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Al Gore, God & Energy Policy

Al Gore in accepting the vice-presidency has also claimed to be the environmental torchbearer for the nation. Gore's motivating force appears to be a religious environmental pantheism similar to that developing in Nevada within the peace movement. His beliefs may have substantial impact at Yucca Mountain because he is viewed by the environmental movement as the likely leader of a Blue Ribbon Commission to review all nuclear technology.

Gore visited Nevada and his ally Harry Reid during his unsuccessful 1988 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Reid had been one of the first to endorse Gore and the candidate appeared ready to repay the favor by reconsidering the Yucca Mountain site:

Gore criticized the government's handling of the nuclear waste dump siting process, which culminated last year with the congressional decision to put the high-level repository at Yucca Mountain, a portion of which is at the test site.

"I did not believe it was handled correctly," said Gore, who will be forty next month. It's obvious to me that they weren't following procedures in the law."

Gore, whose home state once was threatened with an interim waste storage facility, said he would work as president to "look at the process from start to finish from geologic and scientific principles rather than political principles." [Ralston, John; Las Vegas Review Journal, 2/21/88 p1A]

Although Gore has done some meticulous thought on environmental issues, he has no technical credentials other than having run numerous symposia with environmental philosophers and global warming enthusiasts during his tenure in the senate. Gore's undergraduate training in journalism and graduate work as a divinity students appear to predispose him to scientific voyeurism rather than concise analysis. This lack of formal scientific training did not stop him from writing what has become an environmental best seller, Earth In The Balance, which outlines a ecological utopia achieved through a theological interpretation of technology:

In my own religious experience and training - I am a Baptist - the duty to care for the earth is rooted in the fundamental relationship between God, creation, and humankind. In the Book of Genesis, Judaism first taught that after God created the earth, He "saw that it was good." In the Twenty-fourth Psalm, we learn that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." In other words, God is pleased with his creation and "dominion" does not mean the earth belongs to humankind; on the contrary, whatever is done to the earth must be done with an awareness that it belongs to God. [Gore, Al; Earth In The Balance, Plume / Penguin, 1993, p244]

This is no minor restatement of orthodox religious doctrine, but a major rift with traditional Judeo-Christian views. What Gore is suggesting is that man is not the principle creation on earth, in a theological sense, but is second fiddle to a "holistic" earth. Since every technology man uses, from making toothpicks to building structures like Yucca Mountain, is an effort to stake dominion over a wild earth, what Gore is suggesting is that every activity humans engage in becomes a moral question. If Gore were solely a lone Baptist philosopher in the wilderness, this view would not be controversial, but as vice-president this environmental theology has real consequences.

For example, the vice-president also expresses his view of nuclear energy in his book:

In my own view, the present generation of nuclear technology, light water-pressurized reactors, seems now rather obviously at a technological dead end. The research and development of alternative approaches should focus on discovering, first, how to build a passively safe design (whose safety does not depend on the constant attention of bleary-eyed technicians) that eliminates the risks of current reactors, and second, whether there is a scientifically and politically acceptable means of disposing of - in fact, isolating - nuclear waste.

In any event, the proportion of world energy use that could be practically derived from nuclear power is fairly small and likely to remain so. It is a mistake, therefore, to argue that nuclear power holds the key to global warming. Nevertheless, research should continue vigorously . . . . the emphasis in the short term should be on conservation and efficiency . . .[Gore, Al; Earth In The Balance, Plume / Penguin, 1993, p328]

Al Gore appears to see minimal hope for nuclear energy worldwide and pins its future as much not only on its scientific practicality but on whether a political solution can be reached. This is an agnostic stand on nuclear compared to Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary's decidedly pro-nuclear background. Because the anti-nuclear forces in Nevada and nationally realized that O'Leary could not be easily neutralized within the Clinton Department of Energy, they attempted to sidestep the Secretary. Calling for a "Blue Ribbon Commission" to independently investigate Yucca Mountain, military waste, and in essence the entire nuclear issue, the environmentalist's true intention was to cut the pro-nuclear O'Leary completely out of the process, creating an omnipotent commission they hoped would derail all nuclear technology.

The environmental and NWPO lobby wanted Gore to run the Blue Ribbon Commission because they viewed the vice-president malleable on the nuclear issue. Gore's belief that science is a religious question rather than an objective scientific debate is similar to the religious perspective of the Nevada Desert Experience. Al Gore's religious philosophy thus bears on how he might lead a review of Yucca Mountain, merging religion and science.

In Earth In The Balance, Gore further hypothesizes a Heisenberg uncertainty principle between science and religion that gives some indication of where his line of thought might lead:

Yet science itself offers a new way to understand - and perhaps begin healing - the long schism between science and religion. Earlier in this century, the Heisenberg [Uncertainty] Principle established that the very act of observing a natural phenomenon can change what is being observed. Although the initial theory was limited in practice to special cases in subatomic physics, the philosophical implications were and are staggering. It is now apparent that since Descartes reestablished the Platonic notion [of separation of mind from matter] and began the scientific revolution, human civilization has been experiencing a kind of Heisenberg Principle writ large. The very act of intellectually separating oneself from the world in order to observe it changes the world that is being observed - simply because it is no longer connected to the observer in the same way. This is not a mere word game; the consequences are all too real. The detached observer feels free to engage in a range of experiments and manipulations that might never spring to mind except for the intellectual separation. In the final analysis, all discussions of morality and ethics in science are practically pointless as long as the world of the intellect is assumed to be separate from the physical world. That first separation led inevitably to the separation of mind and body, thinking and feeling, power and wisdom; as a consequence, the scientific method changed our relationship to nature and is now, perhaps irrevocably, changing nature itself. [Gore, Al; Earth In The Balance, Plume / Penguin, 1993, p253]

The Heisenberg Principle applies to subatomic particles at the limits of the physical laws exhibiting quantum effects that have no application to the human condition. Thus, Gore has the unnerving ability to create pseudo-science by mixing religion, philosophy and vaguely understood scientific principles. A Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear technology and Yucca Mountain chaired by vice-president Gore would likely be driven by similar metaphysical musings.