WASHINGTON - In a newly published edition of his book, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore reflects on his call eight years ago to eliminate the internal-combustion engine: 'I'm proud that I wrote those words in 1992, and I reaffirm them today.'
He also directs his critics to passages from the original edition reprinted on pages 325 and 326 - to 'save you the trouble of reading the entire book.'
This is a pugnacious defense for what was then a revolutionary idea and for what is now heavy baggage in automotive circles for the Democratic nominee for president.
He wrote in the original edition: 'It ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a twenty-five year period.'
Some scientists say that the hundreds of millions of engines operating worldwide emit a significant portion of the carbon dioxide gas that causes global warming.
Gore now says he has been vindicated because automakers, working hard on new powerplant technologies such as fuel cells, may retire the internal-combustion engine even sooner than he suggested.
But the book remains a burden to Gore's candidacy because it serves as a flash point whenever the discussion turns to the fate of the nation's most important industry under a possible Gore administration.
'He has some decided views on the internal-combustion engine that in many ways strike fear in the hearts of our companies,' said Josephine Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
The alliance, representing 13 automakers, is a nonpartisan organization. Cooper's personal politics are Republican.
But even Gore loyalists with ties to the industry acknowledge that his view on global warming, expressed with zeal in the book, creates anxiety among automotive executives and auto workers.
It 'scares the bejesus out of people,' said one Gore backer, familiar with the rank-and-file.
Even though many executives accept that some kind of action is needed to avert global warming, another Gore supporter in the industry said, 'How that gets done and over what time frame is cause for concern.'
Both Gore loyalists asked not to be named.
Paul Welday, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich., said Bush allies will be making the point with people throughout the industry during the campaign that Gore has an extreme agenda.
'You're either a friend or a foe of the automobile industry, and Al Gore has said he is a foe,' Welday said.
But it is unclear at this point if the environment will be a top issue in the national campaign. Bush has been reluctant to bash Gore's environmentalism because the GOP nominee is trying to appeal to moderate swing votes. Gore has taunted Bush about Texas pollution but has generally soft-peddled his own rigorous positions.
Gore, as vice president, played a crucial role in the 1997 negotiations in Kyoto, Japan, that led to an international treaty to limit greenhouse gases, such as the carbon dioxide that comes from burning gasoline in cars and trucks.
Under the treaty, the United States would be required to reduce its emissions to 7 percent less than 1990 levels by the 2008-12 period, a real cut of more than 30 percent from the levels that would otherwise occur in 2012.
Automakers generally say global warming may be a problem, but the treaty is the wrong way to fix it.
The Clinton administration has not submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification. And it has offered only modest proposals for controlling emissions. Treaty opponents and supporters expect the issue to return to the front burner after the election, regardless of who is elected.