Former Vice President Al Gore has been one of the most prominent and staunch advocates for global-warming based public policy, but is his motivation purely altruistic?  Perhaps not, according to the New York Times, who reported that Silver Spring Networks, a company that Mr. Gore’s venture capital firm had heavily invested, is due to receive up to $560 million of the $3.4 billion given by the government via smart grid grants.  Mr. Gore and his investment firm are set to compound their investments, due in no small part to the global warming alarmism that Mr. Gore has been espousing.

While Mr. Gore is raising concerns and creating a market for “green” technologies, Silver Spring Networks is matching these concerns with a steady stream of profitable products, thanks to government subsidies. There is no greater form of rent-seeking than creating a market and obtaining government funding to maintain market share. And it appears that this is precisely what Mr. Gore is doing when he declares our imminent doom in the face of supposed catastrophic climate change. If the U.S. government can be pressed into further action, there are few who are in a position to profit more than Mr. Gore.  Indeed, the New York Times holds that Mr. Gore is poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire.” 

While Mr. Gore claims that he is simply backing up his beliefs with monetary investment, not everyone is convinced.  Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee pointed out that Mr. Gore stood to gain personally from belief in global warming.  Mr. Gore released an email message in response to these accusations in which he said, “Do you think there is something wrong with being active in business in this country? I am proud of it. . . I have advocated policies to promote renewable energy and accelerate reductions in global warming pollution for decades, including all of the time I was in public service. . .As a private citizen, I have continued to advocate the same policies. Even though the vast majority of my business career has been in areas that do not involve renewable energy or global warming pollution reductions, I absolutely believe in investing in ways that are consistent with my values and beliefs. I encourage others to invest in the same way.”

Mr. Gore may have invested in varying markets other than those having to do with pollution reductions, but since leaving office in 2001, he has amassed quite the portfolio of “environmentally friendly” businesses. He has invested in ventures in carbon trading markets, solar cell technology, bio-fuels, sustainable fish farming, electric vehicles, solar power, and even waterless urinals.

When Mr. Gore left government office in 2001 he was worth a little less than $2 million.  Mr. Gore would not report on his current monetary assets, but an accurate idea can be gained in light of his $35 million investment in Capricorn Investment Group.

Co-founder of Capricorn, Ion Yadigaroglu, confirmed that the fund agrees with Mr. Gore’s belief in long term monetary investment in energy technology around the world.

Mr. Gore maintains that he is not a lobbyist fighting for a special interest group, and that he has never asked for a policy decision that would benefit his investments.  CFACT’s own Marc Morano strongly disagrees, and has said that Mr. Gore’s alarmism and occasional exaggerations distort the debate and serve his personal financial interests.

Mr. Gore has created a conflict of interest by aligning his financial success with the success of global warming policies. For his investments to prosper, it is in Mr. Gore’s best interest to promote environmental policies that are questionable in their scientific soundness. If cap and trade legislation passes, it will create an artificial market that will prop up Mr. Gore’s business ventures.  Perhaps he should recuse himself from climate change debate.