Al Gore is a Nobel laureate, and that’s a weird concept. Love him or hate him, though, you can’t deny that Gore has done very well since removing himself from the political spotlight after the 2000 election. He won an Emmy and an Oscar, championed the “Live Earth” concerts and now has a Nobel Peace Prize. Gore is the steward of the global warming cause, and that Nobel Prize should signal to the rest of us that it has become the cause of our time, the cause of our generation, and Gore is the one to lead it – preferably from the White House.

A group called placed a full page in The New York Times last week calling for signatures to persuade Gore to enter the 2008 presidential race. More than 200,000 people have signed the petition on the group’s website. Gore has denied a desire to enter, and that’s too bad. It has been too long since a candidate ran on a meaningful issue that can unite the country. If Gore were to run not as a blue Democrat or a red Republican, but as the green candidate (and I don’t mean Green Party), he could have true bipartisan support. With the country picking sides between Rudy and Hillary, Gore could be the better alternative for supporters of both candidates.

All that said, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Gore will run. He may be the carrier of the torch on this cause, but we cannot afford to overlook global warming even if he doesn’t run. This is especially true in Michigan.

Detroit automakers have dodged calls for higher automobile mileage standards, but that sort of outdated thinking has caused all of the Big Three to fall behind Toyota in worldwide sales. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who represents Ann Arbor and has longstanding ties to the automotive lobby, must now give them up and realize that even Toyota is helping to defeat American mileage standard legislation. Passing a 35 miles per gallon standard would put our country at par with Europe and Asia, and it would force the Big Three to innovate rather than procrastinate.

The only way Ford, General Motors and Chrysler can get back on top is by developing hydrogen fuel cell and ethanol-based vehicles, among other green innovations. Imagine if the place where the auto industry started could bring it back from the gutter. But those types of initiatives cannot be undertaken in our state unless businesses are willing to stay and invest here.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm can bring business back to Michigan, and heeding Gore’s call is the way to do it. A tax increase was recently passed to balance the budget, but businesses want tax breaks. Michigan has a diverse energy grid, and if Granholm would do what California does and offer a tax credit to any company that saves its customers money by increasing efficiency, companies would be lining up to move operations to our state.

That would also attract companies that are developing alternative energies like wind and solar power, and these companies would need workers both to research these things and make them. Michigan has thousands of unemployed workers who could get back into the workforce, and all it would take is a little tax reform.

A story last August in The Detroit News reported that of all candidates, declared and undeclared, Gore is the favorite among Michigan Democrats. It makes sense then that our state should be committed to his goals. Gore is running out of time to declare for the 2008 campaign, but even if he is serious about staying away, he has made it so that global warming can no longer be overlooked.

The candidate who recognizes the importance of the issue will stroll into the White House, and it may yet be Gore. Legislative initiatives, especially in the state of Michigan, must move forward regardless. Inaction is no longer an option.

Kevin Bunkley can be reached at

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