Oil and Gore
Al Gore and Frank Sesno come to Monterey Bay.
Friday, May 14, 2010
He was vice president under Bill Clinton, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary on global warming and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And on Monday, May 17, Al Gore is coming to The Panetta Institute for Public Policy at CSU-Monterey Bay.
Discussion moderator Frank Sesno, host of PBS’s Planet Forward and director of George Washington Univerity’s School of Media and Public Affairs, spoke with the Weekly in advance of the event.
Sesno says he expects the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill—and its impact on domestic energy politics—to be a theme of the discussion. He has plenty of opinions of his own on the subject.
“The oil spill is a mess in every conceivable dimension,” he says. “This oil spill is a remarkable time to reflect on where this oil is coming from and what it means.”
Yet Sesno’s bottom line on offshore drilling isn’t far off from Sarah Palin’s. “We’ve gotta do it,” he says.
“That’s the problem with this disaster—it forces us to confront our worst fears, because this is an intolerable situation. There is no chance that you can have a significant, sweeping climate and energy bill without offshore oil being a meaningful component, but with the stuff gushing up from a mile below the water and threatening untold environmental damage, nobody wants to proceed until these issues are addressed.”
Offshore drilling continues, often barely regulated, around the world. “Here, we can control it,” Sesno says. “We can have environmental safeguards on it, there are jobs created, and it’s energy creation for this country by this country.”
Gore might disagree. In a May 8 article in The New Republic, Gore connects the U.S.’s wars on terrorism—in Iraq, Afghanistan and northern Pakistan—to our dependence on foreign oil. In the next sentence, however, he warns against believing “the illusion that we can meaningfully reduce our dependence on foreign oil by taking extraordinary risks to develop deep reserves in the Outer Continental Shelf.”
"He's not wrong," Sesno responds, noting domestic offshore drilling could only produce about 2 percent of the 21 million barrels Americans burn through daily. "There are no known oil fields that will fundamentally change our energy flow. The offshore stuff is by no means a panacea.”
In another preview to Monday night’s discussion, Sesno says he expects to ask Gore’s thoughts on the “dramatic shift” in public opinion away from viewing global warming as a serious threat. Polls show that more Americans are now questioning the validity of the science that Gore works so hard to promote.
“Yet for as much as he is screaming and shouting, there are many screaming and shouting in the other dirction, raising questions about the seriousness of this,” Sesno says. “Against this very challenging backdrop, what are the prospects for meaningful [domestic] legislation that is going to lead to significant change, and what are the prospects for an international treaty?”