Bill Clinton Slams Carbon Tax: “Helps the Bond Markets and Hurts the People”.

Albert Gore II and the British Thermal Unit: the Untold Story of Gore’s Previous Carbon Tax Attempt. 

Albert Gore II (or plain ol’ “Al” Gore as he likes to be known) has thrown his weight behind the idea of taxing fossil fuels, linking to an article on the idea from his personal blog. Indeed, in an interview with Reuters last year, Gore boasted that “For 30 years, I’ve advocated a tax on carbon dioxide”. A remark that went seemingly unquestioned by the Reuter’s correspondent.

But for once Gore was telling the truth – just not the whole truth. He has indeed been a long time fan of the idea of a carbon tax, his keenly tuned political senses perhaps sniffing an opportunity for money-making and funding behind it. If this seems a little curmudgeonly consider that David Brower, the grand old man of American environmentalism himself bitterly concluded that the Clinton / Gore adminstration “has done more to harm the environment and to weaken environmental regulations in three years than Presidents Bush and Reagan did in 12 years”.

Gore had indeed previously tried to get the idea of a carbon tax seriously considered when he was Vice-President in the Clinton administration. The background to this was Gore’s infamously incompetent “downsizing” of the federal government (a GAO investigation later concluded that the vast majority of the “savings” made by the downsizing were mythical). Faced with scathing criticism from within his own party, Gore came up with a way to raise revenue and placate his buddies on Wall Street: a carbon tax.

Albert Gore II’s first attempt at a carbon tax has been largely erased from history, as it was killed in its early stages by Clinton, who was perceptive enough to realise that it would be seen for what it was: a transference on an unprecedented scale of money from the middle classes to the wealthy bond traders and stock market speculators. Here’s muckraking journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair on Gore’s first carbon tax proposal and Clinton’s infuriated condemnation of it:

Gore suprised everyone [at the White House meeting] by saying he favored an energy tax, based on the British Thermal Unit, or BTU. He explained that this tax would help fulfill pledges to the environmental movement, since it would fall most heavily on fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil. In the longer term, he argued, it would also encourage conservation and a shift to alternative fuels, meaning natural gas and nuclear power. Gore claimed that the Europeans and the  Japanese were waiting for the United States to show leadership and would soon follow suit. Deficit reduction, combined with the energy tax, would be painful medicine, Gore continued, but it would be a bold stroke, comparable to the heady initiatives of FDR’s New Deal. This prompted another sarcastic outburst from Clinton: “FDR was trying to help people. Here, we help the bond market and hurt the people who voted us in“.

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, Al Gore: A User’s Manual.

Note as well that for all his populist posturing on the dangers and costs of nuclear power, in private Gore was touting a carbon tax on the grounds that it would inevitably lead to a turn towards nuclear power. The fact that, in another example of Gore’s bewilderingly complex political opportunism, he had previously shut down a promising research program that might have eliminated nuclear waste at the same time as generating electricity – a win/win situation if ever there was one – is simply par for the course for Albert Gore II.

Unsurprisingly then, Gore’s first attempt to push through a carbon tax was shut down by Clinton who saw through Gore’s protestations of saving the earth. Recognising that it would mean a truly epic transfer of wealth from the working population to the investment banks and Wall Street, Clinton told Gore to stick his British Thermal Unit and sent him packing. But, ever alert to changing political fortunes, Gore now thinks he senses another President is ripe to be persuaded of the benefits of a carbon tax. Expect to hear more from Albert Gore II and his chums on Wall Street.

One response to “Bill Clinton Slams Carbon Tax: “Helps the Bond Markets and Hurts the People”.

  1. Thanks for finally writing about >Bill Clinton Slams Carbon
    Tax: Helps the Bond Markets and Hurts the People. | hauntingthelibrary <Loved it!

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