In honor of Earth Day, we take a one-week respite from our dizzying political tour of the United States in order to take a dizzying political tour of Vice President Al Gore. What could be more fun? Perhaps you will require sedation before reading further.
Gore-the-environmentalist blasted back on the scene just in time for Earth Day with a few words on cleaner cars and a brand-spanking-new book called Earth in the Balance.
Oh, wait. That’s an old book.
Anyway, it’s out again with some new digs at an unmentioned, though clearly targeted, Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Enviros across the country, from Washington to the hinterlands, greeted the re-release with a collective shrug.
John Passacantando, president of Ozone Action and a dogged activist who has spent the last seven years working on climate change, had this to say:
The Clinton-Gore administration has been a world laggard in dealing with global warming. But I’d say let’s be fair, he’s just the vice president. All the candidates now have seven months to say where they want to take us. Each of their histories and records aside, I’m interested in how each of these guys wants to lead in solving this problem. There is no answer on the table yet that even comes close. … This threat is America’s to solve, America’s to lead on. This is our getting to the moon first.
Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, a group that endorsed former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley in the Democratic primary and is considering endorsing Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for the general election:
Is Gore going to be all about rhetoric? Is he just going to reintroduce his book? The actions or lack thereof during the remainder of the Clinton-Gore administration will certainly help us to decide if we want to endorse someone. If he is not going to show real leadership on the environment, we are not going to be so excited about endorsing him.
That “real leadership,” according to Blackwelder, would include a strong stand against any rule change that might weaken the Clean Water Act; an executive order to label genetically modified foods; strong opposition to any and all anti-environmental riders during budget season on Capitol Hill; and the selection of a vice presidential running mate with strong environmental credentials.
Beyond national green leaders expressing underwhelm-ment on the book re-release, Gore has heaps of trouble at the local level in several key electoral states.
Floridians worry about the administration staying firm on a bold plan to restore the Everglades. Ohio environmentalists wonder why the toxic incinerator that Gore promised to have removed during the 1992 campaign is still incinerating. And New Jersey greens wonder why Gore won’t come out strongly against a shopping mall on the Meadowlands (funded by Democratic contributors) and why he won’t intervene with the EPA, as he did in 1996, to make sure only clean material is used to cover toxic waste off the Jersey shore.
Cindy Zipf of Ocean Action in New Jersey accuses Gore of being “totally absent” on the waste containment issue after he took a strong stand in 1996. Even New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, has asked Gore to come to the rescue once again, as it looks as though the EPA and other government agencies may sign off on the use of dredging material (which enviros say contains mercury, arsenic, zinc, and other heavy metals) to dump in the ocean to cover the toxic waste from an underwater depository located about six miles off the coast at Sandy Hook.
All of this leads Muckraker to wonder why Gore would bother reissuing his book at this point.
For his erstwhile friends in the environmental movement, it is a painful reminder of all that could have been and isn’t. For his enemies in the Republican Party, it’s a great opportunity to rip him as a loony polemicist. And for most everyone else, it’s another book not to buy off the front tables at Barnes & Noble.
But All Is Not Lost!
Friends of the Earth may be poised to endorse Nader. Other green groups may be giving him awful headaches. But the Veep should not fear as he has locked up the all-important Twisted Sister vote.
That’s right, former members of the 1980s heavy-metal band lined up behind Gore earlier this month, despite Tipper Gore‘s efforts back then to slap warning labels on the group’s records.
Said former Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider: “I’m sort of supporting Al Gore, which is bizarre. … I don’t trust the guy as far as I can throw him. He’s a conservative liberal, but I think he’s going to chew up George W. and spit him out. He’s an old school, dirty-fighting politician. … To me, everything else is moot if you don’t have a planet to battle on. He’s a big environmentalist. He’s stood up for environmental issues in the face of a lot of hostility.”
Some spring cleaning on the job changing front.
Though she’s back in the country after an extended hiatus abroad and has recently been heard on the airwaves defending Gore’s environmental record, Katie McGinty, Gore crony and former chair of the Clinton administration’s Council on Environmental Quality, is headed not for the Veep’s campaign, but instead to the greener pastures of the private sector.
McGinty has joined the D.C. office of the law firm Troutman Sanders LLP, which issued a press release saying she will “advise clients in the areas of natural resources, environment, climate change, biotechnology, and international economic development.”
Not too far away, the Environmental Working Group, already home to flak extrodinaire Mike Casey, is beefing up its press operation.
The group recently brought on Capitol Hill and campaign vet Laura Chapin as director of media relations and former Planned Parenthood media-meister Amy Hagovsky as deputy media director.
Chapin’s last tour of duty was with first-term Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democratic star from the 1998 campaign. Before that, Chapin helped shepherd Sen. Barbara Mikulksi (D-Md.) through the media maze of the impeachment trial and worked Michigan for Clinton-Gore in 1996, among various other jobs in politics.
Western Fuels Strikes Again
The Turning Point Project, which we’ve written about in the past, had an ad in the New York Times last December advocating the elimination of coal use in electricity generation, citing fossil fuel burning as a contributor to potential “global suicide.”
Seemed like a pretty clear-cut case of Americans expressing their opinion, however graphically, about what they view as a damaging practice.
The Western Fuels Association doesn’t see it that way though. And to express i
ts extreme displeasure, the group filed a lawsuit on April 17 against the Turning Point Project, Friends of the Earth, Earth Island Institute, Ozone Action, Rainforest Action Network, and the International Center for Technology Assessment — the groups that signed on to the December ad — alleging “commercial defamation” under an interstate false advertising law. The WFA is arguing that several of the groups receive funds from businesses that stand to benefit financially from increased use of alternative energy.
The filing generated precious little media attention, probably because it seems a little nutty, but as a public service we pass along snippets of the press release issued by WFA, including comments from the group’s leader, Fred Palmer:
[The environmental groups] are attempting to portray electric generation from fossil fuels as a significant health risk, while in fact the opposite is true. In the language of the complaint, the purpose of the false and misleading statements is to cast Western Fuels’ product in an unwholesome and unfavorable light while promoting a competing product (“renewable” energy sources for electric generation).
Apocalyptic climate change scenarios are the basis for the advertisement’s prediction of “unimaginable disaster” in the next century, Palmer says. The ad’s signatories “recklessly spread dire predictions of rampant tropical diseases, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, vanishing farmland, drought, famine and disease, violent hurricanes, and waves of environmental refugees,” according to Western Fuels’ complaint, and “attributes these catastrophic disasters to the continued use” of Western Fuels’ and its members’ products as “the cause of the problem” and demands elimination of coal-fired electricity to avoid what is characterized as “global suicide.”
The release continues on at some length — check out the full text if you’re interested.
What sort of remedy is the group looking for? Oh … nothing short of damages, court costs, and an injunction forbidding the group from running such ads in the future. (For related fun, check out this previous Muckraker and a tear-down of an ad funded by none other than the Western Fuels Association.)
The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is … Earth Day?
No, that’s not how Franklin Delano Roosevelt finished his famous line, but it is the opinion of H. Sterling Burnett of the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis.
Don’t imagine we will be bumping into Burnett down on the Mall on Saturday as he says he “dread[s] this Earthday more than usual because through ‘false advertising’ [we are not sure why this is in quotes] radical environmentalists have a chance of putting one of their own in the White House.”
Read the rest of his screed.