VIEWS: Gore Walks a Fine Line

A Dispatch by SSC Intern Matt Logan

As a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers (KPCB), former Vice President Al Gore helps make decisions about which prospective firms will receive funding to expand their business operations.  Gore believed that he saw a winner last year when approached by smart grid technology firm Silver Spring Networks, and as a result KPCB invested $75 million in the company.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants, $560 million of which went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts.  As a result, critics such as Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn have accused Gore of profiteering by urging government policies and investments that would benefit companies that he has a stake in. 

Gore has defended himself, stating that “I believe that the transition to a green economy is good for our economy and good for all of us, and I have invested in it.”  He has also shown that he is invested in this issue even when it won’t make him money by giving away millions of dollars to non-profits dealing with climate change such as the Alliance for Climate Protection and the Climate Project.

The issue of Gore’s possibly mixed motives highlights a broader issue: many of the businesses and organizations that support climate change legislation stand to profit from it, while those that oppose it fear that it will be excessively expensive and will cost Americans jobs.  However, it seems that those organizations that oppose legislation because of its cost do so at the neglect of the cost of inaction.  If the United States fails to curb its emissions, a powerful message of inaction would be sent to all other nations of the world, jeopardizing cooperative gains on the problem of global greenhouse gas emissions.  

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