My Al Gore story

I’m not normally given to shameless name-dropping, but what else are blogs really for (other than making bets with readers)?

gore1.jpgFor the last three days I attended a small climate solutions summit hosted by the former Vice President and current Nobel Laureate. It was off-the-record, so I can’t report on presentations directly, but they have made me a lot smarter about the latest technologies and strategies for clean energy, which will inform my blogging this year on climate solutions. I will say now as an aside that I have become much more bullish on the potential for large-scale solar photovoltaics as a result of attending these meetings.

The VP asked me to speak for seven minutes on hydrogen at dinner Wednesday. Before dinner, I gave him a copy of the brand-new paperback edition of — warning, shameless product placement — Hell and High Water. He looked it over for a few minutes and said, deadpan,

I have only one problem with this book — this blurb on the back here that says, “If you buy only one book about global warming, make it Hell and High Water.” I just can’t agree with that.

When he introduced me that night, he repeated the line to great laughter.

BTW, in case it wasn’t obvious from his movie, the VP has a terrific sense of humor — and not just in his delivery timing of canned jokes, but in quick, impromptu one liners, like the one above, many of them self-deprecating (one of the speakers from a web-based company thanked him for his work accelerating the Internet, and he said something like, “You heard I had something to do with the internet?”).

And in case this wasn’t obvious from his movie, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things related to climate, energy, science, and technology.

He has only one character flaw that I could see. He emceed all the panels and every single one of them ran late (including my remarks, hard to believe as that may be). Too many questions, too much curiosity. I’m guessing this is one thing George W. has on him, probably runs a really tight meeting with very few questions.

Gore is now working on a sequel to his bestseller, An Inconvenient Truth, which will focus on solutions, apparently not dissuaded from his task by the new subtitle on my paperback, “The Global Warming Solution” (I think I have this product placement thing figured out). Hopefully Gore’s book will come out this year. It could really help move the debate.

7 Responses to My Al Gore story

  1. jake says:

    i find it remarkable that gore has consistently ignored one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases – the livestock industry. globally responsible for more emissions than all transportation, reducing the amount of meat and dairy should be a major priority in the fight against global warming. i also noticed that your own blog ignores this issue. do you address it in your book at all?

    addressing the emissions of the livestock industry need not be limited to a call for vegetarianism, although in light of the horrible suffering of the animals and the other severe environmental impacts of meat that should not be slighted either. animals necessarily produce greenhouse gases, but raising them on factory farms intensifies the effect. regulating and moving toward the abolition of factory farms should be a reform that even committed meat-eaters can get behind. it is completely beyond me why the mainstream environmental community and those working to fight global warming are ignoring this.

  2. John Mashey says:

    I don’t think this is ignored, although [having grown up on a farm, and forked a lot of manure], it’s complicated.

    I’m not crazy about feedlots [our (dairy) cows were in pasture], but on the other hand, they do concentrate the manure and hence part of the methane (not the belching part), and there are farms around here powered by it:

    Also, given that natural gas will keep getting more expensive, which makes nitrogen fertilizer get expensive, many well-balanced farms actually *need* livestock for manure.

    If you haven’t, you might study the workings of Old Amish (no electricity, no tractors) farms, which are of course the antithesis of factory farms.

    In addition, of course a lot of methane is generated by rice farming, for example, and that isn’t going away.

    Anyway, I think your point is relevant, and there are a lot of reasons to have some less meat, but if you do a lot less dairy as well, and generally cut down on the livestock, you’re going to be surprised at the lower vegetable & grain yields in the face of less fertilizer.

    In any case any of the occasional idiots are tempted to mock Gore for the Internet, I got email forwarded in 2000 from Vint Cerf & Bob Kahn (who *were* two of the key creators of the Internet) pointing out Gore’s key role:

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Place those products as often as possible!


  4. Lou Grinzo says:

    For those wishing to quantify the “cow farts and burps” component, see Table 16 on the page:

    The US “enteric fermentation” and “solid waste of domesticated animals” methane emissions total 170.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. While this is a lot in absolute terms, it’s barely a belch relative to the US total of over 7,000 million metric tons/year of CO2 equivalent.

  5. Paul K says:

    Termites are even worse!

  6. John Mashey says:

    Thanks, Lou, good pointer.

    But, without taking any sides in meat vs vegetarianism, I would observe that:
    – cows in some places are eating grass with minimal rain & no fertilizer, and where trees wouldn’t be growing much anyway. In other cases, pastures would go back to forest in 20 years if allowed to. [Our 130-year-old pastures did.]

    – cows in feedlots may well be eating a lot of corn, need a lot of antibiotics.
    – The corn used a lot of water, some of which may have required energy to get there.
    – The corn likely used nitrogen fertilizer, made from natural gas, and which often adds to N2O,a strong greenhouse gas itself.
    – Energy was used to transport the feed to the cows.
    – In a few cases, trees were cut down for land to grow the corn.

    Anyway, GHG and energy side-effects are not always staightforward.

  7. Peter Foley says:

    Get real, the atmospheric effect of plant matter decaying generates the exact same amount of emissions as the same mass consumed by a cow, the velocity of the exchanges are accelerated by the miracle of the the cows GI tract. Did you sleep through all your science labs? Are cows generally fed fossil fuels? I think not. A careful analysis would show antibiotics lower the emissions per lb of meat. The same would be true about grain crops that are fertilized or had chemicals applied to raise production while using the same or LESS fossil fuel to produce each unit. Every day you drink water that has been through a animals GI tract–there is no water shortage. Where was the bovine global warming when the Bison roomed the States. If the world needs me to quit eating meat to save some idiots on the flooded areas from sea levels rising a yard–To Quote my favorite native American, Tonto,”your going to die Kimosabe!” That said over grazing is stupid–any one who’s studied the Mid-East recent Geo-history knows this. When are the AGW cultists going to suggest beer and pop are burning us up? Even during the “drought” in Georgia(USA) they received nearly 40 inches of rain this last year I had to check the graph for errors. Please think about the actual net movement of the molecules over the life cycles of the plants and animals before spewing this intellectual fertilizer such as meat animals having a measurable direct effect on CO2.