given that some environmentalist is bound to find a problem with every significant economic activity beyond subsistence farming. (And they will find a problem even with that if a farmer needs to cut down trees to create tillable land.) The only 100% consistent environmentalist is one who commits suicide in order to put an end to his carbon dioxide-spewing, “earth-raping” activity.

    This might cause a sensible person to question whether there’s something wrong with environmental ideology.

  • Mike Perry says:

    I’m certainly no fan of Al Gore, but did the NAM actually read the article before it decided to stand up for Tennessee’s former senator? Yes, the article above was written with with the article in hand, but that’s not my point. My point is that I suspect the NAM stance was decided before they knew the article’s contents.

    The Tennessean article is actually quite gentle with a family that is, after all, one of their state’s wealthiest and best known. Readers could even come away with the impression that the Gore family is helping to bring jobs to a community in desperate need of them. There are no lurid tales of fish kills and animal mutations of the sort that environmentalists like to bring, no hints of laws blatently disregarded or state officials bought off.

    And it is absurd to claim, as your article suggests, that, “an implied standard holding that Gore, and any environmentalist for that matter, cannot profit from any economic activity without being labeled a hypocrite” isn’t being claimed by environmentalists including Gore.

    Do I really need to point out to you that CO2 being released into our global atmosphere is quite a different issue from lead from a lead smelter killing little fishes in nearby streams? With the arrival of CO2 as an issue, environmentalists (including Gore) are stating quite clearly that virtually ALL economic activities are destroying our climate in an apocalyptic way. If you think that remark isn’t true, name me a single economic activity that does not generate CO2. If you have employees, they breathe and that produces C02. If you have a single vehicle that isn’t powered by hydrogen created from wind, water, or solar sources, you’re polluting to make profits.

    Under the latest hysteria, all economic activity, indeed all human activity, is environmentally destructive. And to do so merely for “profits” is, for those on the left like Gore, a double crime. So it is quite right to attack as hypocritical Gore’s lucrative economic activities. Remember, we’re not talking about judging Gore by the standards of the NAM. We’re talking about judging Gore by his own, oft-expressed standard.

    –Mike Perry, Seattle