Former Vice President Al Gore is on the cover of November's The Costco Connection, the "lifestyle magazine for Costco members." It's hard to figure who looks worse in this odd coupling--the global-warming guru or the supersize warehouse store, which would not be a retail powerhouse were it not for the family minivan.
In the issue's cover story--timed to coincide with Costco's release of Gore's new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis--Gore argues that the "one solution" to the "climate crisis" also provides the "most important solutions for the other two crises" facing America, the economic crisis and the security crisis. Forget his 2006 movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Meet Costco Gore, deliverer of The Convenient Truth.
In his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, then-Senator Gore called for profound personal sacrifice. Minor changes, he wrote, moderate improvements and "rhetoric offered in lieu of genuine change--these are all forms of appeasement, designed to satisfy the public's desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary."
I didn't agree with much of the content of Earth in the Balance, but Gore did devote 65 pages to the details of his Global Marshall Plan, which would be funded by such new levies as a carbon tax, gasoline tax, and a "virgin materials fee."
His Oscar-winning movie, on the other hand, left out inconveniences that would be faced by movie goers--such as which luxuries they might want to give up in order to meet Gore's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than half. The message switched from telling people to turn their lights off to telling them to buy eco-friendly light bulbs. Thus Costco Gore marvels at the "relatively easy ways to use new and more efficient options to cheaply eliminate" global-warming pollution.
Forget carbon taxes. Throw away those bulky sweaters and thermal underwear you used to wear to lower your heating bill. Don't worry about the jobs likely to be lost under a cap-and-trade system, as Washington will create better jobs. Let new technology do the heavy lifting of conservation.
It's odd, but as the years bring Earth closer to a time when greenhouse gases create "a decade without winter"--as the old Gore warned in 1992--the less the new Gore calls for any monetary sacrifice or lifestyle denial. Instead, he seems to think that America could produce cheap energy--if only more people agreed with him.
My first impulse when I saw the Costco Gore cover was to think: Lenin was right when he said, "The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them." (Even if, as some scholars suggest, Lenin didn't say it.) Or as Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot, an anti-global warming website, noted, "It makes no sense that a company that supersizes everything from laundry detergent to cookies to potato chips would hold up as their hero a man who wants to ration energy in the United States."
It certainly is incongruous to read Gore renouncing "dirty and expensive carbon-based fuels," at a store that sells big-screen TVs and discounted gasoline.
The magazine's editor, David W. Fuller, wrote an item explaining the Gore cover by citing the First Amendment and Costco's not being in the business of censoring books. Very high-minded. Next month, I'm sure the cover story will be on giftless holidays.
But when you think about it, Costco Gore delivers a message so defanged as to present no danger to any American retailer. As long as environmentalists and their representatives in Washington suggest that America can easily eliminate greenhouse gases without eliminating jobs, there may be no corporate cost to embracing global warming alarmism.
It's another freebie. Environmentalists used to argue that there was no cost too high to save the planet. Now they smile and say that green technology will create jobs and U.S. energy independence.
Never mind that as the enviro agenda has grown in power, U.S. oil imports grew from 24 percent in 1970 to 70 percent last year. Or that renewable energy technologies can cost a third more (wind) to three times more (solar) than coal-generated electricity. The Senate has been working on a bill that could mandate a 20-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in ten years. Smile, says Costco Gore. It's good for the economy.
Debra Saunders writes a nationally syndicated column and is the author of The World According to Gore.