(NNPA)—The subject of the Environment has long been a political football. Many manipulators have used it to gain power, thwart power or to save the world from something that isn’t quite clear. Global warming; global cooling, cancers, flooding, droughts, etc. causes questions and worries about what is going on and how we can bring it under control. The first major politician to finesse this issue was the late President Richard M. Nixon. He elevated the Environmental Protection Agency and started “Earth Day” as a mechanism to divert attention from the anti-war and the civil rights movements that were whirling from Vietnam/Cambodia and the recent assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Before long, more than a few politicians saw the advantage of embracing the issue and rallying the masses for political gain.
The Clinton/Gore administrations brought it to new heights. Vice President Al Gore saw it as the cause celebre going into the 21st century. He brought on the environmental zealot Carol Browner as the Administrator of the EPA and gave Greenpeace, Sierra Club and others a prominent place in environmental matters. Stealing a bit from the Nixon mentality they even brought in a racial theme: Environmental Justice or Environmental Racism. Things were so hot that Vice President Gore decided he was going to ride this matter to the White House and beyond. He latched on to a new concept known as Ethanol. This is an alternative to oil and is also known as “gasohol”. Simply, you process everyday corn into an alternative for gasoline. It was incredibly earth friendly and we could use everyday farming as the source. How sexy: Dump the oil companies and embrace our farmers.
However, Al and the environmentalists didn’t do their homework. This had been tried before. The great Henry Ford licensed Black inventor George Washington Carver to do the same via peanuts. The sales of automobiles were skyrocketing and exceeding the pace of oil exploration. George Washington Carver came up with this conclusion: There are many uses of peanuts, especially peanut oil, but a replacement for gasoline just isn’t feasible. It is too costly and it would disrupt the American agricultural system. Leave oil for energy and peanuts for human consumption and agri-business.
Al Gore saw this as his ticket to the White House. He would preach, advocate, and lobby the virtues of ethanol. By doing so, he would win the hearts of farmers especially in states like Iowa where the presidential primaries would start. He would become known as the Chief Environmentalist and best friend of agriculture. It was like “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead”. The conclusion of George Washington Carver proved true and the ethanol industry grew but at great expense to the American economy.
Corn is used in a myriad of food applications including feed for our cattle and chicken industries. Corn syrup, corn starch, etc. is used throughout the products that make up a typical grocery store. The supply of corn greatly shrunk as the ethanol craze took off and the price of food has caused serious harm to our everyday economy. This “sea change” hurt all of us economically, except Al Gore. He stuck with it even after he realized the ill effects. His hope was to become the next President. He failed and now, in retrospect, he laments his devious activity.
Despite recognizing his mistake, he stuck with it anyway for the sake of big bucks. Al preached and preached the virtues of ethanol as if it was the salvation to Mother Earth. He and others arranged $7 billion in annual subsidies to ethanol producers and, even today, it is out of control. Brazil is the only nation to adequately manage ethanol production as it farms new land in the Amazon and utilizes the less expensive sugar cane. They under price us and we cannot compete with them on the global market.
Al wrote a book about his ventures, “An Inconvenient Truth.” His dreams were realized. The book was a great success and the documentary film won an Academy Award. The guy even received a Nobel Peace Prize from the encouragement of the environmentalist community. In the end, he made many millions of dollars and is still rolling. He didn’t become president, but he is filthy rich by anybody’s standards.
The above can become a case study in how to take advantage of half science, fear and a strong hunger for answers. A good hustler will provide the “answer”; sell it with a vengeance, and reap the cash some kind of way. The old country boy did it. It was all about “an inconvenient lie.”
(Harry Alford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)