Democratic Underground

Vindication for Al Gore
January 14, 2002
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 car.

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.

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