Al Gore Blasts Memphis-Area Oil Pipeline as 'Reckless, Racist and a Rip-Off'

Former Vice President Al Gore was given a "prophet-like" greeting by anti-pipeline protesters in South Memphis Sunday, where he compared the nearby Byhalia oil pipeline project to an ongoing struggle against "reckless, racist" ideologies.

On Sunday, Gore blasted the controversial oil pipeline project which is facing steep grassroots opposition despite the Army Corps of Engineers previously authorizing the massive energy plan to link Memphis, Tennessee, to Byhalia, Mississippi. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen introduced Gore to the largely Black audience as "the father of the modern environmental movement" and touted him as the "canary in the coal mine" who has prophetically warned the world of climate change effects for decades. Gore likened the "struggle" for environmental causes to a religious awakening.

"I feel like I'm in church," Gore told the several hundreds of attendees who came to the anti-Byhalia Pipeline protest near Mitchell Road High School. Gore has for years equated people who deny the effects of climate change to those who deny the existence of racism. The Memphis Flyer reported that Gore invoked a religious and racial theme throughout the socially distanced event.

Numerous member of the audience wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts and echoed local concerns about the pipeline poisoning the region's groundwater aquifer. About 1 million people use the aquifer in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and southwest Arkansas, Gore warned.

"The [Byhalia Pipeline] project is reckless, racist and a rip-off," Gore declared, citing statistics which showed 65 percent of pipelines are located in Black communities. "The cancer rate in Southwest Memphis is five times higher than the national average, the rate of asthma five times more, the death rate of Black kids from asthma 10 times the norm."

Hundreds of citizens came out today to protest the #ByhaliaPipeline with @AlGore.

What I've seen today, and what the oil companies should know, is that South #Memphis is far from the path of least resistance. This is a spectacular community effort. This is #EnvironmentalJustice pic.twitter.com/TuWABGeumn

— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) March 14, 2021

"It's all the same thing: It's racist!" Gore told the crowd, prompting raucous cheers in the open field. He went on to discuss the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year as well as energy companies' decisions to dump waste in primarily Black and minority communities.

Several local officials including Cohen, and members of the Shelby County Commission, Memphis City Council and state legislators were in attendance.

"Thank you, Southwest Memphis. Keep resisting and keep pressuring your local officials. Soon we will win the fight against the #ByhaliaPipeline," Gore posted to Facebook Sunday, showing pictures of him elbow-bumping with anti-pipeline protesters. The "Big Oil" project is under the direction of the Valero Energy Corporation and Plains All American Pipeline.

More than two decades after leaving the White House, Gore uses his sway in environmental circles to promote social media hashtags including his opposition to the "#ByhaliaPipeline" project.

"Do not weary in well doing," Gore said, using one of several biblical references Sunday. "Political will is itself a renewable resource. Political will is itself a renewable resource. Thank you. Keep up the fight."

Newsweek reached out to representatives for Gore on Monday morning for additional remarks.

al gore memphis byhalia pipeline
Former Vice President Al Gore was given a "prophet-like" greeting by anti-pipeline protesters in South Memphis Sunday, where he compared the nearby Byhalia oil pipeline project to an ongoing struggle against "reckless, racist" ideologies. Screenshot: Facebook | Al Gore