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  (Curtis Lantinga)

 

(Curtis Lantinga)

MARGARET WENTE

Why it’s good to be Al Gore Add to ...

It’s good to be Al Gore. He must be the most successful loser in the world. Thirteen years after he ran for president of the United States, the guy who got the job is universally reviled. But the prophet of climate doom is more popular than ever. Important people seek him out. In Canada, his condemnations of our filthy, dirty, evil tar sands lucre are greeted with rapturous applause. Headline-writers immortalize his words. Preacher Al still wants us to repent, before we fry ourselves to a crisp in our self-made hell of global warming.

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On top of that, he’s rich. Since his presidential bid, Mr. Gore has amassed a fortune of some $200-million, according to Bloomberg – a sum of Romneyesque proportions. The California tech guys love him. (After all, he helped invent the Internet.) Steve Jobs invited him on the Apple board, where he got cheap stock options that are now worth zillions. His pals at Google made him a senior adviser before the company went public.

But the best investment of them all turned out to be an obscure network called Current TV, aimed at progressive, media-savvy younger viewers. The silver-tongued Mr. Gore was able to persuade Rupert Murdoch, Time Warner, and other media giants to fork over lucrative cable fees and deliver it to millions of homes. Its audience share never moved much above zero. Even so, in January, he and his partner sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, which was looking for a U.S. foothold. Al Jazeera is backed by Qatar, a Middle Eastern petro-state. The price tag was an eye-popping $500-million or so. Mr. Gore reportedly took home about $70-million.

Mr. Gore is unrepentant for getting rich from dirty, filthy oil interests. Al Jazeera, he assured us, conforms to the highest ethical standards. Also, as he told The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, it has “the highest quality, most extensive, best climate coverage of any network.”

Mr. Gore is no dummy. His climate-change crusade has captured – and to a large extent, created – the zeitgeist, and it has made him one of the most popular personalities on the planet. But his new-found fortune owes more to celebrity, luck and timing than to business acumen. As Steve Fishman writes in a newly published New York magazine profile: “Saving the world, it turns out, can be pretty lucrative.”

Actually, Mr. Gore’s green investments haven’t turned out all that well. A lot of them were bets on climate legislation that never passed and companies that bombed – despite hefty government subsidies. Mr. Gore has never come to terms with the fact that climate change is a very hard problem to solve, or that a decade’s worth of green policies have proved to be unsaleable and unworkable, or disastrous failures. To him, the laws of physics and the realities of politics and economics are irrelevant to climate change. Instead, it all comes down to morality. “When these kind of issues settle into a choice between right and wrong, then the moral clarity that eventually develops makes it possible to move quickly,” he said at a Globe and Mail event in Toronto the other night.

Yet despite his best efforts, the masses are reluctant to sacrifice their standard of living for climate virtue. And the moral failure of the masses means that Mr. Gore’s crusade is doomed. Fortunately, he can console himself with the acclaim of the celebrity elites. Many of them joined him on a 2012 cruise to Antarctica aboard a 370-foot luxury icebreaker, whose purpose was to introduce them firsthand to the brutal realities of climate change. Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw, James Cameron and Richard Branson were there. It’s not known how much money went for carbon offsets.

 

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