If you remember former Vice President Al Gore as the almost robotic politician who could put a room full of insomniacs to sleep with his droning monotone, you would have been shocked at his speech on Monday night, August 12, at Shiloh Baptist Church in Greensboro.
I didn’t think I’d ever see Gore in front of an audience in a church shouting, “Hallelujah, praise God,” with his hands raised over his head, but I did.
Gore was the featured speaker at the Mass Meeting on Ecological Devastation sponsored by the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and followed former North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber II at the podium. Barber is a tough act to follow. He preaches in the old time tradition, whether it is about being saved or, in this case, about environmental devastation and poor people.
Gore did his best to keep up the shouting and getting the crowd going; there was a lot of audience participation. The evening started with a number of chants about clean water and clean air, followed by a makeshift choir to lead the singing, which was loud and enthusiastic.
Gore managed to weave his message against industry and fossil fuels – in this case Duke Energy – into a speech also about poor people. Gore has no problem with environmental devastation. He’s been preaching it for 40 years.
It’s a great shtick. Gore appears to blame every natural disaster, since he saw the light, on global warming. The fact that there were droughts, hurricanes, tornados and fires before man existed doesn’t seem to matter. Today they are all caused by manmade global warming.
One part of his speech that I particularly liked was when he said that he was on the board of Apple and Apple used 100 percent renewable electricity in all of its facilities. This, like so much that Gore says, has only the thinnest grain of truth.
Apple claims to use 100 percent renewable energy, but it doesn’t. Apple uses the same mix of electricity that everyone else in its area uses. Apple, which is now worth over $1 trillion, buys its electricity from the same big energy companies as everyone else, and most of the electricity they buy is made by burning coal, which Gore is completely against.
It’s sleight of hand that allows Apple to say it uses renewable energy, and it doesn’t actually change the facts. Apple pays other companies to say that they use the electricity made by coal and natural gas so it can claim the electricity it uses comes from solar and wind. But it doesn’t change anything. The mix of electricity that Apple uses is exactly the same as if it hadn’t paid anyone.
It is what is called a marketing ploy.
If Gore and Apple were honest, then on cloudy, windless days the Apple facilities would have to close down because they wouldn’t have any electricity. The same goes double for windless or windy nights. Wind turbines operate at maximum production in a relatively small band of wind speeds. If the wind gets too high, the turbines are locked in place and don’t produce any electricity.
Gore said that the country could switch over the renewables today and it simply isn’t true, unless people are willing to settle for intermittent electricity. And most of us complain when an electrical storm knocks out the power for a couple of hours.
Gore did say that he had been preaching about the environment for 40 years and said, “I have more hope today than at an other single day I remember.”
He said it was because Rev. Barber had updated the Poor People’s Campaign to include environmental devastation and a fight for environmental justice.
He said he was taken out to Bellews Creek to see the Duke Energy smokestacks and described it as a “crime scene.”
He said, “The coal ash seeps into the water and blows in the wind. Millions of tons of toxic coal ash.” He even complained about coal ash being used to make building materials, which seems like a much better use than burying it in the ground.
Gore said that the Environmental Protection Agency was easing up on restrictions on coal ash because of the interest of wealthy corporations.
Gore said that manmade pollution was trapping as much heat as would be produced by 4,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs going off every single day.
He said that is why the fires are raging in California. Why there is more lightning in the sky. Why there are droughts and dust storms.
He said rain storms were getting fiercer, floods worse, hurricanes bigger and it was happening all over the world.
Gore also blamed the war in Syria on a drought caused by global warming.
He got into the preaching mode and yelled, “Somebody is hurting our planet and we aren’t going to stand for it any more.”
Gore said the answer was solar and wind energy. He said solar and wind power were cheaper everywhere in the world.
Gore said about the future of fossil fuels: “The Stone Age didn’t end because of a lack of stones, but because something better came along.”
He said that solar and wind energy were what would end the dependence on fossil fuels.
He also said, “I don’t want to vote for anybody in any party that takes money from fossil fuels.”
According to Gore, a change is in the air and he can feel it. He said that it had reached a tipping point where everything was about to change, just like at a football game when you feel the momentum shift from one team to the other.
Gore ended by saying, “One of the great honors of my life is speaking from this place,” which is pretty heady stuff coming from a man who was once vice president of the United States.