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Gore touts Dems, global warming agenda


Al Gore, campaigning for Sen. Maria Cantwell and other Washington Democrats, had nothing to say about a presidential bid of his own, but plenty to say about his favorite topic: global warming.

The former vice president returned to a favorite venue to promote his views on climate change and to tout this year's crop of Democratic candidates here. He and Bill Clinton carried the state twice and Gore soundly defeated George W. Bush here six years ago.

Gore has climbed Mount Rainier and has a strong following in the state's environmental community, particularly in vote-rich Seattle. A new statewide poll shows him as second only to Hillary Clinton as the presidential favorite of Washington Democrats.

When he showed up Tuesday to headline an environmental and energy forum sponsored by Seattle University Young Democrats, Gore said not a word about any ambitions for the White House.

Afterward, a big fan, Cindra Zugel, 58, of Mukilteo, collared him and pleaded with him to run again. She had a "Gore in '08" lapel pin and a big picture of her dogs in Gore campaign sweaters. At first he demurred, saying he's got his plate full with his "Inconvenient Truth" lecture tour on global warming. She pressed and he said, "It's a very toxic environment," but that he would at least consider it.

Gore told several hundred students and faculty that most people are now aware of the global warming menace, despite inaction and skepticism among some Republicans. Without mentioning him by name, he scoffed at comments by U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., about the extent to which humans are causing global warming.

Reichert believes global warming is likely caused by human activity, but has said he is still investigating the role that natural temperature fluctuations may play. He has said the threat of global warming has led him to support higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, stronger regulation of greenhouse gases and other environmental and energy policies.

Reichert's Democratic challenger, Darcy Burner, spoke at the event and saved Reichert a seat. "You said you wanted to investigate it for yourself, so here's a chance to learn more," she said in a Reichert-targeted campaign barb before the event.

Reichert did not attend.

Gore, relaxed and passionate, said, "This is the biggest crisis we've ever faced. ... We've been sitting around as this climate crisis wrecks the future of civilization itself. We face a full-scale planetary emergency."

Gore said the Northwest is a center of innovation and high-tech advances and can lead the way in solving the problem of greenhouse emissions and over-dependence on foreign oil by shifting to biodiesel and alternate forms of energy, as well as far more conservation.

Frank Paganelli of Propel Biodiesel drew a cheer when he said his three Seattle service stations are pumping 70,000 gallons of biodiesel each month.

"We want to get on with the solutions ... ," Cantwell said, adding, "The Northwest can lead the way to get off of our overdependence on foreign oil, to grow the economy, protect the environment and have a better foreign policy."

The event also featured Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a 30-year veteran of the House and an old Gore friend who's one of the most powerful members of the Appropriations committee, and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who is a national urban leader on global warming concerns.

Cantwell and Burner also will benefit from a visit by another potential presidential contender, Sen. Barack Obama. The Illinois Democrat, among his party's brightest stars, said Sunday that after the Nov. 7 midterm elections, he will consider the possibility of a White House bid. He will appear at a health-care event sponsored by Cantwell and Burner on Thursday in Bellevue.

Cantwell's challenger, Republican Mike McGavick, was at Ice Harbor Dam near the Tri-Cities on Tuesday with Idaho Sen. Larry Craig to promote the state's hydroelectric dams and to suggest that Cantwell might entertain the idea of breaching the Snake River dams.

McGavick sought to debunk Cantwell's claims to have fought to protect the dams.

In Seattle, Cantwell said in an interview that she's a champion of all forms of renewable energy,

"I feel I am carrying the torch for these Northwest issues, including our hydro system as our original (renewable source of electricity)," she said.