More on the Al Gore Story

Wow. Quite an interesting group of visitors I had here yesterday. The CIA. The U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives. Argonne. NREL. Oak Ridge. And that was just before lunch. (You can click on the Site Meter at the bottom of the page to see details on the most recent 100 visitors). I usually get some visitors from various branches of government every day, but I have never seen quite so many in such a short period of time. I guess that’s what happens when the subject matter is political.

The recent reports on Al Gore’s energy consumption are definitely polarizing. The reactions from both sides typified what I hate so much about politics. The Right naturally vilified him. I didn’t see anyone cutting him any slack, or proposing reasons that his energy consumption might be high. This was seen as an opportunity to rehash many of the old canards about Gore. The positive things that Gore has done were lost in the noise. For the Right, this was an opportunity to “get Gore.”

On the Left, the strategy was to deflect attention. They wondered about the timing (right after Gore’s Oscar win) and the motives. They wanted to know how the bills were obtained. They wanted to paint this as a right-wing conspiracy. Some pointed suspicious fingers at me over the essay I wrote yesterday. But what was lacking was some acknowledgement that this really doesn’t look good. No, in politics you defend your guy no matter what, and you attack the other guy at every opportunity. There just never seems to be any other rules to the game, like maybe where your guy is wrong and the other guy isn’t really all that bad.

Are Gore’s political enemies behind this? Probably. Are his enemies out to get him? Without a doubt. Does that change the data? No. And that is why I am disappointed in Gore. Here is what I would have expected of Gore:

The 4,000-square-foot house is a model of environmental rectitude.

Geothermal heat pumps located in a central closet circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees; the water heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. Systems such as the one in this “eco-friendly” dwelling use about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and cooling systems utilize.

A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof runs; wastewater from sinks, toilets and showers goes into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is used to irrigate the landscaping surrounding the four-bedroom home. Plants and flowers native to the high prairie area blend the structure into the surrounding ecosystem.

No, this is not the home of some eccentrically wealthy eco-freak trying to shame his fellow citizens into following the pristineness of his self-righteous example. And no, it is not the wilderness retreat of the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council, a haven where tree-huggers plot political strategy.

That sounds like a “Gore house.” Can you believe that they are describing the Crawford, Texas ranch of President Bush? Believe me, I am no George Bush fan, but what kind of bizzaro world is this if Bush has a lower carbon footprint than Gore? And given the size of Bush’s ranch house in comparison to what I expect is the size of Gore’s mansion, I would say that is a distinct possibility.

Various reasons have been proffered for Gore’s high level of energy usage. Here is a sampling that I gathered from comments at The Oil Drum. One person suggested that we can’t expect Gore to live like normal people:

I don’t think you can expect a former VP from an old money family to live like just folks. A sensible critique would compare the Gores to others of their position and income bracket.

Of course other old money families aren’t trotting around the globe pleading with the public to conserve. So I don’t expect Gore to live like “others of their position and income bracket.”

One said that he is just a man of his times:

I call this the Jeffersonian Paradox. It would have been impossible for Jefferson to participate in the forming of this nation without slave labor. He needed it at the time to finance his travels and his fights for the rights of United States. This is the paradox we all face, we must use the current system to make money to complain/change the current system.

Albert Gore is no different than Jefferson in this regard.

Here’s one that hit close to the crux of the matter for me:

People will consume as much as they can. Always have, always will. Al Gore is no exception. If buying carbon offsets settles his conscience than good for him. I’d have been far more encouraged if he downsized his lifestyle.

And my friend Engineer Poet brought up something that was on my mind as well:

Forget for a minute what Gore is consuming. Consider instead the ratio of consumption to activity.

Seriously, he’s probably running the activities of a good-sized office out of his house.

If you consider what that office would consume if it was stand-alone, his personal footprint might be far more reasonable than raw figures suggest.

Gore is obviously not like the average Joe. As a former VP and best-selling author, he has special circumstances that will probably drive up his energy costs. I presume he has Secret Service agents around all the time. So, it’s a given that these extra bodies will increase his energy consumption beyond what it might otherwise be.

On the other hand, he is Al Gore. He is probably the highest profile environmentalist in the world. He is proselytizing on the topic of conservation. So I don’t expect his energy consumption to compare to the average rich person’s. I expect him to lead by example. I don’t expect him to live in a mansion. If you had asked me prior to yesterday about Al Gore’s energy usage, I would have said that he is undoubtedly very frugal with his energy consumption. After all, how could he not be, given the message he preaches?

But, like Engineer Poet I did wonder about how many people are working out of his home. That is an unknown. A spokesman for Gore did state that he and Tipper both work out of their home (however, she “did not dispute the Center’s figures, taken as they were from public records”). If Gore’s mansion consumes 20 times the energy of the average home, but he has 40 people in his mansion all the time, then it becomes more understandable. (But I would expect his camp to come out and clearly explain this). As his office noted, he is taking steps to lower his fossil fuel usage, but he has been in the mansion for 5 years.

Bottom line, here is what rankles me. Al Gore is effectively our Conservationist-in-Chief. He is asking us to sacrifice. He may be from an old money family – and old money families may tend to consume a lot of energy – but Gore has chosen to be a spokesman for conservation. Therefore, I expect him to lead from the front. If he wants the rest of us to downsize our lifestyles, shouldn’t I expect him to do the same and demonstrate his willingness to sacrifice? I expect him to go overboard in this aspect, just to demonstrate his commitment and to set the example. Those carbon credits he is buying don’t remove his greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. They don’t lower his consumption. How about downsizing and buying carbon credits?

Instead, he has chosen to retain his privileged status. He has chosen to live in a mansion, and to offset the energy required to maintain this mansion by purchasing carbon credits. The appearance is certainly one of “What’s good for the rest of us, is not good for Gore.” And that sadly diminishes his moral authority to deliver a very important message about conservation.

34 thoughts on “More on the Al Gore Story”

  1. Seems to me that your column does all the worst things you accuse others of, principally “working” an attack and tirade on very limited facts.

  2. Robert – You said ex-presidents can’t live like regular people. I disagree. I have friends who are neighbors of former President Bush 41. The Bush’s live pretty much like regular folks. President Bush has an entire floor in a small office building in a residential neighborhood near his home (10000 Memorial Dr.) He operates the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund from this office. My friend lives in a condo on the same street. You can tell when President Bush is there because of the extra security. He has been seen out at the local Blockbuster and at weekly church services. They have a modest home in the area (probably no more than 5,000 sq ft). I myself have run into the former President and his wife at an Astros game and said hello. I consider myself to be a pretty regular guy.

    Americans don’t like hypocrites. But it seems that environmental hypocrites like Al Gore and John Edwards (who cut down a small forrest to build a mansion in North Carolina) get a pass.

    Remember the Mark Foley scandal? Or Ted Haggard? Both hypocrites who rightly lost their positions of authority. But where is the media camped out on Gore’s front lawn like they hounded hypocrites on the right.

    None of us is perfect, we all fail in some way morally, spirtitually, or environmentally. That doesn’t mean the things we believe in are necessarily wrong, just that we are fallable.

    Gore should recognize that he has lost some measure of credibility on the environmental issue by his own example. He could amend by trying to live more like President Bush #41 & #43.

  3. Seems to me that your column does all the worst things you accuse others of, principally “working” an attack and tirade on very limited facts.

    What limited facts? The Gore camp had confirmed the numbers before I wrote the first column yesterday. Perhaps you could elaborate and indicate which fact you think may be inaccurate, and which part of the “attack” is unwarranted. My guess is that you didn’t even read what I wrote, but jumped to conclusions yourself.

    The bottom line for me is that Gore should lead by example. Yet he lives a very privileged life. He chose to live in a mansion that was going to have high energy requirements. The problem with that is that he is telling everyone else to downsize. If you don’t have a problem with this, all I can tell you is that most people will and he will lose some ability to influence people.

    Cheers, Robert

  4. kingofkaty, did you add up the energy consumption of that 5000 sf home, and that “entire floor in a small office building” to produce a comparable KWH value … or are you assuming … what the heck are you assuming? That whatever Gore must be doing must be bad in any unmade comparison?

    This whole discussion is deeply irrational, in the straightforward sense that it does not attempt rational comparison.

    Neither does it really tally rational contribution to GW or PO issues.

    In this latest, Robert acknowledges that he does not know where Gore’s KWHs go, but he still manages to close with the most holier than thou paragrah I’ve seen in ages:

    “Instead, he has chosen to retain his privileged status. He has chosen to live in a mansion, and to offset the energy required to maintain this mansion by purchasing carbon credits. The appearance is certainly one of “What’s good for the rest of us, is not good for Gore.” And that sadly diminishes his moral authority to deliver a very important message about conservation.”

    Yeah Robert, just the thing to hand on missing facts.

  5. The missing facts are easy Robert:

    “Do you know Gore’s personal, as opposed to organizational, energy consumption?”

    Are you doing any rational apples-to-apples comparison, either specifically on “personal” or “organizational” use?

  6. If you look around, you can find estimates of the carbon footprints of many Hollywood celebs who love to beat the drum for the environment almost as much as they love flying around in private jets. Check, for example, Barbara Streisand. Gore’s no worse than most of the elite.

    It does leave one with the impression that they are all for the average guy conserving, which would then leave that much more for them to consume. Cynically, they’re probably right. There just aren’t enough of these wealthy folks to make much of a difference; if they all cut their consumption in half it would probably have less effect than getting millions to cut their consumption 10%.

    Still, as you say, they should lead by example. Plus, they can afford to do things the average person cannot. I know one very wealthy person here in SF that is walking the walk. His house is a lot like the California equivalent of the GWB ranch, with geothermal heating/cooling, solar water heating, and an array of PV panels for electricity. The architecture was designed to blend into the environment, the wood was all sustainably harvested, etc. etc. Cost a bloodly fortune.

  7. On the missing facts, it looked to me like Robert addressed this by saying Gore’s energy usage is likely driven up by the need to have people around him. That much was granted, even in the first essay. What the Gore apologists conveniently overlook is the fact that Gore is calling for sacrifice, while living in a mansion. I don’t think there is anything holier than thou for pointing this out. It sets a very bad standard if you want people to heed your pleas.

    As others have said, if Gore had moved into a modest home and converted it to solar, he would have more moral authority in asking the rest of us to conserve. But in his current circumstances, his calls for conservation smack of liberal elitism. He is more equal than the rest of us, and therefore can just pay for carbon credits instead of cutting his consumption.

    Read Robert’s December interview with Jerry Unruh if you want to read about someone who has the moral authority to call for conservation.

  8. Hey anonymous. Here is a 2-part quiz. True or False – Al Gore, while living in a mansion, thinks the rest of us should reduce our energy usage. Second question. True or False – If we all lived in mansions like Al Gore, the truth would be even more inconvenient than it is now. Take your time.

    Funny that the Gore Gang can’t seem to see what the fuss is all about.

  9. This just shows that no one is taking energy supply or global warming seriously yet, not even Al Gore. Who of his critics or defenders is personally making significant sacrifices to conserve? Very, very few, I suspect.

    Those who understand the problem fully but do not really sacrifice much to conserve; perhaps they have less moral right to criticize Gore than they think?

    Robert, it’s nice that you don’t take your car to work, but that’s easy in Europe. I went car-less in San Jose for 3 years, but I admit it was to save money and because the light rail happened to be practically door-to-door convenient to my home and office. I did it because I was highly motivated to get out of debt, mostly. I really can’t brag about it, because I did it for purely financial reasons. I drive a Corolla instead of an SUV, but I do it because I’m very frugal. I don’t want to be stuck with a gas-guzzler in an oil shock, and I don’t want to waste money on gas. Financial reasons again.

    Gore is a hypocrite, but so are most of us. I knew Gore was a hypocrite when I found out that he was a politician. In his movie, interspersing the GW story with his personal life, making it look like he had been a GW crusader for the last 30 years … He is just latching on to a trend to stay in the game. A worthy cause, but you have to ask, why didn’t he walk the walk, and conserve at his mansion? Is he stupid? No, I think it’s a BLIND SPOT. We all believe it is ok to consume if we can afford it. That is the bottom line in our minds. I do a lot of unnecessary driving, and the connection between third-world countries being priced out of oil and corn, though I understand it, does not factor in somehow. It seems so remote. Boy, we are in for an interesting time when the natural resource pie stops growing. I wonder if Gore is secretly unconcerned because he knows higher energy prices will soon cause all the conservation that is needed?

    But then, conservation is bullshite while China is growing at 10%+ a year. If I don’t use it, they will, and they are very inefficient, I have read …

    BTW, how can anyone take personal responsibility for his energy consumption, when he knows that population growth and economic growth elsewhere nullifies anything he does? Maybe this was Gore’s blind spot?

    Still, he should have set an example, hyprocrite or not, so why didn’t he? What was he thinking? I think this is an important question that could reveal a lot about how we all think.

  10. Rob,

    To be fair, you can’t really criticize “the right” for “attacking” Gore too much when you look at the title you yourself chose for your piece. That said, I agree with you totally.

    I would also point out that even if he has a higher level of activity than most ordinary people, how does the energy consumption of that house compare to a comparable office building?

    I also think this thing concisely highlights why Gore is a bad poster boy for environmentalism–he’s a politician. I know it’s bad, but how many otherwise receptive people dug their heels in and refused to see his movie simply because it looks like the prelude to a political campaign rather than an objective analysis of the situation?

  11. Interesting indeed. Do you think maybe Gore is consciously choosing not to go extreme in his personal conservation? Were he a paragon of ecological rectitude, might we look at him and say, “Well, that’s nice, but there’s no way in hell I’m working that hard at it. And if I can’t do that well, why bother at all?” while thinking “eco-loonie”.

    I think he’s working with what he’s got. He’s speaking to a country (maybe a hemisphere) containing people who are worried about climate change, but don’t want to have to make drastic changes in order to do something about it. Building a new, super-efficient home, and only travelling to places you can walk to would count as pretty drastic, no matter how many eco-brownie points you get. There have been people who’ve been doing that for the past thirty years or more, and we haven’t been listening to them. As much ecological sense as it might make, there aren’t any dome or underground homes in my neighborhood.

    If medium-high consumers were willing to pay the ultra-low consumers (As Al is doing with ‘carbon offsets’) for energy they’re not using, perhaps there’d be a lot more ultra-low consumers. Is that the solution? Maybe not (Sorry Al), but at least a good chunk of people are talking about it now, where they weren’t even five years ago. If I were in a position to build a new home for my family, I’d certainly look at more efficient building practices, even if there was a higher initial investment. I’m frustrated knowing that if the more efficient methods were more popular than the less efficient, they’d be cheaper to buy as well.

    I believe he’s doing a good job (a job that’s probably not making him as much as the interest on his investments). Stop worrying about whether he’s going to run for president (and maybe even be allowed to win 🙂 and listen to the message. We are all the stewards of our environment. We can’t put the blame on anyone else. Even small changes have a large additive effect. Take it to heart, let it spread, and maybe the world will still have livable coastlines and breathable air for our children’s children.

  12. Robert and others were invoking the “not regular guy” argument applying to Gore and other presidents. The excuse given for Gore’s large house is that maybe he and his wife have offices there or the need for additional staff owing to his office. No proof was provided for that claim either.

    My point is that Pres. Bush #41 lives in house about the size of mine, and commutes less than 2 miles to his office. I use about 1/10th of the gas/electricity that Gore uses. Perhaps the former President uses more, but I can’t imagine it.

  13. Look at it a different way. Suppose there were a political leader that made a movie about the moral crisis in America and how we need to strengthen marriage and family. Imagine that this leader related stories of his own life interspersed with facts and figures supporting his arguments showing how he has always been a big supporter of marriage.

    Then you find out this leader frequented brothels and may have fathered illegitimate children. Would this person have any moral authority on the subject of marriage?

    Would commenters on blogs say that we really need to see the numbers on this because lots of Americans are unfaithful to their spouses, perhaps he didn’t cheat more than the average or if he did, maybe there is a good reason for it?

    Or suppose our moral leader comes out and says that he gives money to a cloistered convent in India full of virgins. So on a net unfaithfullness basis his contribution is zero.

    Would anyone buy these arguments?

  14. Gore’s hypocrisy here is obvious, and any attempt to explain it away is done out of a blind devotion.

    John Edwards has recently been critisized for the size of his estate as well. But I will never forget during the 2004 campaign, reading stories about Theresa Hienz Kerry (and her husband, whats-his-name?). In one, she was being lauded as an environmental champion and she expresses great concern about climate change. A few days later, I read a piece about her wealth, the numerous estates, a fleet of SUVs and the yacht.

    For me, my biggest political concern is energy security and I see absolutely no leadership from the left.

  15. One problem is that the people who speak the loudest are doing so because they love to be loud and not because they are well informed on the issue. In many cases they are not informed at all. This often happens in Hollywood, and as our political and entertainment industries merge, it is getting much worse. Such is the case with the merger of Al Gore and Laurie David.

    There are some exceptions, it is my understanding that Leo DiCaprio (star of Critters 3) and Ed Begley Jr. (star of Transylvania 6-5000) are at least trying to practice what they preach. But the vast majority of limousine liberals and hollywood elite are totally clueless about energy, the environment and their own hypocrisy.

  16. Suppose there were a political leader that made a movie about the moral crisis in America and how we need to strengthen marriage and family.

    Doh! I was going to use an example like that. I read the comments from the anonymous poster about my comments being “holier than thou.” For me, this is no different than if Clinton tried to lecture us on the importance of abstinence, or if Bush gave speeches on the importance of non-violent protests. Pointing out that the behaviour is inconsistent with the message does not imply that one is “holier than thou.”

    I can tell you this. If this same situation had happened with a leading Republican, my reaction would have been exactly the same. Personally speaking, this is an issue of hypocrisy and not one of politics. Can Gore’s defenders say the same?

    Cheers, Robert

  17. Robert – Don’t fall for that argument. The holier than thou theory says that because you aren’t perfect then you can’t comment on others. This attitude has lead to our permissive western culture where all kinds of behaviour are tolerated.

    I too am equally disappointed in hypocritical conservatives. Here is my list:

    Mark Foley – champions cause of missing & exploited children, but sends creepy IMs to congressional pages

    Bill Bennett – former drug czar who writes on virtues. Heavy smoker and “whale” at casinos.

    Ted Haggard – Evangelical minister who turns out to have drug and sex problems.

    Newt Gingrich – Champions family values but married 3 times and tried to get out of alimony/child support for first wife.

    Rush Limbaugh – Conservative radio host. Also married 3 times, no children. Abused prescription pain medication.

    Duke Cunningham – congressman and military supporter who took kick-backs from military contractors.

    I am also suspicous of people who claim deep belief in God, but don’t appear to be members of any organized religion.

    Just because they are hypocritical doesn’t necessarily make them wrong on these issues – I would even extend that to Al Gore (although I don’t agree with him.) Nor does it disqualify them from speaking out.

  18. So I guess news is coming out that Gore has bought “carbon offsets” for his home.

    What do we do now, immediately reject those as ineffective, without knowing what they are? That would certainly allow us to continue our mud-slinging.

    I actually do accept that offsets need to be examined carefully, but I think the test for this thread is whether you can accept that Gore bought them in good faith, at the time.

    If you simply reject the effort out of hand, I’ll take that to mean you are looking for anything with which to hang a guy you simply don’t like.

    It would be great if Gore lived in a Tipi like Daryl Hannah, but it is not necessary that everyone in the world live in a tipi. It is not necessary that everyone who does public education on GW (or anything else) live in a tipi.

    (if you invite me over Daryl, i’m there)

  19. So I guess news is coming out that Gore has bought “carbon offsets” for his home.

    That news isn’t just “coming out.” I mentioned it in my first essay. What that means is that Gore can avoid cutting his consumption by buying offsets and claiming he is neutral. Again, I would like to see him set a conservation example. There isn’t enough energy for all of us to use it at Gore’s level and buy offsets.

    If you simply reject the effort out of hand, I’ll take that to mean you are looking for anything with which to hang a guy you simply don’t like.

    To be honest with you, I have always liked Gore. I have his autograph right here on my desk, on a presidential scientific award that I won in 1995. I just dislike hypocrisy. I think it is very important to lead by example. And I think he failed in this regard. What people like you can’t seem to understand is that I can be critical of his behaviour without having ulterior motives like attacking him for his politics. I suspect that political motivations are driving those defending him.

    Cheers, Robert

  20. You certainly have confused “people like me.”

    Gore is a Bad Man because he uses offsets?

    Does the engineer in you think that offsets will never, can never, be effective from the strict standpoint of stoichiometry?

    If it is all about the “mansion” that strikes me as a class conflict thing, more than an environmental thing.

    I mean, are you saying that no one may live in “mansions” ever again?

    (One could say that your dream architecture of a solar home for Gore is simply a “mansion” with the “offset” up on the roof. Perhaps we are just caught up on “locality” of effort?)

  21. I have to agree with the last comment. We can argue about carbon offsets or whether or not Gore is a hypocrite, but, the fact is, he has brought renewed attention to a problem that urgently needs to be adddressed. Symbolic lifestyle gestures are no substitute for real policy change.

    If you’re going to go after Gore, go after him for his role in undermining the Kyoto Protocol as vice-president. Whatever Gore says now, he helped undermine the Clinton Administration’s chance to do anything meaningful about climate change so as that he could become President in 2000. To me, that’s a lot more signifigant than Al Gore’s electricity bills.

  22. Just saw this interesting post:
    which argues that at the price Gore is likely paying for his offsets, the US could meet Kyoto for 10 billion Dollars.

    To take that a bit further, something like 50 billion would do to make the US carbon neutral, about as much as raising the gasoline tax by 50 cents would bring in.

    I don’t know whether Gore is a hypocrite, I haven’t seen him advocate sacrifice. Maybe he believes that buying carbon offsets is all that’s requied.

    But, his house is clearly not particularly energy efficient. Per square foot it’s about average for the region, which is not very good for a newly renovated home.

    With a ground source heat pump and a few other pretty cost effective measures, he should be able to get to 40 kWh per square metre, or 40,000 kWh per year without any lifestyle compromises.

    I also think that Bush’s ranch is probably consuming about a tenth of Gore’s house, it’s only 4000 square feet (compared to 10000) and the heat pump and design should cut consumption per square foot by 75% compared to the average.

  23. The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal ran an interesting story yesterday:

    Mr. Gore is indeed buying carbon offsets from a company called “Generation Investment Management” which is run by Al Gore.

    So let me get this straight, Mr. Gore is caught using 20x the amount of electricity as the average american. But he turns around and says its OK because he buys carbon offsets from a company that he runs.

    So essentially at the end of the day all we have to believe is Al Gore’s word that he is “carbon neutral”. Environmentalists should demand some transparency here.

    I did some checking on Generation Investment Management. It is a privately owned limited liability corporparation that has produced no publicly accessable records. We can’t see a balance sheet or income statement, there is no annual report, no way of telling what the company has actually done.

    Imagine if, lets say ExxonMobil built a new refinery but bought pollution offsets from a wholly owned LLP that produced no independent records.

    Would ANY enviromentalist in the world think that was OK?

  24. You certainly have confused “people like me.”

    Gore is a Bad Man because he uses offsets?

    Does the engineer in you think that offsets will never, can never, be effective from the strict standpoint of stoichiometry?

    Gore is not your regular Joe. That’s what isn’t sinking in here. Gore is very concerned about the environment, and wants us to reduce our carbon footprint. I want the same thing. But Gore needs to lead by example.

    Here is a question that might help you understand that problem I have. Would carbon dioxide emissions be higher or lower if we all lived Gore’s lifestyle? I am not talking about his travel, which I can understand.

    If we all lived in oversized houses, would the environment be better or worse off? The only way he can get away with buying carbon offsets is that there are those who are willing to make the sacrifice, conserve, and so they have offsets to sell. The example that Gore should set, in my opinion, is one of conservation.

    It isn’t that he lives in a mansion. Lots of people live in mansions. It is that he lives in a mansion while preaching that we need to reduce our carbon footprint.

    Is that really so hard to understand? Is that really confusing to you?

    Cheers, Robert

  25. Out of office U.S. Vice Presidents do not receive any Secret Service protection. So when Gore is driving around in his Suburban it is not because the SS is telling him to.

  26. Ok I’ve read both your posts about Gore and I don’t see any direct quotes from him about “conserve” or “sacrifice”.

    Amory Lovins often points about that we should be talking about “efficiency” rather than “conservation”. Politicians like Gore use “conservation” instead of efficiency because it’s a word that’s understood by more people. Efficiency is a little more technical. Unfortunately this is a mistake. A lot of people tend to see “conservation” as doing without, i.e. putting up with a colder or darker house or less mobility.

    I think we’ll have to sacrifice some in the future but probably not nearly as much as some on the political right would have us believe. Certainly not if people were properly thinking about efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint by grabbing all that low hanging fruit.

    So I guess I see too much of killing the messenger here.

  27. Gore is not your regular Joe. That’s what isn’t sinking in here. Gore is very concerned about the environment, and wants us to reduce our carbon footprint. I want the same thing. But Gore needs to lead by example.

    I would bet that buying offsets is leading by example, in his neighborhood.

    Here is a question that might help you understand that problem I have. Would carbon dioxide emissions be higher or lower if we all lived Gore’s lifestyle? I am not talking about his travel, which I can understand.

    That sounds directly like class conflict. Or a perverted form, in which only the environmentally conscious become evil by being both rich and aware.

    I assume that Mr. Gore’s neighbors are morally superior if they manage to convince themselves that GW/PO are not a problem? As long as they maintain that illusion they are not hypocrites and are ok?


    No. Your whole argument collapses back on the idea that this hinges on class, and that offsets are not conservation.

    Maybe you should read Geoffrey Styles today: Emissions Guilt

  28. Robert,

    I don’t know why you waste your time trying to educate “Anonymous”.

    Reading his/her blathering responses to your points reminds me of the old adage, “You can’t teach a pig to sing; it doesn’t work and it annoys the pig”


    According to CDM watch, 3 CDM projects have over 50% of the market, and they are 2 CFC reduction projects and 1 NO2 reduction project.

    We are talking large industrial polluters being paid large sums for a minor investment.

    I’d argues that this is wrong and creates the wrong type of incentive:

    1. For governments like China, to take the CDM money rather than just outlaw CFC’s

    2. For industrialists, to design particularly polluting facilities, because they can then make more CDM money

    And, it craters the price of carbon, meaning that projects that are actually non polluting aren’t incentivised.

    Instead coal mines or off-shore oil projects, or CFC factories get another revenue stream.

  30. Actually kirka I feel superior on three scores:

    1) I don’t despise people who live in mansions

    2) I don’t set my self as moral judge for those people, or anyone else

    3) I don’t reduce myself to name-calling

    Maybe the thing that’s most painful is that I feel you asking me to decend to those positions.

    Instead, I’m happy when anyone manages to make a contribution to a better future. I know Robert often does. This whole thing has just been wasted energy off to the side.

    My goodness it is nothing but a laundry list of why we should dislike a man for not doing everything we think he should.

  31. Thanks Robert. Possibly the most enlightened analysis I’ve read about the Gore story.

    I also take issue with Gore’s use of carbon offsets to reduce his carbon footprint. Carbon offset plans may be of some benefit, but it is far better not to emit the carbon in the first place.

    Having said that I am a huge supporter of what Gore says, if not what he does.

  32. People like Al Gore (classic exaggerating, limelight-loving egocentric NIMBY’s) do not move me in any way to change my lifestyle.

    I am instead influenced by the many people in my part of the world who put out 1 bag of garbage a year, conserve water, live in houses built from sustainable resources, buy organic, are vegans (animals produce much waste, use resources and take up land space), use enviro-friendly cleaners, bring the products home in cloth bags and walk, bike or take the bus to get there. (And no, it’s not convenient. It’s rural and the transit sucks.)

    As far as I can tell, Al Gore and his all his blustering have done nothing to make anyone I know any more aware of global warming than they were before. What is more, I am beginning to see the fruits of his hypocrisy ripening to a stench as people are being turned off to the very message he’s trying to send – simply because of his double life.

    The whole point is not that people shouldn’t be allowed to live in mansions. That’s just stupid and putting fool’s words into intelligent mouths. Compared to over 90% of the world’s population, I live in a mansion – and it’s only 2300 sq ft. So it’s all relative. No one’s advocating that we all live in shoe boxes. Just that if one is going to be a spokesperson for a cause, he had better have the balls to back up what he’s preaching. Otherwise he will end up doing more harm than good in the long run.

    By the way, isn’t anyone in the least bit interested in the fact that Mars is heating up at the same rate that the earth is? And that the sun is going through a phase of it’s own? And that there is every indication that we are not only at the end of an ice age, but are gearing up to head back into one? I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to live in the warmth than under a few miles of ice.

    My guess is that in the next 50 to 100 years this will go the way of the whole eugenics theory (also based on wild hypothesizing and shameless proselytizing) which everyone was so eager to jump on in the ’20s and ’30’s but even more anxious to sweep under the carpet after the end of WWII. Again, those who spoke out for reasons against the insanity of connecting a few shaky facts and a list of weak philosophies, were ridiculed and accused of having political agendas. History of course proved the opposite to be true.

    And so, perhaps Al Gore will be remembered merely for his grandstanding and those who supported him will seek to forget that phase of their lives as they purchase their extra-thick GOREtex parka’s and triple glaze their greenhouses – in which may be the only warm place to grow their veggies.

    Oh, and those carbon credits? Check into those, too. Some poor bastard in Africa’s probably paying the price for that right now, as trees are planted on what was once his ancestral agricultural land. And he’s arrested or shot for trying to reclaim the land so he can feed his family. All in the name of relieving the western conscience through “carbon credits”.

    But that’s OK – because it’s Not In My Back Yard…

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