by Michael dEstries
Categories: Home, People.

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!  

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.

View all posts by Michael dEstries →
  • http://www.carbontradewatch.org/ kevin smith

    Hey, I saw that you had mentioned offsets and I wanted to let you know that there is a new report published this last week on the offsets industry, The Carbon Neutral Myth – Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins. Free download from http://www.tni.org

    Carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins. Scratch the surface, however, and a disturbing picture emerges, where creative accountancy and elaborate shell games cover up the impossibility of verifying genuine climate change benefits, and where communities in the South often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them.

    This report argues that offsets place disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles and carbon footprints, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change. Promoting more effective and empowering approaches involves moving away from the marketing gimmicks, celebrity endorsements, technological quick fixes, and the North/South exploitation that the carbon offsets industry embodies.

  • etn

    share your thoughts on Gore…check out more Gore war!

  • Gary

    Another rich person’s folly. I can’t afford to purchase credits so I can use 10 times the power with a clear conscience. Also, Gore’s natural gas use is over $1000 a month.

    Gore is green alright (as in greenbacks).

    Gary

  • SEattle34

    If you go to TerraPass.com you’ll see you can purchase CO2 offsets for a year of Hummer driving (12K miles) for…get this…$79.

    Be extremely suspicious of anyone stating they are buying CO2 offsets for their activity. If “going green” cost just $79 per year for the driver of a Hummer, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    You’d need about 1000 gallons of gas to push that Hummer 12K miles for the year. That’s about $2600. Do you think the oil companies would be freaking out about global warming if all it took to fix was an extra $79 on a $2600 fuel bill?

  • http://www.religiousforums.com becky

    Interesting…I’m glad to see some research on this. :) Thanks Michael! What I would find interesting is perhaps an article on carbon offsets like ‘kevin smith’ above mentioned. I like the corrleation idea between sins and that, but I’d like to see what the readers of EcoRazzi think.

  • http://www.todbrilliant.com Tod Brilliant

    A waste of time, really. He spent eight years doing nothing for the environment – if you really want to bash him. Point his, his movie (I prefer to think of it as Laurie David’s movie, as I’m in love with her efforts) has done so much darned good.

    The SEQUEL to this movie – well, there’s a wee sneak peak about it on my site — click above.

    (I know, it’s a site that has an eerily similar theme . . .really, I want a new look but this one is s-o-o good and the price is just right – I made a donation!).

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  • http://www.greencitymonkey.info Green City Monkey

    I think it is important in these debates to not lump all carbon offset programs together. While conservation is always better than offsets, some offset programs are more direct than others. For example, in Seattle and many other cities, residents can “Green Up” their electricity. They pay and extra fee each month (about $12) and the utility agrees to provide the % of power that those residents use from Solar and Wind sources. So while the power going to that residents home may no be directly wind or solar (because it all gets added to the grid and mixed together) the power that they are using is from renewable resources. While it is not an excuse to leave the light bulb on while you are out of the house it is alot more practical for people who live in climates where solar is less efficient or in dense areas where having your own windmill isn’t allowed. Offsetting resources that can’t be renewable, like natural gas or driving is more tricky. You are usually buying something like tree planting, which has questionable efficacy or paying for other people’s projects to build more renewable infastructure or efficiency projects but that can lead to a lot of double counting etc. In general, I don’t think there is any harm from off-setting for things like flying or driving or using natural gas as long as people realize that indirect off-setting doesn’t really make their impact zero. (I do it for those times when I need to drive, fly, or for things like heating that are much more efficient in my area to do by gas. If nothing else, if forces you to calcualte how much carbon you are using.) There are also ways to off-set your indirect emissions from the things you purchase, etc. which I think someone needs to do before they can say that they have totally offset. So, on Gore, I think that as a leader he has on obligation to do all that he can to cut back before he just off-sets, increased insullation, efficient appliances, perhaps considering a smaller home? I don’t know how expensive gas is in his part of the country or if the $1000 per month includes his green credits as well as the gas. It seems high for a single family but I don’t feel like I have all the facts to really know.

  • richard schumacher

    So, global warming deniers are reduced to picking over Al Gore’s utility bills. This shows that they have nothing of substance to whine about.

  • http://www.afreshsqueeze.com Jonathan

    Maybe Gore should visit afreshsqueeze.com. A Fresh Squeeze is Chicago’s place for information on green living. Our twice-weekly emails provide useful, interesting ideas on how to make your life a little greener. We’ll tell you about the best organic sandwich in the city, little-known bike paths, the newest sustainable furniture store and much, much more. Subscribe for free today at http://www.afreshsqueeze.com

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