The Gore-Bush debate

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 20, 2000

This is a fictitious debate. It never happened - at least not yet. It could happen. Perhaps it should happen. Close your eyes for a moment and visualize Al Gore at one podium, and George W. Bush at the other. The stage is set:

Moderator: Why are gasoline & fuel oil prices skyrocketing?

Gore: It's a combination of causes that we're working very hard to control. Energy Secretary Richardson just returned from a trip to the Middle East where he was successful in negotiating a production increase among the oil producing countries. The OPEC countries took a big hit last year when prices were low, and now they are trying to recoup some of their losses. And then there's the manipulation by big corporations that are always taking advantage of every situation to increase their profits. What we have to do is find a way to balance the price, so Americans on fixed incomes are not forced to choose between being warm or eating. My administration will do that.

Bush: There are two primary reasons why oil prices are so volatile. First, because America has become dependent upon foreign oil and we no longer control our own energy destiny. And Second, because the government so heavily taxes and regulates energy use, that the law of supply and demand has almost been repealed. I would first, work to regain our energy independence, and then begin restoring freedom to the marketplace, which is the only legitimate price regulator.

Gore: Can I respond to that?

Moderator: No, not now. You'll have time for rebuttal. Mr. Bush, you get to respond first this time. What should America do about the soaring oil prices?

Bush: We should regain our energy independence as rapidly as possible. It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous situation for Americans, than to be at the mercy of foreign powers to supply our energy needs. To achieve energy independence, several steps can be taken in concert. I would ask Congress to authorize production from known, but unused oil reserves, and to authorize exploration of potential domestic sources of oil. I would take advantage of the vast domestic reserves of clean-burning coal, to make more oil available for the transportation sector. I would strongly support the advance of energy technology, and its use, where its cost- effectiveness has been demonstrated. I will not sacrifice our energy independence to the theory that by so doing, our planet will somehow be better. America's strength and prosperity depends upon available, affordable energy; no President should ever allow foreign governments to control both..

Gore: Well, there it is. You heard him. He's ready to destroy the environment, heat up global warming, increase floods and hurricanes, and sink all the Small Island Nations. And for what?
Returning to the fossil fuel standard is not the solution. And the destruction of our magnificent pristine wilderness so giant corporations can increase profits - well, well, it's unthinkable. Scientists around the world are in agreement that the use of fossil fuel is causing global warming, and that the consequences will be catastrophic for our children and grandchildren. The solution to the problem lies in finding alternatives to fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Great strides have been made in solar, wind and hydrogen technology. We have to stop all subsidies to the wealthy fossil fuel industry and redirect our resources to the new technologies. As inconvenient as the current gas prices may be, they may be a blessing in disguise, because they are forcing us to look for alternatives. Most people are not hurt that much by the current prices. Those low-income people who are adversely affected are eligible to receive payments from the millions of dollars this administration has already released. We cannot risk destroying our environment just because the price of gasoline is higher than it once was.

Moderator: Mr. Gore, you first. What is your take on the global warming debate?

Gore: There is no longer any debate among the scientists. Global warming is very real. The last decade has been the warmest in nearly a thousand years, and the rate of warming is increasing. That's why in my book, Earth in the Balance, I called for the elimination of the internal combustion engine. Some people thought I was crazy back in 1992, when I first said that we should eliminate the internal combustion engine in 25 years or so, but the science is proving I was right. We absolutely have to find new, environmentally-friendly energy sources, and we can. As President, I will make this one of my highest priorities.

Bush: It is a scientific fact that the planet warmed measurably between about 1650 and 1950. The first 250 years of that warming could not possibly have been caused by the use of fossil fuel. Whether the planet has warmed or cooled during the last 50 years depends entirely upon which thermometers are being consulted. In the last decade, surface temperatures have increased slightly, while satellite measurements indicate a slight cooling through the troposphere over the last two decades. What is crucial here is whether or not the use of fossil fuel is a causative factor in climate change. So far, the best that science can say is, "we don't know for sure." Some scientists think it does, but have not yet produced convincing evidence. On the other hand, more than 19 000 scientists have said publicly that human activity is not, nor will it in the future, cause global warming. Science has also produced compelling evidence that increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activity, is actually benefiting vegetation, with no impact on temperatures. Herein lies the great debate. This debate will not end simply because Mr. Gore declares it to be ended. I will not yield an inch of my determination to regain energy independence, especially in response to a theory for which there is no convincing evidence.

Moderator: This administration has been involved in the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol to the Climate Change treaty. If you become President, will you support the Kyoto Protocol? You first, Mr. Bush.

Bush: No. I'll give you three brief reasons. First, the Kyoto Protocol would give to a foreign governmental power, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the power to dictate our emissions levels. This is the same as dictating our energy usage. I would never allow any foreign power to be in a position to dictate our energy usage. Second, the Kyoto Protocol will do nothing to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The Protocol restricts energy use only in developed nations. China, Brazil, Korea, and about 130 other nations would remain free to use as much fossil fuel energy as they wish. And third, this fact would force an outpouring of American industry to foreign soil, the likes of which has never been seen. My first responsibility as President is to protect the fundamental freedom of our citizens. I will not voluntarily turn over to any foreign government, the power to control our economic freedom.

Gore: The Kyoto Protocol is not a weapon being deployed by some sinister foreign government. It is an agreement reached by designated officials from all the nations of the world, in an effort to prevent what they believe to be inevitable global disaster if we fail to act. I have been instrumental in the crafting of the Protocol, and although I would like to see some things that are not in it, I recognize that we are but one of many nations, all of which have legitimate concerns that must be accommodated. That's what international diplomacy is all about. In this rapidly globalizing society, we must be responsible neighbors and partners. Since we have been blessed as no other nation, we have a greater responsibility as leaders, to chart the course, and pay our fair share, and help other nations realize the benefits we take for granted. I will certainly support the Protocol and urge the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty when it is finalized later this year.

Moderator: It's time for your concluding remarks. You may refute your opponent, or summarize any way you wish. Mr. Bush won the coin toss and elected to go last. It's your turn, Mr. Gore.

Gore: I just want to say that I have enjoyed this exchange of ideas. And although it was limited to only a single issue, I think it is far better for the American people than the 30 and 60 second TV spots that plague our campaigns. I would challenge Mr. Bush, here and now, to a series of these debates on a wide range of issues during the campaign. The issues we have discussed here tonight are of monumental importance. Regardless of what the skeptics say, global warming is threatening the entire planet, and we must find solutions. The Kyoto Protocol is not the total answer, but it is a major step in the right direction. If we are not responsible stewards of our precious environment, what kind of world will we leave for our children. How will we answer our grandchildren when they ask "why didn't you prevent the flooding of our coastal cities?" How will we explain the deserts that cover what is now lush agricultural lands?

We have studied the problem exhaustively for more than ten years. There is consensus among scientists, and among the nations of the world about the action that is required now. The time for study and debate has passed. Now is the time for action. To ensure that this government takes appropriate action, it is essential that you go to your polling place and cast your vote for me, and for a Democratic Congress to help me continue our important work for America and the world. Thank you.

Bush: Our government exists for one fundamental purpose: to protect our God-given right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Mr. Gore's government has become far more concerned about the Alaskan snow goose, than about the millions of people who are forced to spend their food budget for fuel. I believe we should be concerned about the needs of people first, then protect the snow goose as well. And we can do both. I believe that America is the greatest nation in the history of the world because her people were free to make it great. My first responsibility as President, is to keep America free. I will keep America free from the armed forces of foreign nations. I will keep America free from the dictates of foreign governmental powers. And I will keep America free from restrictive policies that are conceived, promulgated, and enforced by unelected bureaucrats, whether in this country or abroad.

Here tonight, you have heard two very different visions of America's future. You must choose whether you want to follow Al Gore as he takes America into a century of increasing dependency upon foreign powers for the energy we require, and a century of increasing government regulations over virtually every aspect of our lives, or whether you want to take the road to freedom. I believe that our future progress and prosperity is dependent upon our freedom, not the Kyoto Protocol. The question I fear our grandchildren will ask, is not about coastal cities or deserts in Iowa; I don't want any American to ever have to ask: "why didn't you protect our freedom?" Good night.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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