Recently, it was reported that former vice president Al Gore had managed to sell his financially troubled Current TV network to the Al Jazeera company, owned by the Qatar government, for $500 million, netting himself about $100 million in the process.
There is something unsettling about this transaction. I own a small aerospace company that does some business with the U.S. government. If I were to take a NASA middle manager out to dinner and pick up the tab, the inspector general would be all over both of us in a heartbeat. Yet here is Al Gore, a former congressman, senator, and vice president of the United States, receiving $100 million from a foreign government — and not just any foreign government, but one involved in extremely damaging economic warfare against the United States and the promotion of terrorism worldwide — and yet the attorney general takes no action. What gives?
To be sure, Al Gore is not the first high-level U.S.-government official, or even the first in his family, to obtain a payoff from a foreign government opposed to the United States. For example, his father, then-congressman Al Gore Sr., received a herd of prize cattle from Armand Hammer, which he was able to sell repeatedly at grossly inflated prices to lobbyists who never bothered to pick them up. When Gore retired from the Senate, he took up a $500,000-per-year (in 1970s money) position as CEO of the American coal subsidiary of Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum. Edward Jay Epstein extensively documented in his book Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer
based on KGB files that became public after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that Hammer
was in fact — as had been widely suspected before the release of said documents — a top-level paymaster of the Soviet foreign-intelligence services from 1922 onward. According to Epstein, Gore Sr. received his payoff in return for his help in preventing prosecution of Hammer by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, as well as for his key role in encouraging King Idris of Libya to transfer control of his country’s oilfields to Occidental — a move that no doubt facilitated the subsequent transfer of control of Libya itself to the Soviet camp.
So there is no doubt that Al Gore Sr. deserved his payoff from Armand Hammer. But what has Al Gore Jr. ever done for Qatar? Isn’t he, after all, the foremost champion of the worldwide environmentalist movement, which is bitterly opposed to oil production, the very lifeblood of the Qatari regime? Yes, he is, but there is a little catch, because while opposed in principle to oil production everywhere, the environmentalist movement has been effective in reality only in impeding it in the United States.
Some measure of the effect of the environmental movement may be obtained by examining figure 1, below, where I show U.S. oil production, OPEC oil production, and non-U.S./non-OPEC oil production from 1960 to the present. It can be seen that U.S. oil production grew at an average rate of 3.2 percent per year during the 1960s, peaking at 9.6 million barrels per day in 1970. In that year, however, the environmental movement was empowered by the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and the accompanying creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. production has been in decline ever since. As shown, the growth of OPEC production, which had been extremely rapid during the 1960s, came to a screeching halt in 1973, when the OPEC powers replaced the previously dominant Seven Sisters’ policy of expanding production to grow the world economy with an alternative policy of constricting production to loot the world economy.
Figure 1: World Oil Production, 1960–2011. Actual U.S. production is marked with the lavender squares. Hypothetical U.S. production continued at pre-EPA growth rates is shown by the green cross-hatched line. Note that such growth was in fact achieved by other non-OPEC countries.
As a result, OPEC production has not increased at all since 1973. Thus the entirety of the increase of world oil production over the past four decades — during which time the world economy has doubled in size — has come from non-OPEC, non-U.S. sources. As can be seen in the graph, this has increased at a rate of 3.4 percent per year since 1970, essentially the same as the 3.2 percent average U.S. growth rate from 1960 to 1970. With the thin green line on the graph, I show how U.S. production would have developed had it matched that of other non-OPEC sources and continued to grow at its pre-EPA rate. In that case, instead of producing 5.7 million barrels per day today, we would now be producing 35. Together with other non-OPEC production, this would have totally marginalized OPEC and constrained oil prices below $30 a barrel, with associated gasoline prices driven to the range of $1 to $1.50 per gallon. Just as they did in the 1950s and 1960s, such low oil prices would have fueled dramatic U.S. and global economic growth.
At present, Qatar exports around 400 million barrels of oil per year, while the U.S. imports about 4 billion barrels per year. So the fact that oil prices today are $90 per barrel, instead of the $30 per barrel that they would be if not for the environmentalist hamstringing of American oil production, is costing the United States at least $240 billion per year (based on the price difference alone — much more if we take into account the potential replacement of our oil imports with exports), while benefiting Qatar by $24 billion per year, and OPEC as a whole by at least $600 billion per year.
So, Al Gore has certainly earned the gratitude of the rulers of Qatar, and indeed, all of OPEC. Of course, there might be envious people who would say that the money should have been more evenly distributed among the greens’ rank and file, without whose hard work these achievements would not have been possible, But by providing the pro-Hamas, pro-Hezbollah Al Jazeera network with cable access to 40 million American viewers, the former vice president showed a willingness to undertake unpopular actions on behalf of those whom others might shun that clearly outshines all the rest.
Like father, like son. It certainly is wonderful to see how our dedicated retired government officials can reap their just rewards from those they have served so well. But wouldn’t it be nice if those they chose to serve were the American people, and not someone else? And wouldn’t it be great if laws were enforced that made sure that they did so?
— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and author of the book Energy Victory. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was published last spring by Encounter Books.