for Al Gore
by Richard Prasad
What is Al Gore's legacy going to be? Could it be the shockingly
close vote in the Florida election? Maybe. Could it be the
bitter partisan wrangling that took place for days afterward?
Possibly. Could it be the political way in which the Supreme
Court decided the case of Gore V. Bush? Perhaps.
But I suggest to you that Al Gore's legacy goes deeper than
the 2000 Presidential election, is more important than voting
rights or the makeup of the Supreme Court. Al Gore's legacy
will be the death of the internal combustion engine during
his lifetime, an idea much closer to fruition today then when
it was first proposed in Gore's Book Earth In the Balance
in 1992. And the death of the internal combustion engine is
an idea whose time has come. With wars increasingly being
fought in places like Kuwait and Afghanistan, where an oil
pipeline is being planned, people on every side of the political
spectrum are beginning to realize that we must disabuse ourselves
from the excessive use petroleum burning engines.
Gore writes in Earth in the Balance earnestly and
passionately about how he traveled the world, from the polar
ice caps to the Amazon rain forests and how bad environmental
practices have resulted in the disappearance of many animal
species. He talks about how the burning of oil has led to
the increase of greenhouse gasses like C02 and how this leads
to a gradual warming of temperatures on earth a theory called
global warming. Gore even called for a Global Marshall Plan,
akin to the post W.W.II plan that rebuilt the economies of
Europe, this Global Marshall Plan would help convert to cleaner
burning technologies And, Gore of course called for the elimination
of the internal combustion engine in his lifetime. This was
the most controversial of Gore's assertions.
Republicans were quick to attack Gore and the ideas he represented.
They call global warming junk science, and Republicans seized
on the "death of the internal combustion engine" as they called
it, as the stance of some left wing, loony, tree hugging enviro-nut.
Where would the money for such a transformation come from?
they asked, wouldn't such a transformation would cause an
undue burden on the economy, they bellowed. These are the
same Republicans who don't have any problems giving companies
like Enron and IBM retroactive business tax breaks.
But history seems to be on Gore's side, the internal combustion
engine seems to be going the way of the T-Rex. Honda was the
first to mass produce a so-called 'hybrid car' one that uses
both gas and electrical power. The car is called the Honda
Insight. It uses a 1 liter VTEC gas engine, but it also uses
an electric motor to supplement the torque of the engine at
lower speeds. The advantages of hybrid cars are many. The
combination of both gas and electric engines provide the car
with more than enough speed and power to get up the steepest
incline. Gas mileage is also greatly improved, Honda estimates
that the Insight gets 61 miles per gallon in city diving and
70 miles per gallon on the highway.
Not to be outdone Toyota announced the mass production of
it's own hybrid car, the Prius, which uses a 1.5 liter gas
engine and electrical engine. At low speeds, the Prius uses
solely the electrical motor for power. What's more, the Prius
has an onboard generator to charge the electrical motor. Toyota's
Prius is doing so well in sales that Toyota announced in December
2001, that it was going to increase production of the Prius
by almost 40%.
Realizing that profits might actually increase with environmentally
friendly vehicles, the Ford Motor Company is set to announce
a hybrid SUV, there's a contradiction in terms if I ever heard
one, but the Ford Escape a hybrid SUV is supposed to go into
mass production in 2003. Maybe Ford can rehire some of the
25,000 people they just fired and reopen some of the 5 plants
they just closed to produce this environmentally friendly
Perhaps the most shocking announcement of all was made by
GM at a recent auto show in Michigan. GM announced the development
of a concept car that runs entirely on hydrogen and has no
combustion engine whatsoever. The concept car's name is the
Autonomy, and GM says that it could mass produce this car
in ten years. Imagine Al Gore's vision of eliminating the
combustion engine could become a reality in as little as 10
years. Truly remarkable!
Always the last to arrive to any new idea, belatedly came
Gorge W. Bush. President Bush now says he wants Energy Secretary
Spencer Abraham to focus on new technologies such as use of
hydrogen and fuel cells. But in making the announcement, Bush
also announced that he wanted to cut 1.5 billion dollars to
stimulate research into more fuel efficient cars. But even
the fact that the conservative Republican son of an oil man,
is talking about...GASP! The death of the combustion engine,
shows just how much progress is being made in this area.
Al Gore went out on a precarious limb in 1992 with his bold
call to action Earth in the Balance. He has been ridiculed
and lampooned by right wing opinion makers for nearly 10 years
for his bold and courageous environmental views. Now how about
giving Al Gore a little credit for being a visionary in calling
for the elimination of combustion engines. Bold, visionary
environmental ideas, that will be Al Gore's legacy, and in
an era of prepackaged, blow-dried Presidential candidates,
such a legacy is not a bad one to have.