by Michael dEstries
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al gore home

Many environmentalists, myself included, were a bit taken aback when word hit that Al and Tipper Gore had purchased a $9 million 6,500 sq. ft. Italian-style villa in Montecito, CA late last October.

The highly-exclusive neighborhood, which also counts mega-celebs like Oprah as residents, is ranked as the 7th most expensive in the U.S. by Forbes.

Now, it’s no surprise that the Gores have money. The former V.P. has always said that he puts his money where his mouth is — and it’s paid off handsomely for him. Nor should we discount the millions that Gore has funneled away from his personal accounts and into environmental foundations — like the Alliance for Climate Protection.

What’s irked the green scene, and given fuel to his detractors, is the underwhelming choice of this property with regards to sustainability. From the pictures that have been posted, there is no indication of any green features. Instead, we’re treated to specs like “6 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, ocean views” that invite ridicule as proof that Gore is full of hot air and isn’t adhering to the very lifestyle he advocates the rest of the world to follow.

It’s interesting to note, however, that while the property was purchased in October 2009, it wasn’t actually purchased under the Gore’s names. As the blog Real Estalker points out, the home “was purchased through a trust that links back to the very same post office box in itty-bitty Carthage, TN to which all of the other Gore properties link back.” This is unusual, the site says, as this is the first property to have been done this way.

Ok, so why all the secrecy?

There are two possible reasons: 1. The Gores were keeping this property under wraps until all green-energy remodeling projects could be completed, thus avoiding (now unsuccessfully) the drama that ensued over their Tennessee home back in 2007 or 2.) they really just didn’t want anyone to know about this home.

I personally believe the second one is highly unlikely, since people talk — and obviously, connecting the dots with public records isn’t too difficult these days. I’m also ready to give Gore the benefit of the doubt that this property will see significant green upgrades befitting someone involved heavily in the sustainability industry. But here’s the thing — he won’t have to do very much to turn this home into an efficient getaway.

According to Microsoft’s new Hohm Score service, an online tool that estimates a home’s energy efficiency, Gore’s new residence is actually more efficient than most homes in America — coming in at 67 (compared to the average of 61). The annual energy bill is estimated to be $1,708; which compared to his TN home of nearly $8K annually (and that’s with all the green tech installed) is meager. Of course, the warmer climate is definitely a cost-saver — but the numbers are impressive nonetheless for a property of this size; even if they are estimates.

So I know none of this makes much of a dent in the disappointment shared by many with this latest purchase. But perhaps Gore will turn this new west coast pad into a stunning example of green remodeling, hold retreats there to court donations to eco-initiatives around the world, and encourage his celebrity neighbors to do something similar.

The guy can spend his money anyway he likes, but sometimes I wish he would ask “WWEBJD?”

“What Would Ed Begley Jr. Do?”

>>To see additional pics of Gore’s new pad, jump here.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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