Al Gore Wields More Influence Out of Government

The former vice president has more freedom to advance his agenda on climate change and other issues.

By SHARE

TOP ENVIRONMENT PLAYER

Democrats should beware the powerful outsider, especially if they think he shares their views. While Al Gore may once have led their party, in recent years he's been critical of inaction and efforts he thinks fall short, regardless of party affiliation.

The greatest irony of Gore's career is that he's arguably more influential outside of government than when he was nearly atop it. His lecture series on global warming became a blockbuster Hollywood film, then won him a Nobel Prize. Yet he's criticized by conservatives and lampooned in the television show South Park.

Gore took no post in the Obama administration, though he almost surely would have had one if he'd asked. Yet in many ways, he has more freedom to advance his agenda unencumbered by government obligations.

Fellow Democrats say Gore's an articulate translator of high scientific ideas, able to explain complexity in terms easy to understand. That will be important as complex debates swirl around issues like carbon trading and regulating greenhouse gases.

His current initiative, Repower America, lobbies to make buildings more efficient, increase renewable-energy generation, improve the power grid, and build affordable plug-in cars. Gore pushes his solutions at meetings with world leaders and academics and through a public information campaign. And his effort is becoming self-perpetuating: In the past several months, he's begun actively encouraging scientists to become more political in expressing their views.

READ ABOUT THE NEXT OF THE TOP EIGHT WASHINGTON PLAYERS ON ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT.