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Al Gore, superstar

Together with my colleague Marc Gunther I spent the last two months following Al Gore around the country, watching him learn to be a venture capitalist. The feature story Marc and I wrote is online here. For Marc’s take on our experience, check out his blog.

As I was catching up on my TV viewing over the weekend (big features tend to get one behind on the important stuff in life), I caught up with the latest episode of the NBC show “30 Rock,” in which Gore makes a pretty damn funny cameo. (It’s the lead video in this Huffington Post post.)

That got me thinking about the one thing Marc and I only winked at in our article: Al Gore’s almost superhuman energy levels. We listed his affiliations: advisor to Google; director at Apple (AAPL), chairman of Current TV and Generation Investment Management and the Alliance for Climate Protection, an advocacy group. He’s also an author and tirelessly gives his now famous slideshow. But we still didn’t really convey how hard this guy charges. His Current partner Joel Hyatt — himself a director at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), giving these guys pretty good Silicon Valley coverage — told me a story that illustrates the point. He recently asked Gore to attend a meeting with cable executives in Denver. Gore needed to be in London before the time of the meeting and Paris after. Hyatt would have more than understood if Gore passed on Denver. But the former veep made all the meetings anyway.

Gore’s critics can’t stand the guy, but I’ve come out of this process completely understanding why he keeps up this pace: He believes he’s making a huge impact on solving the climate-change crisis. Is ego also an explanation? Of course it is. Without ego, driven, ambitious people wouldn’t accomplish what they do. In Gore’s case, I’m guessing self-aggrandizement is no more than, say, 30% of his motiviation. And that’s an aggressive, probably uncharitable estimation.

Will he run again for president? We address that in the article. Short version: He told Marc and me he doesn’t think the “conditions” are right for him to run, meaning that though he has made a lot of progress is getting the public to come around to his view of the environment, he’s got a ways to go yet. Al Gore is 59. He’s a student of history and of politics, which he likes to say is a non-linear process.

My guess? He’ll run again for president. Just not in 2008.