By George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Confused Palm Beach County voters helped thwart Al Gore’s 2000 bid to become president of the United States, but he was introduced as “president of the planet” when he returned here Saturday night to deliver an environmental lecture.
The former vice president spoke on climate change at the Mizner Park Amphitheater to a crowd of about 800. More than 200 protesters gathered across the street from the event, and their boos and chants could be heard inside the amphitheater as Gore began his presentation.
Gore lost Florida, and the White House, by 537 votes to George W. Bush in a 2000 as many Palm Beach County Democrats said they mistakenly voted for conservative Pat Buchanan because they were confused by the county’s “butterfly ballot” design.
After losing the presidential race, Gore became arguably the world’s most famous advocate for curbing carbon emissions, gaining eco-celebrity status with the film An Inconvenient Truth and winning a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
“It’s an interesting twist of fate here in our own backyard that former Vice President Al Gore has taken on a new platform and is now a catalyst for world change,” said Marci Zaroff, an “eco-entrepeneur” who introduced Gore.
“So, in essence, he’s president of the people. He’s president of the planet. And the work that he’s doing is more important than any other work that could possibly be done.”
Tickets for the event sold for $44 to $339, with proceeds going to the nonprofit Alliance for Climate Protection that Gore chairs.
Gore began his remarks by calling climate change “the most dangerous problem we’ve ever faced. But it is also a tremendous opportunity for us to solve problems that have been neglected for a long time.”
Organizers allowed the media to cover only the first few minutes of Gore’s presentation.
In addition to his nonprofit advocacy, Gore is a partner in a venture capital firm that finances “sustainable” and alternative energy businesses, prompting some critics to accuse Gore of promoting environmental policies that will fatten his bank account.
“Cap & Tax — Don’t Be Fooled: Al Gore Will Make billions,” read a sign carried by Alan Tudor, who drove from Tampa to attend Saturday’s protest.
“Gore’s Favorite Green Product? Your money in his pocket,” said another sign.
Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said Gore’s investments are consistent with positions he has held for decades.
“Former Vice President Gore has made long-term investments in ‘sustainable’ companies, the vast majority of which are not directly involved with efforts to solve the climate crisis. He has also invested in some companies that have attempted and will continue to help solve the climate crisis. These are a reflection of his values,” Kreider said in an e-mail.
“If he did not invest in technologies that he supported, these very same people would accuse him of being a hypocrite,” Kreider said.
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