Former Vice President Al Gore criticized Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday, saying he's treating Americans like children because of his refusal to turn over documents related to energy policy.

It's a disservice to the American people to "say we're not allowed to know who came in to write the policies that were going to affect all our lives," Gore told a crowd of 800 people attending a symposium on the environment at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham released 11,000 pages of documents Monday night revealing he met with energy industry leaders at least eight times while only lower level environmentalists were consulted on the energy plan.

Energy Secretary Jeanne Lopatto said Tuesday that officials made several attempts to reach out to environmental groups, but that in many cases "we came up with people who really didn't want to cooperate with us and they said, 'check our Web site."'

Gore, who campaigned for office as the environmental vice president, said environmental issues are the principle challenge facing our civilization and Cheney's task force policies are "going to affect all our lives."

He told students to educate themselves on the environment and the political process through gaining "the power of the facts."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.