Mad about gas prices?

Get over Gore already

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel                                      July 16, 2008

At a recent dinner, a neighbor used the G-word. It was a Miss Manners moment. The ultimate untouchables at social events are religion, politics and Gore.

“The price of gas is Gore’s fault,” she said. “It’s Gore gas.”

“How is that?” I asked.

“He raised it when he put in ethanol. It’s all about global warming.” The tone revealed her opinion of him.

If you are going to blame someone, at least do it for the right reason. So I attempted to explain that Al Gore is definitely pushing global warming legislation, but don’t blame him for ethanol or the price at the pump.

Ethanol raised the price of gas in Milwaukee by as much as 25 cents a gallon, depending upon whom you listen to. It became the reformulation solution in our area as a result of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments signed by President George H.W. Bush.

Those amendments were the culmination of a long effort to clean our air of pollutants that undermine our health and eat into our pocketbooks. It began in the 1980s with the removal of lead from gas and continued with the battle against smog and ozone-producing pollutants. It had nothing to do with carbon emissions that are blamed for global warming.

Ozone is invisible, and it is easy to underestimate its destructive power.

Bob Jenior, owner of Jenior Tire and Automotive in Thiensville, services my car. He is a heavy smoker and added an ozone generator to his premises to clear the air.

Within two months, things started breaking. “It ruined the printer, turned the carpet into a dishrag, ate the hose inside the coffeemaker and cracked tires,” he told me. “Everything that was rubber it destroyed. I was ozoning myself to death.”

As vice president, Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in 1993 for a 4.3-cent-per-gallon surcharge, but that contributes even less to the gas price increase than the cost of ethanol.

In March 2002, the average price of a gallon of gas in Wisconsin was $1.19. Since then, it has increased by about $3 a gallon, dwarfing the combined costs of the surcharge and ethanol.

Why the staggering rise? A complex set of reasons: China, peak oil, speculation, Iran war fears, Iraq instability, rising American debt and the tumbling value of the U.S. dollar. Note the absence of Gore.

He can be faulted for wanting to raise the price of gas, as he stated in his 1992 book “Earth in the Balance.” But to cast blame for a $3 rise endows him with a power I’m sure he wishes he had.

It is instinctive, when frustrated or angry, to lash out at someone, be it a co-worker or a family member. Gore stood up at the wrong time and made himself a convenient whipping post. Web pages conducting witch hunts against him litter the Internet.

Witch hunts do not solve problems but mask them. We have a crisis that needs unclouded focus. Get over Gore.








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