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Gore Wars! Right and Left Punch It Out Over Al's Energy Consumption

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snipshot_bxem38c6sp2.jpgThe director of Who Killed The Electric Car, Chris Paine, once said “that to be an American, is to be a hypocrite.” Many of us involved in supporting the environmental movement can probably find our own vices that do not reflect the values we support. The simple truth is that we do what we can and work hard to encourage others to do the same. The same can be said for celebrities — some worse than others — but everyone (hopefully) working on enacting change the best that they can.

It’s a valid point to consider that Al Gore has a lot more to account for. As the new symbol of environmental power in America, his time in the spotlight is scrutinized repeatedly. After all, if he wants us to follow the message he’s giving, we have every right to expect him to show us the way through his own actions. If Ed Begley Jr. can drive an electric car, compost in the backyard, and take his home off-grid –all the while encouraging all of us to do the same — shouldn’t Al be humming a similar tune?

After An Inconvenient Truth won the Oscar for Best Documentary, a group called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research released an article showing that Gore’s residence in Nashville consumes more than 20 times the national average of electricity in one year; nearly 221,000 kWh. In fact, according to the article, “since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.” A hypocrite?

If one were to simply read this article without doing some fact-checking, you could quickly agree that this would be the case. However, such a one-sided report timed for release exactly after the movie won raised my suspicions — and it appears, the suspicions of others. According to the Tennessean, Gore’s power bill shows that he is offsetting his energy use. From the article,

“Gore purchased 108 blocks of “green power” for each of the past three months, according to a summary of the bills. That’s a total of $432 a month Gore paid extra for solar or other renewable energy sources. The green power Gore purchased in those three months is equivalent to recycling 2.48 million aluminum cans or 286,092 pounds of newspaper, according to comparison figures on NES’ Web site.”

Not only that, but Gore told the site, ThinkProgress.org, that he 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.” The Gores also drive a Lexus hybrid SUV — not as green as Begley’s all-electric RAV4, but not a clear sign of hypocrisy either.

The big picture here is that both sides are correct. The real problem is that neither of them necessarily wants to show the big picture. On one hand, Gore is offsetting the energy of his home with carbon credits, solar power, and other energy efficient technologies. On the other hand, his home is a monster consumer of energy and should do more to reduce its dependence on electricity. Just because we can all offset now doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work harder to reduce consumption.

I think the Tennessee Center for Policy Research should have mentioned some of Gore’s efforts to reduct his carbon footprint before releasing such a one-sided article. It provides factual information, but doesn’t allow people to make an informed decision on the V.P.’s actions. Should Al continue to work hard to follow the message he preaches? Absolutely. But then again, aren’t we all attempting to do the same thing?

Thanks to Becky for the tip!  

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