Gore’s testimony greeted warmly by some members, coolly by others

Former Vice President Al Gore yesterday told lawmakers in both chambers of the dangers of global warming and outlined possible solutions to what he believes is an exigent problem.

The former U.S. representative and senator was welcomed back by Democrats and Republicans alike, although many Republicans contested his stance on climate change. Hearing rooms overflowed, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) escorted Gore and his wife, Tipper, onto the House floor during a brief respite between his testimony in House and Senate hearings on global warming. {mosimage}

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During the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), an outspoken critic of Gore’s stance on global warming, questioned many of the assertions put forth in his book and movie, both titled “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Inhofe repeatedly interrupted the former vice president and chided him for failing to answer questions succinctly. The Oklahoman told the Academy Award winner that the questions were structured to have “yes” or “no” answers — and to avoid long-winded responses.

EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a strong supporter of many of Gore’s initiatives, repeatedly told Inhofe to allow Gore to answer questions fully.

“How can you ask a question and not give the man a minute to answer?” Boxer asked Inhofe. “You don’t make the rules anymore. You used to when you did this,” she said, raising the gavel and looking over her shoulder at the ranking member.
Inhofe responded by speaking to Gore: “I only want to get through my time. I can’t do that if you filibuster.”

Inhofe then asked Gore whether “thousands” of scientists who hold views contrary to his own are wrong.

Gore paused and said: “I’m sitting here trying to think what I could do or say to reach out to you. I’d love to talk to you without the cameras.”

Inhofe eventually agreed, after arguing more about time issues: “You had 30 [minutes],” he said. “I had 15.”

Gore’s testimony in the Senate and House was longer than normally allotted to a witness. Republicans in both chambers also had parliamentary qualms because Gore submitted his testimony yesterday morning, instead of 48 hours in advance.
On the House side, in a joint hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Air Quality panel and the House Science and Technology Committee Energy and Environment subcommittee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of Energy and Commerce, was Gore’s harshest critic.   

“I sincerely don’t agree with your conclusions,” Barton told Gore. “We need to be careful when we talk about the so-called facts … Temperature drives [carbon dioxide emissions], not vice versa. In this argument you’re not just a little wrong, you’re totally wrong.”

Barton, like Inhofe, became frustrated, scratching his head when Gore gave long answers to questions. Later in the hearing, Barton read a newspaper as other members prodded Gore on global warming.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he “sometimes” listens to Gore in “wonderment,” but conceded that the Earth’s climate is indeed changing and “human activity has affected the environment.”

However, Hastert disagreed with many of the ways in which Gore would decrease greenhouse gas levels.

“I think there are answers using resources we have,” Hastert said, citing coal, natural gas, ethanol and some diesel. He stressed that nuclear energy could be a viable option.

Other House Republicans were more open to Gore’s stance on global warming.   

“I was encouraged at the number of those that were so positive,” Gore told The Hill after the House hearing.
In his testimony, Gore made reference to the newly released movie “300,” saying that the 535 members of the House and Senate could be the group that saves the world.

Gore called for a freeze on carbon emissions, a moratorium on coal plants without carbon-capture and -sequestration, a ban on incandescent light bulbs, a boost to CAFE standards, a carbon-emissions requirement for corporate emissions and other solutions.

“It’s not a partisan issue; it’s a moral issue,” Gore said. “The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says, ‘We need to intervene here,’ you don’t say, ‘No’ …  you take action.”

Jonathan Kaplan contributed to this report.