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.
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