If you forgot how insufferable Al Gore is, the Southern Environmental Law Center gave everyone who was paying attention a little reminder back in March.
Gore, the only man to win a Nobel Peace Prize for losing an election and making a bad documentary, was in Memphis, Tennessee, protesting a proposed pipeline that would go through the city.
Father Time comes for all of us, no matter how good our plastic surgeons may be, and the photo of Gore at the event was a reminder it’s been 15 years since “An Inconvenient Truth” and that ridiculous, misleading “hockey-stick graph” scene.
The hair was whiter and sparser, the paunch more noticeable, the face showing the effects of 73 years of gravity. That may sound mean, but I only bring it up because, in that one photograph, you can still see all the misplaced fulmination that the former vice president can summon in defense of the environment.
“I’ve got three words for you: reckless, racist, ripoff,” Gore told the crowd, assembled on March 14 to protest the proposed Byhalia Pipeline, which would stretch from Memphis to Marshall County, Mississippi.
Yes, a racist pipeline. Since the 45-mile crude oil pipeline is routed through some of Memphis’ black neighborhoods, it’s apparently iniquitous. Unlike most of the protesters gathered on March 15, however, Gore has the ability to bend the ear of the new president — and it’s a perk he’s taken advantage of.
According to a report in Thursday’s The Washington Post, Gore called President Joe Biden about the pipeline and urged him to kill it as part of his infrastructure plan — making it yet another pipeline potentially dead thanks to concerns that are primarily chimerical.
This wasn’t the only agenda item Gore was pushing on Biden, mind you. The 2000 Democratic Party standard-bearer was acting as an intermediary for Democrats concerned Biden might meet the GOP in the middle on his massive $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan.
“A number of Democrats are growing increasingly nervous that the White House could agree to a bipartisan infrastructure deal that scales back key climate-change initiatives, prompting a lobbying push that has included former vice president Al Gore making his case directly to President Biden,” The Post reported.
“The private warning last month from the climate hawk and Democratic grandee comes as Biden faces growing unease among liberals — including many administration officials — about his pursuit of Republican support for his next major spending package.”
The problem is that Republicans have made it clear that any infrastructure plan that would garner their support would have to be about infrastructure, absent of the environmental spending pushed into the package. Gore urged no compromise — and he also urged Biden to trim some infrastructure he’s taken a particular interest in. Guess what it is?
“The former vice president urged Biden to stop the planned Byhalia Pipeline, which would transport crude oil for export through predominantly Black neighborhoods in southwest Memphis and could affect a nearby drinking-water well owned by a local utility,” The Post reported.
And yet again, the Biden administration is faced with pressure to ax a pipeline with a serious economic impact that provides jobs to blue-collar workers.
This isn’t Keystone XL-level stuff. In that case, with the stroke of a pen, over 11,000 potential jobs were killed off.
Over 500 jobs would be created by the Byhalia Pipeline, according to the Memphis Business Journal. In addition, its developers say it would pump $60 million into the economy during construction.
The pipeline is set to break ground in 2021 — assuming Al Gore’s interference doesn’t convince Biden to kill the project, which is a joint venture between Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corp.
“As we construct and develop the pipeline, there is a residual [economic impact] that comes from those people coming in the area, in terms of them dining at restaurants or for the service industry,” Plains All American spokeswoman Celina Espinoza told the Memphis Business Journal. “It’s really that ripple economic effect for the community they are in.”
Keep in mind, this is an underground pipeline, and Plains All American says they’re compensating landowners more than fairly.
“We try to offer above market value, because we know this is sentimental value to people, and your land is your inheritance that can be passed down to your kids,” Espinoza said.
Of course, this is a spokeswoman for the pipeline construction company talking — but at least her arguments, if not alliterative, go a bit deeper than Gore’s “reckless, racist, ripoff.”
Furthermore, lest we forget, America has a pretty robust bureaucracy that ensures the safety and environmental impact of a project before it goes forward, making these fears far overblown. They’d need permits from both state and local officials in Tennessee and Mississippi, plus federal permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
But that’s not really the issue. Gore’s problem with the Byhalia Pipeline is the same problem people had with the Keystone XL pipeline: The left flank of the Democratic Party don’t like fossil fuels and, if they can throw up barriers to those who profit from them, all the better.
This isn’t just conservative grousing. The Post’s report said the same thing, although reporters Jeff Stein, Juliet Eilperin and Tyler Pager phrased it in WaPo-ese: “No issue has emerged as a greater cause for alarm on the left than the specter of failure to enact changes to climate policy.
“The Obama administration set ambitious climate targets but failed to pass legislation with its congressional majorities to address a rapidly warming planet. Climate experts warn that the world has no time to decarbonize the economy without courting humanitarian catastrophe, and it could be decades before Democrats again command congressional majorities with which to push through major legislation.”
And if you’re going to get the Byhalia Pipeline killed, calling it “racist” isn’t the worst way to get the White House interested in ending it. Consider the fact the American Jobs Plan, in its original form, contained $20 billion to tear down infrastructure, mainly highways, as to “reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”
No, Al Gore is no longer the man who made the Toyota Prius an accouterment of the socially aware left back in the 2000s. Just looking at the photo of him at the Byhalia Pipeline protest, however, showed he can still summon the misguided, misinformed, robotic rage about the environment that earned him a Nobel.
Sure, his objections may be fact-free, fear-mongering and race-baiting. However, that’s the kind of talk that gets you listened to inside the White House these days.
In short, if you were hoping for a job on the Byhalia Pipeline, you may want to start hoping John Kerry finds you one of those solar-panel jobs instead.
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