Maybe people should stop obsessing over Al Gore

Here in Philadelphia, there was a fairly famous case back in the 1990s of a stalker who was obsessed with a then-local CBS newsman Steve Levy -- so obsessed that he believed that Levy controlled the climate. When the man was arrested, Channel 3 played a tape of a call he made to the station from an Atlantic City casino, in which he said something along the lines of: "Hey Steve, could you turn down the heat -- I'm burning up in here!"

It reminds of how some people seem to view Al Gore -- so powerful that he controls our climate (yet not so powerful to become president, somehow.) Via Matt Drudge comes this strange article today from the New York Sun, on a very important issue, the link between U.S. ethanol policy and the world food crisis:

The sub-headline is: "Gore Ducks, as a Backlash Builds Against Biofuels."

The story states:

Mr. Senauer said climate change advocates, such as Vice President Gore, need to distance themselves from ethanol to avoid tarnishing the effort against global warming. “Crop-based biofuels are not part of the solution. They, in fact, add to the problem. Whether Al Gore has caught up with that, somebody ought to ask him,” the professor said. “There are lots of solutions, real solutions to climate change. We need to get to those.”

The story makes much of the fact that Gore wasn't available to respond yesterday, but lower down it notes:

In an interview last year, Mr. Gore expressed his support for corn-based ethanol, but endorsed moving to what he called a “third generation” of so-called cellulosic ethanol production, which is still in laboratory research. “It doesn’t compete with food crops, so it doesn’t put pressure on food prices,” the former vice president told Popular Mechanics magazine.

That sounds like a perfectly reasonable stance -- it shows that Gore was concerned about pressure on the food supply last year, long before this was all front-page news. What's more, Gore may be an influential person, but he's also, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, a private citizen. Isn't a lot more important, for example, to note what the three people running for president have been doing?

Mainly, pandering to voters in Iowa:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama urged Congress Monday to end a two-year stalemate that has stifled production of ethanol, a corn-based fuel additive that he says could create more than 200,000 new jobs and ease the nation's dependance on foreign oil.

-- March 15, 2005.

She (Sen. Hillary Clinton) also called for a massive expansion of ethanol, a corn-based fuel additive and substitute, which is currently only available at a small percentage of gas stations in the United States.

Ethanol is popular in corn-producing states, especially Iowa, which holds the first caucus of the presidential primary.

-- May 23, 2006.

Then there's the most curious case of "Straight Talker" John McCain, who was against ethanol before he was for it (in Iowa, of course.):

"Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn't create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it," McCain said in November 2003. "Yet thanks to agricultural subsidies and ethanol producer subsidies, it is now a very big business - tens of billions of dollars that have enriched a handful of corporate interests - primarily one big corporation, ADM. Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality."


In a flip-flop so absurd it'll be a wonder if it doesn't get lampooned by late-night comedians - not to mention opponents' negative ads - McCain is now proclaiming himself a "strong" ethanol supporter.

"I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects," he said in an August speech in Grinnell, Iowa, as reported by the Associated Press.

Getting back to the original New York Sun article, the one that's so hard on private citizen and non-candidate Al Gore -- it simply tosses McCain's flip-flop down the memory hole:

 With increasing use of corn and sugar cane for fuel, a rise in related food prices would seem inevitable.” The article, “The Ethanol Illusion” went so far as to praise Senator McCain for summing up the corn-ethanol energy initiative launched in the United States in 2003 as “highway robbery perpetrated on the American public by Congress.”

But this kind of lazy, let's-blame-Al-Gore-and-give-John-McCain-a-free-ride journalism is a different kind of rip-off.