Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tennessee Drudge-A-Muck Over Gore Mansion

I really didn't want to respond to this story, but given all the Google hits I'm getting from associated searches, I opted to throw a voice of reason into the debate.

In what was clearly a pre-planned smear campaign against Al Gore - timed to launch on the heels of An Inconvenient Truth's Oscar win - the right wing think tank the Tennessee Center for Policy Research reported that Al Gore's home consumes 20 times the power as the national average - an assertion that was lasciviously lapped up by Drudge.

Whether or not the figures disclosed by the TCPR are true or not scarcely matters as they are entirely beside the point. In seeking a solution for global warming, the goal is to attain 'carbon neutrality'. For those who failed grade school math (i.e. the people at Drudge) what this means is that you take responsibility for offsetting any greenhouse gases that you produce. If you produce 1 tonne of carbon, you need to do something to ensure 1 tonne is removed from the atmosphere in some other way. Allowing offsetting in this way makes sure that everyone has the ability to reducing their carbon footprint in the most cost effective way. This is precisely what Al Gore does.

Responding to Drudge’s attack, Vice President Gore’s office told ThinkProgress:

1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand. Gore’s office explains:

What Mr. Gore has asked is that every family calculate their carbon footprint and try to reduce it as much as possible. Once they have done so, he then advocates that they purchase offsets, as the Gore’s do, to bring their footprint down to zero.

Similar efforts have been attempted before. For the a previous high profile smear against Gore see my post - Al Gore Cracks the Conservatives Lies - the false accusations there are bound to crop up again now.

On a more fundamental level, the issue points to a core difficulty westerners have with any good act. Somewhere in our cultural history we drew a very strange line in the sand that in essence says, "You are free from any allegations of wrong doing or immorality, unless you endorse improving a wrong, or the state of the world at large. In that case, you need to be a saint or else you're a hypocrite."

This is diseased mindset that is grows from a culture of unaccountable capitalism that knows no morality and perceives sees any good act as a threat to its survival. There are no perfect people, only best intentions and actions, and Al Gore represents both because he does walk the walk - he lives a carbon neutral life.

More to the point, in the issue of global warming, the time is long past for absurd personal attacks as most of the western world is now moving towards solving this problem. It's time for the far right of the political spectrum to start joining in those solutions.


Torian said...

carbon neutral is not buying your way out of behaving responsibly- it is acting responsibly in the first place.

Janis Mara said...

Now that you mention it, this type of personal attack seems to be a pattern - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., a noted green advocate, was criticized in the American Standard for using an airplane that's larger than the one used by her predecessor Denny Hastert. Anyway, I'm not falling for it.

Anonymous said...

Carbon neutral...hmmm...that's the new catch phrase to dismiss the critics of the irresponsible proponents of global warming. Why not just STOP flying on big private jets, and stop traveling in big SUV's? No, they want the luxurious lifestyle and all the trappings that go with it. You preach to us about our energy usage, meanwhile your main spokespeople are big, fat HYPOCRITS. And then, to dismiss their hypocrisy, you spout this crap called "carbon neutrality". Who do you think you're kidding? We're not ALL stupid out here in the real world. Let me put this into perspective. Al Gore wants to get on his condescending soapbox, asking all of us, including my poor 75 year old mother to, despite her arthritis and health problems, hang her clothes out on a line, turn her heating and cooling down (and she needs both)and ride in an uncomfortable, cramped up hybrid car. Meanwhile, his fat butt is flying on private jets and riding in SUV's, and his utility bills are 20 times the national average. I'm all for being environmentally conscious, and live very simply. But you people are hypocrits, and full of crap.

Odiyya said...

actually Al Gore said none of that. But they are words his right wing critics like to put in his mouth.

2 points

1) Al Gore is the ex vice president of the most powerful nation in the world. fyi that title comes with security detail for life, and though Gore does drive a hybrid, security arrangements have their own details which include limos and SUVs. But that is not Gore, so deal with it.

2)Likewise, the ex VP isn't going to live in a 2000 sq foot bungalow - for security and other reasons. He's the former second in command of the nation. deal with it.

I also suggest you go out in person and take a look at what a 10,000 sq foot house is. Its hardly the lavish mansion being described by the press.

3) I've seen An Inconvenient Truth at least 6 times, I also see every interview with Gore i can find. Nowhere is he telling grandmothers to turn their heat and airconditioning off.

If you're problem is he's wealthy and can afford other options that you and I can't, that is a separate issue for you to deal with. But if you're going to accuse him wanting to freeze out grandma you are spinning lies, and buying into conservative game of attacking the messenger.

What gore does do is make his own commitments and ask others to do what they can. He offers suggestions on that but is not demanding anything of anyone.......save our governments who are the real problem for not setting up the rules and guidelines where both business and individual's can make bigger changes.

In the meantime Gore ensures both he and his various companies are carbon neutral, and his movie, and the book that goes along with it. if half of the nations leaders took those same steps, we wouldn't have a global warming problem. In the meantime Gore has generated a revolution in public awareness. He has nothing to apologize for.

Anonymous said...

One reason for limo use may be that normal cars can not carry the additional weight required of armored vehicles with bulletproof glass.

I am unsure if he actually uses one though. I am interested in what the energy usage is at the gore place, but I am dubious at this source. Has anyone actually seen official copy on the measurements or the energy consumption?

But even so $1000 per month is pretty low for an office building of that size. If he hosts his own web servers and runs his office from there then the energy usage is much lower than my company manages.

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate all that Gore has done in proselytizing stewardship of the Earth's limited resources; however, this news story does not bode well. The argument that he does not live in a large house (which I doubt based on the news pictures) does not help his credibility. He still uses 200,000 KWh/year. I live and work in a 6,000 sq/ft house and consume less than 1/10th of that amount. I use CFLs, heavy insulation, double pane glass, and even drive a hybrid - but don't label me a greenie, I'm a Republican who believes Americans should wean themselves from the OPEC teat. Just because you buy energy from a "green source" does not give someone impunity to consume as much as they want. Such unmitigated energy consumption from a utility for 2 people does not reflect well on someone calling on the world to reduce their consumption. When the messenger is tainted, the message, no matter how benevolent, is lost in the noise. I do hope Gore corrects this. This work needs someone of his stature to deliver the message.

Anonymous said...

Previous commenter said "I live and work in a 6,000 sq/ft house and consume less than 1/10th of that amount."

You may want to check your sources first. I would be impressed if you use less than 100 dollars a month in energy for a 6k foot property. A newly build one in south is running over $500 a month according to my parent. Fox reported that he pays 14.4k, but they frame this as a monthly amount when they are talking to yearly. (Really sleazy but who expects more from them - http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,255203,00.html)

Anonymous said...

What has been reported, from utility records, is that his average bill for the month is $1,390. I can't remember what that came to in kilowatt hours and this isn't just being reported by Fox, it's everywhere. I live and work in a 2,600 sq. ft. home. We watch our consumption, and our average bill last year was $210.00. The Gores have TVA as their power company in Nashville, and my area is serviced by TVA as well. I am 115 miles from Nashville, so our climates are similar. So, the Gores have a home that is 4 times larger than mine, yet his bill is around 6 times higher. I have a friend who lives 5 miles from the Belle Meade area where he lives. Her home is $3,800 sq. ft., and she told me she averages $265.00/month. She also works out of her home. He just started buying "green" power last November..why did it take so long to do that? The bottom line: His credibility is damaged. YES we need people to speak out about conserving energy, and cutting our oil dependency, for reasons which go even beyond global warming fears. I don't buy into global warming, but I do believe in taking care of the planet - it's the responsible thing to do. But Gore has got to stop making excuses, and start living what he preaches, and claiming carbon neutral practices don't quite make up for these latest revelations.

Odiyya said...

Anonymous from last comment - thank you. this is good objective information. A couple thoughts:

As you pointed out, Al Gore's home is about 4 times the size of yours, so if he consumed power at the same rate as you the bill should be about $840 for gore. BUT Gore pays an additional premium for green power to the tune of $4 per kWh (ref at metafilter, green power rates from NES ) Given the consumption in the article that means he's paying around $500 extra for green power. Without this his costs would be on par with yours.

Also of note, the State of Tennessee does not consider the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (the group that released the gore accusations) a legitimate group.

Small wonder when they don't take into account Gore's green energy premiums in publishing their math.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to believe that nobody can understand how carbon credits work.

Gore is carbon neutral, if we all lived like him there would be no threat and we would be able to fix the problem.

End of story.

if you want me to explain how carbon credits work feel free to e-mail me at DrNolove@hotmail.com

Janis Mara said...

This dialogue has been extremely illuminating to me. I'm confused, though, because I read on another blog that there is no record of Gore's utilities company being contacted. Not trying to be obnoxious here, just wondering where the $1,350 number came from? I hope this doesn't sound confrontational, I am just thinking perhaps you have a link.

I also agree with an earlier poster who said Gore needs to make some changes. That would go a long way toward restoring any lost credibility.

Anonymous said...

I would like to remind people that al gore did nothing to prevent global warming, while he was vice president in fact more SUV gas guzzlers were built in the usa under his leadership (?) than at any other time in history. still I am 100% in favour of doing anything possible to counter the threat posed by climate change. I will do my part but this war against the forces of planet destruction needs everyone to do their part.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is, whether we believe in global warming or not, we all have to do our part to reverse the current trends. We're too oil dependent. We are at the mercy of the middle eastern oil robber barons, Hugo Chavez, and oil and gas companies who have no shame. We need cleaner air, cleaner water and cleaner food. I'm a skeptic on the global warming issue, but I DO know that if we don't reverse current trends, we will suffer consequences. It matters not whether Al Gore is a hypocrit, really. It appears that he is, and I hope he can redeem his credibility, but what is frustrating is, the real issues get lost amidst it all. Whatever pol. party you're aligned with, don't lose sight of the point. We need alternative energy sources, alternative fuel sources, and we all need to cut back on our consumption. It is for our own good, and for the good of generations to come.

Anonymous said...

First I am a believer in environmental stewardship, I am also a believer in geo-political responsibility.

Gore has the means and the choice to live carbon negative. If he was truly committed he could live more modestly in a normal single family home. There are plenty of green building options out there. He could easily afford to live in a passive solar house with renewable generation and still buy carbon credits.

It is good that his film will make people evaluate their environmental impact, however it is not good that he clouded the message with his own political story.

The point that people miss whether they believe in global warming or not are the geopolitical consequences. Having to fight wars and deal with hostile nations in order to keep fuel resources available has long been a necessity because of our own habits. Don't fool yourself. Buying carbon credits to offset unneccessary excess use of fossil fuels does not offset the intrinsic support of global conflict. While the average person cannot avoid buying these products completely, they can try their best to minimize use. Living in a mansion is not minimizing. Moderation is key.

To those that insist gore is buying solar panels for his mansion. Usable forms of these technologies have been around for quite some time. Gore has been "fighting" this battle for years, and now he is thinking about fixing up his mansion? Please. When he moves out of his mansion I will believe he is an altruistic environmentalist, I may even start to believe his anti-war stance is serious.

Conserve for the environment, for our troops, and for peace.

Gore is a politician, and he forever will be. His movie has had positive effects, but if it was free of personal politics and if he "walked the walk" as much as he really could, average people, even non-believers and naysayers wouldn't be able to deny his example. On the spectrum of balance he is somewhere in the middle between a real altruist and an unabashed opportunist.

Anonymous said...

Notes from http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/02/is_george_bush.php
about George W. Bush's Crawford, Tx. ranch:
"Is it possible that George Bush is a secret Green? Evidently his Crawford Winter White House has 25,000 gallons of rainwater storage, gray water collection from sinks and showers for irrigation, passive solar, geothermal heating and cooling. “By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home. “Clients of similar ilk are building 16-to-20,000-square-foot houses.” Furthermore for thermal mass the walls are clad in "discards of a local stone called Leuders limestone, which is quarried in the area." Bush also reportedly uses propane fuel in his personal vehicles on the ranch.

What we have here is bizarre. Bush could be carrying the torch for environmental issues in his party, because he obviously believes in them..yet he succumbs to those who hold the purse strings and has a dismal record on environmental issues. Gore, on the other hand, carries that torch, yet lives extravagantly in a 10,000 sq. ft. mansion,and doesn't put the conservation measures in practice that he preaches in his message, carbon offset purchases notwithstanding. You have to lead by example in these things. So what are we to make of this? BOTH men are going to have to balance the other sides of their equation, and we ALL need to do our part, regardless of what leaders do.

Anonymous said...

Carbon Offsets are similar to an abolitionist slave owner, saying .”.but I don’t whip my slaves. “. And If you believe in your heart that the consequences of human induced global warming will be severe, then you are morally obligated to dramatically change your way of life as much as a plantation owner would be required to free his slaves. With this view, Al Gore could be compared to Thomas Jefferson, who championed a cause but hypocritically didn’t change his own behavior; rallying for freedom but still owning slaves.

Anonymous said...

The above post was a good comparison. The carbon offsets are also sort of like the Mafia giving lots of money to the Church (which they are known to do)to absolve them of their horrible deeds. It just doesn't cancel it out. BUT, we still have issues, and no amount of finger-pointing at hypocrits will absolve us of what we need to do. I'm not a global warming alarmist, I think we have more immediate problems (like national security), and our energy consumption and lack of research and conservation has left us in a very bad position globally.

Anonymous said...

To talk about carbon offsets is really to dance around the key environmental issue anyway -- the one that Gore completely ignores in his film. The bottom line is that there are too many people on the planet, and that's the real primary cause of global climate change. In a world of several hundred million people instead of 6 billion, we could all live in 10,000 square foot mansions and drive Hummers if we wanted, with little or no impact on the environment. "Conservation" becomes unnecessary when there is a more harmonious balance between the number of people on the planet and the planet's ability to sustain life . . . indefinitely . . . which is what "sustainability" should be all about. Human population reduction is politically unpopular though, which is of course why Gore doesn't address the issue, and more importantly, which is why the answer to "environmental" problems ultimately do not lie in the political arena.

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah. The population issue was the glaring message I took from the film and from seeing Al Gore's slideshow in person. Every global rise in temperature, pollution, etc. is directly related to the number of people on our planet. I'm amazed this hasn't been talk about incessantly!

Anonymous said...

For some food for thought regarding over-population..Given that economically developed countries don't have rapidly growing populations, and assuming that population growth in poorer countries would slow once developed, isn't economic development a remedy for over-population? And given that energy is needed for development, wouldn't we hinder poorer counties and hence exasperate over-population, if we expect them to reduce emissions without new energy technologies?

PS “Every global rise in temperature, pollution, etc. is directly related to the number of people on our planet. I'm amazed this hasn't been talk about incessantly! “ is a bit over- reaching. That the rise in temperature is related to the total mass of emitted greenhouse gases might be better.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain how buying $432 of carbon credits each month make Al Gore "carbon neutral"? I'm not following. And how do these carbon credits actually work, where is that money going and who is collecting it? When you consider both electric and gas he is spending about $2500/mo on energy just for his home. I don't see how $432/mo is neutral...

Michael said...

Thanks for your nice post!