Al Gore continued his crusade for environmental entrepreneurship today, announcing that he has invented a new method to use wind power for ships on the high seas. Amid growing controversy about the impact of shipping on global warming, Gore's proposal would dramatically reduce pollution problems from seafaring operations.
Several environmental groups have been looking at the maritime industry and its associated pollution. The shipping industry carries over 90% of the world's merchandise and global economic growth has led to a dramatic increase in the use of ships. These oceanic beasts output huge quantities of global warming gases including carbon dioxide, along with other dirty effluents like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Some reports suggest that the ships also smell like Britney Spears, an odor that is particularly offensive in Arab countries, but this has not been confirmed.
Al Gore, the former Vice-President and recent winner of a Nobel Prize, is not sitting still. Instead he is confronting the shipping industry with a proposal straight out of science fiction. Instead of using bunker fuel, Gore would outfit all large ships with his wind power invention.
In one version of Gore's proposal, ships would mount large trees on their tops and suspend large expanses of fabric between them to catch the wind and use it to drive the ships forward. In a more advanced version, the ships would employ windmills which would generate electricity to drive propellers, storing excess electricity in batteries, all of which would supplement the existing engines.
Critics were quick to attack Gore for his idea. Republicans accused him of trying to strangle the economy. Shipping industry magnates warned that wind would be slower than existing technology and this might lead to greater use of air transport which has its own environmental consequences. Leading Democratic presidential candidates said they support Gore and his ideas but then changed their minds three times. Ron Paul said that wind power for shipping was common back in 1789 when the Constitution was adopted, so he supports it, but he would leave any such regulation to the states.