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Al Gore Steals the Show at Netroots

by Lilly Rockwell

AUSTIN - Former Vice President Al Gore stole the show from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fireside policy chat at the Netroots Nation conference in Austin on Saturday.

Pelosi spent 45 minutes talking about abortion rights, efforts to bring the troops back from Iraq and why she didn't think the Senate version of the FISA bill was appropriate. Some questions seemed to take her off guard, such as when one audience member asked about care packages being sent to troops, and if Congress should pass a bill to provide basic hygiene supplies to them.

Pelosi received a lot of applause for saying she supports net neutrality and the expansion of broadband into rural areas.

But when Gore took the stage, the crowd went wild, standing and cheering enthusiastically for the global warming champion. Gore came across more folksy and charming than he is remembered for being during his campaign for presidency.

You are at the cutting edge of a new era of history," Gore said. 'You will tell your grandchildren about the first two meetings of Netroots Nation...an effort that was historic to retain the integrity of American democracy."

Gore said the North Polar ice cap is at risk of melting completely during the summer months, which could have devastating effects on our climate.

He challenging the audience to help build a grassroots coalition to support efforts to vastly increase the use of renewable resources.

"If we reject the responsibility ... for all future generations and if the heat continues to build up for decades then it will never come back. If the scientists tell us we may have as little as 10 years in order to stop this process," Gore said.

The first question was whether he would accept a vice president post in the Obama administration.

"I am really honored by the suggestion that some have made that I consider taking a position of some kind in the next administration. I want to convey my respect for the idea even as I explain to you I don't think that is the best thing for me to do. I could be wrong. The highest and best use for the talents I've gained in my life."

He said he wants to focus on solving the climate crisis and build a coalition devoted to doing this. "I'm devoting my life to bring about a sea change in public opinion across party lines that supports the truly massive policy change we have to have."

Another person asked Gore if meat added to global warming.

"It would be healthier for the planet if we consumed less meat," Gore said. "I will plead guilty to the idea that we can only do so much at once. I myself am a meat eater and perhaps that has had an impact on my definition of the problem."

A man from West Virginia asked about mountain top mining and the damage it is causing.

"Mountaintop mining is an atrocity, an outrage," Gore said. "They just chop off and dump the rock and dirt into the creeks. It poisons the whole ecosystem. It is part and parcel of the whole dysfunctional energy system that is causing global warming."

"The president is saying drill, drill drill as an excuse for a failed energy policy," Pelosi said, blasting President Bush for not releasing oil in reserves.

Their talk did get rowdy at times. It was interrupted when a group from local organization Code Pink shouted at the stage, although it wasn't clear what they said. The group, dressed in pink outfits and dragging a man in a prison outfit around the audience, held a sign that said "Bring Troops Home Now." Pelosi kept talking, ignoring the commotion.

Another man shouted "Where is our (expletive) impeachment?" when Pelosi finished answering a question. Both her and Gore ignored it.

Copyright 2008 The Austin American-Statesman.

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