It looks like the right-wing noise machine is (again) trying to beat back reality with truthiness. The current target is our former vice-president, Al Gore. It's kind of hard to tell what they think his current sin is, exactly. As far as I can tell, it looks like conservatives are mostly mad at him for being rich, smart, and a liberal all at once. And, of course, for winning the "Best Documentary" Oscar the other night.
You can say what you want about the conservative nonsense machine, but if there is one thing that it's good at, it's getting everyone to sing from the same page. The song may have all of the musical merit of a drunken ditty scored for pots, pan, and comb, but they still get the whole choir singing loudly within a single news cycle.
Today's song is set to the tune of "Three Blind Mice," and goes like this:
Al Gore's Rich.
Al Gore's Rich.
See his big house.
See his big house.
His big house comes with a big power bill
His big power bill makes lots of CO2.
So Al Gore sucks.
Al Gore sucks.
Actually, by setting the argument to a nursery rhyme I'm probably making it appear more reasonable than it really is.
Seriously, though, the current wingnut argument more or less breaks down like this: Al Gore owns a big house and uses lots of power - much more than an average family. Al Gore's house used more electricity in 2006 than it did in 2005. Al Gore is therefore a hypocrite for calling for people to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints. That's the truthiness of the matter.
Now, let's look at the facts.
According to the Drudge Report, which appears to have somehow or another gotten their hands on Gore's utility bills, Gore's Nashville mansion consumed an average of 18,414 kilowatt hours of power per month in 2006, compared to the 16,200 kWh/month consumed in 2005. This proves, at least in Drudgeland, that, "As a result of his energy consumption, Gore's average monthly electric bill topped $1,359."
Actually, Gore's monthly electric bill topped 1,359 for two reasons. The first is his consumption. The second is the source of the power - he's spending more for it than he has to. Why? Because he pays extra to ensure that the electricity that he uses is produced through green sources of power - things like water and wind - that do not produce excess CO2. He also buys carbon offsets that cover the remainder of his carbon footprint - which is exactly what he suggests that others do.
In the real world, that would make him consistent. In truthinessworldland, that makes him a hypocrite. This concludes today's discussion of the differences between reality and the place where the loud and vocal right thinks they live.
They have also installed solar panels and use CFL's. The house is also used as an office by Tipper and Al.
The most important issue is that voluntary measure can't do much to mitigate the effects of climate change. All they can really do is create a sense of shared sacrifice, raise awareness and create a little supply and a little demand for renewable energy. International policy is required to have any real effects, and Al Gore has done more than anyone else on the planet to try to change climate policy.
Agreed, but I have to point out the real argument.
When many people (not just frothing right-wingers) hear calls to reduce consumption, especially from rich people, they think "ahh... they just hate the middle class!" The idea is that conservation and reductions in consumption means that only rich people will be able to afford the benefits of high energy use, leading to a kind of ecological caste system in which the rich use lots of energy while making the poor and the middle class feel guilty for using small amounts of it.
Reminds me of the Catholic church in feudal times-- regular folks were made to feel guilty for their minor sins while the priests absolved the rulers of all manner of brutality and hypocrisy. I think the fear is that the green movement is going to take on a similar characteristic with regard to energy/resource use.
There is, I think, a bit of truth here. If we adopt energy policies that result in energy becoming more expensive, rich people won't be affected much. Rich people can afford to drive with $5.00/gallon gasoline without having this affect their standard of living at all, but poor and middle class people are going to feel a real pinch. When things get more expensive, the poorer you are the more you are affected.
Al Gore can afford to pay carbon offsets, pay extra for green energy, etc. Most of Nashville is far poorer and cannot afford this. If they were required to offset their carbon footprint the way Gore is, they would have to simply go without heat, air conditioning, or transportation.
So Adam, we're assuming that the default choice is deliberate excessive consumption, which "only the rich will be able to afford"?
Leaving aside the bugaboo of "five-dollar gasoline", which is by no means a given, doesn't it make sense for those of us such as myself who aren't rich to switch to energy-saving ideas right now and save ourselves money?
As it stands, North American customers aren't saving energy (and my fellow Canadians are, on average, some of the worst energy spenders in the free world) because there's no consumer choice involved.
It's too cheap to go on the way we always have. Oh we bitch, but I whined about the price of smokes too, and I didn't stop that until I was near-choking-to-death on it.
I run my thermostat between 60F and 63F all winter--as my family has done since OPEC came into being. I run my A/C to maintain a two-degree separation between the outside and my home when it gets to 40 degrees Celsius out. I'm buying CFLs and replacing incandescents as fast as they burn out.
I'm not doing it for the environment, or only incidentally. I'm doing it to save money. Because I'm paying a mortgage that's as much as I can afford.
The rich can bankrupt themselves driving SUVs if they want to.
Absolutely agree with Metro. The vast majority of 'life-style changes' associated with saving the environment are actually cost-saving measures. Spending slightly more money (~$15) on insulation for my windows at the beginning of the winter saved me far more over the course of the winter in heating. It cost slightly more money to buy CFLs, but I haven't had to change my light-bulbs ever since. What's so bad about saving money in the long run?
The mis-characterization of environmentally friendly choices requiring a return to horse and buggy days, essentially, or a complete removal of AC and heating, is based on a huge assumption: all energy-saving choices cost more money than the current alternative. That's simply not true.
Metro and Brian,
That thing that just whizzed over your head is the point you're missing. It's fine that you make personal choices and save yourself some money, that's called free enterprise. The point is that the "international policy" that Jim RL mentions involves forcing these decisions on the masses in the form of carbon taxes. Canada signed on to the Kyoto plan and isn't coming close to meeting the carbon emission targets. The number of global warming skeptics would grow exponentially if the climate change doomsayers would spell out their solutions that mostly involve affecting behavioral change through heavy taxes.
The truth is al gore buys electricity from a coal fired electrical plant. He then claims to have bought offsets in carbon credits to negate the effects of the coal fired electrical plant. In reality, the coal fired electrical plant still produced the CO2 that al gore claims is destroying the planet.
Its like the Saturday night drunk throwing an extra dollar into the basket Sunday morning seeking absolution. Big deal.
Sheer hypocrisy. Supporting green programs (per your cite) does not remove his, beyond extravagant, consumption of electricity and adding of CO2 to the environment.
Remember, al invented the CO2 global warming theory. He believes the planet is perched on the verge of cataclysmic disaster caused by man made introduction of CO2 to the environment. And, he is contributing, just at his home, to this problem at 20 times the rate of the rest of us (later we can get into his use when he's away from home).
Yeh, those darn right-wing noise machines. They got a lot of nerve.
It seems to me that you are making exactly the nonsensical arguments that Mike Dunford is complaining about.
The sense in which Al Gore is a hypocrite is the sense in which every single human being who has ever expressed a moral position is a hypocrite. Do you care about the fact that children are starving in some places in the world? But do you ever spend money on going to a movie, or buying a candy bar for yourself, or going on vacation? If so, you are a hypocrite. If you really cared, wouldn't you spend every spare cent that you have on feeding the poor? Do you care about crime? But I'll bet you don't spend every spare minute of time trying to solve crimes, do you?
Perhaps Al Gore could do a better job at fighting global warming than he is doing, in the same way you could probably do a better job at feeding the starving, getting justice for crime victims, stopping wars, etc. Are you just complaining that Al Gore is a human being, and not an angelic creature of pure light?
Exactly what part of "he pays extra to ensure that the electricity that he uses is produced through green sources of power - things like water and wind - that do not produce excess CO2," did you fail to understand? It's really not all that complex a concept.
You chose to compare what are relatively minor events in comparison to the end of the world. You are comparing hunger/starvation and crime to the end of our planet.
Al claims we are destroying the planet. He insists we are going to end the life on this planet, at least for most of the people.
If I thought the planet and life were going to end because of my attendance to movies, I certainly would not attend the movies. If I thought crime was going to end the life of earth, I would spend all of my time fighting crime.
Al Gore's position that CO2 is killing the planet, while at the same time contributing enormous and reckless contributions of CO2, are nothing but hypocritical on a massive scale.
"Perhaps" Al could do a better job? All he has to do is follow his own advice and cease his practice of CO2 contributions to the atmosphere. This is really too much to ask?
"All he has to do is follow his own advice and cease his practice of CO2 contributions to the atmosphere."
... and this would stop global warming, how? Why are Gore's personal .00000001 percent contribution to the globe's C02 levels somehow more important than anyone else's?
Gore is taking personal responsibility for his actions by purchasing offsets. In principle, if everyone on the planet did the same, then the global warming problem would be solved. I'm not sure if the solution is actually that simple, but I do know one thing. Al Gore is doing a hell of a lot more to stop global warming than you are, Rick.
RickG writes: Al Gore's position that CO2 is killing the planet, while at the same time contributing enormous and reckless contributions of CO2, are nothing but hypocritical on a massive scale.
No, they are not. What will make a bigger impact on the global environment: Al Gore personally cutting his use of fossil fuels, or convincing hundreds of millions of people of the need to adopt new ways of doing things? No single person's contribution to global warming has any significance. The only hope is to advance a global consensus of the need to act.
You seem to be advocating a system of morality that casts the greatest blame on those who are the most honest and who are trying to make a difference, and absolves those who are dishonest and who are doing nothing. If Al Gore did nothing about global warming, and kept his mouth shut about it, that would be morally preferable, in your opinion? It's morally preferable to pretend (as many on the right do) that global warming is no problem?
Many people just believe whatever is in their best (short-term) interests to believe. If it is inconvenient to believe in global warming, then don't believe in it. (I think that's the idea behind the title "An Inconvenient Truth"). You seem to think that that kind of self-serving, self-inflicted delusion is preferable?
---What will make a bigger impact on the global environment: Al Gore personally cutting his use of fossil fuels, or convincing hundreds of millions of people of the need to adopt new ways of doing things?---
Actually, both. He is being a hypocrite by not cutting his use of carbon fossils, which makes his convincing of hundreds of millions of people much, much, more difficult. Leading by bad example doesn't sound like a plan to me. I'm afraid I'm not going to convince you though.
Saying one thing and doing something else is being a hypocrite. The seriousness in which he deems this problems makes him reckless.
I was talking to a guy in my office today and he commented that "Al must not really believe it (global warming)". Thats why you have to lead by example. I suspect others will come to the same conclusion.
I am surprised people will defend this behavior.
He is cutting his use of carbon fuels. As I have pointed out to you twice already, he pays extra to ensure that his electricity comes from sources that do not produce CO2. He does use natural gas, but if you click the link to the Drudge Report above, you will see that the amount of money he spent on natural gas decreased quite a bit between 2005 and 2006. The costs for the guest house went up slightly, but that was more than offset by the 1200 - more than 10% - drop in money spent for main house natural gas. Unless natural gas cost substantially less in 06, which I strongly doubt, that has to represent a reduction in consumption. He also does exactly what he says others should, and buys offsets to cover the rest.
We are defending Gore because, in this instance, he deserves to be defended. The claims that he is telling other people to do one thing, and doing something different himself have no basis in real world reality. He does do the kinds of thing he asks other to, and because he is richer than most and consumes more carbon than most, it costs him more to do so. He is putting his money where his mouth is, and deserves praise for doing so - not a hack job attack from flaming idiots.
I'm sorry... I thought of a much clearer way to make my point above.
The point that I think whizzed over everyone's head is that to many green solutions (especially those involving taxes, energy restriction, etc.) sound a lot like "let them eat cake!" They sound like ideas cooked up by rich people whose standard of living will not be affected by them without concern for the lower and middle classes who will pay for most of it.
I'm not saying that these fears are necessarily reality! I'm saying that that's what it *sounds like*. If you're going to make these arguments, you have to frame them differently. You have to frame them in terms of long-term cost savings, frugality, etc. Instead, greens sound about energy the way Catholic priests sound about sex. (Do it if you have to, but feel guilty and put some money in the collection plate.) I call this "abstinence based" rhetoric on conservation, and it's going to work about as well as abstinence based sex ed.
Try this: try illustrating how by saving energy we will be able to grow our economy *more* by getting more done with less energy input. Also illustrate how implementing energy saving measures will save us all money and reduce the cost of all sorts of things. Then make the argument in terms of progress and self-interest, not restriction and guilt.
My point was that in this case, the moral choice doesn't seem difficult. I mean how smart do you have to be before reducing your consumption makes sense? There are alternatives, clean ones; and most of them don't cost any more than we're paying now.
Increasing the price of carbon-based fuels is simply making sure that those who choose to continue in absurd consumption patterns are appropriately penalized, and adds motivation for those who could change but are just doing the familiar. Freedom of consumer choice, damn near pure as it gets.
Canada signed onto Kyoto and through a combination of bad faith from the prior government and shameful pandering, climate change denial, and general lack of interest on the part of the current one missed the first set of targets.
But once we get rid of Steve Harper and get a government that's less interested in pandering and pimping and actually wants to make a difference, I feel we'll start making the "hard" choices.
The rich will indeed buy carbon offsets. Those in lower income brackets or the merely thrifty will find ways to reduce. In each case, consumers will make choices, and hopefully those choices will result in cleaner air and a healthier world, not just now, but a century from now (or until someone invents the air scrubber).
We did it, to a degree, during the OPEC crisis years, we can do it more, and better, and cheaper now. But cheap oil and lack of political will has helped stall development so far. There are hopeful signs, including the abrupt greenwashing of the current Conservative Government of Canada(TM).
Hell, my provincial government, known across the land for a "business-friendly" stance and closing hospitals, came out with a budget that includes zero-emissions clean-coal generation--retrofitting two plants under construction. And if they think it's important to do that, it must be.
Your point seems to be that whatever Gore is doing right in working towards addressing global warming, it is all for nothing if he doesn't also make sure that there is no ground for dishonest sophists to accuse him of hypocrisy. I think that's not worth considering. If there were nothing true to use against Al Gore, people would make things up out of whole cloth to discredit him and people like you would believe them. That's basically what has happened in this case.
Sorry for the length. Bear with me...
This argument of buying offsets and such reminds me of an email I received during a time of particularly high gas prices. We were urged to "boycott Exxon" in order to force them to reduce the price of gas. This, of course, is a pointless act. The overarching issue was the fact that there is only so much petroleum available. If you boycott Exxon and buy from Sunoco or Citgo, they will not be able to supply the demand. There is one pot from which all the petroleum comes: the earth. Right now we are at the point where we will not be able to produce what we need (want, actually) to use. The ONLY solution at this point is to use less. Yes, alternative energy is a good thing and will help, but I don't think people realize how vast our energy needs (again, wants) are on this planet. Add emerging economies like India and China into the mix and we are in big trouble. We just can't produce enough energy to keep up with demand. We have no choice but to reduce AND seek alternatives, but reduce must come first.
What does this have to do with Al Gore? His lifestyle says, "Sure, I love the environment and live in a HUGE mansion. Everyone should live in a HUGE mansion." If everyone tried to buy their energy from a "clean" source tomorrow, they would be in for the shock of their lives. They simply couldn't do it. There isn't enough energy produced by clean sources to supply our demands. Don't you people see that? Sure, I want clean energy as much as the next guy, but it just doesn't exist yet. The ONLY way to fix greenhouse gases and reduce dependency on foreign energy and make a better future in the short term is to USE LESS ENERGY. We can't live in a world where the elite intelligencia can live in a way contrary to what they say. Sell your big house, Al. Or, better yet, donate it to become a communal home for 20 or more people who can use the land to raise food locally so less has to be shipped in from around the world (you'll get a huge tax write off). Please use the same amount of energy that average humans in the rest of the world use. Stop talking like a poor person and living like a rich (spoiled) person. I admire your work and your goals, but *please* stop pushing the opulent American lifestyle. That is what is killing this planet. Should we all aspire to live in 10,000 square foot mansions? It may hurt, but leaders often have to sacrifice much in order to gain the hearts of the world. Silence your critics and embolden your supporters: Sell the house, live like a real person.
I doubt very seriously that Gore selling his house and moving into a yurt would silence his critics. They would just find something else to attack him on. I don't see the point. When Governor Jerry Brown decided to forgo living in the Governor's Mansion and instead moved into a small apartment, do you think that that silenced his critics? No, it convinced them that he was a flake. They considered it to be showboating and pointless symbolism.
You are certainly right that eventually we all need to drastically reduce our consumption of energy. But what is the best way to achieve meaningful reduction? I don't believe that voluntary action can possibly do it. If a few conscientious individuals cut back on their consumption, the non-conscientious will surely take up the slack. The only hope, it seems to me, is collective action. Carbon taxes, legal limits on CO2 production, public investment in conservation and alternative energy. What individuals can do is to put pressure on their government representatives.
While the idea of Al "moving into a yurt" is amusing, it is nothing more than amusing hyperbole. I never suggested such a thing. I did say that he should "live like a real person." Still, it did make me laugh. ;)
That aside, he should not do this to reduce criticism from detractors (you will never be able to to do that). He should do it because it is the right thing to do. He should do it because that would mean he was a man of integrity. Integrity is being the same on the inside as you are on the outside. If he really believes that this planet is in jeopardy of destruction from CO2, then his lifestyle should reflect that fact. If not, his trouble isn't just from the political right, it is from everyone. Leaders, by definition, lead. America is 5% of the population yet we use 25% of the energy. If China has its way and each Chinese lives like an American, then our two countries will use 125% of the world's energy. Hehe... interesting numbers, eh? And, as I said, his purchase of "clean" energy is fine, but if we all can't do it then it is hardly a step at all (yes, small steps are important). But as it stands today, we can all reduce energy use now, but only a tiny fraction can buy clean energy.
I think the private sector has a lot to offer and they should be receiving tax incentives to migrate to energy-efficient products as well as incentives to create new energy technologies. These will save us energy and allow us to export them as a new business front to stimulate our economy. I also think the government needs to put a ton of money into this. If we fix our energy problem as well as we blow the hell out of things, we'll be on easy street in no time. I hate to think that we'll have to charge carbon taxes and such because those who cannot afford it will likely be paying. In the end the costs all run downhill. But, you are correct that something to that effect will be required to motivate people to change.
I find this Al Gore ?hypocrite" argument amusing. How can anyone defend the inconsistent behavior of Mr. Gore? The fact that he purchases the carbon offsets is admirable and I share his passion for environmetal causes but this does not grant him an exemption from the lifestyle he is imposing on others.For the folks on this board that defend him imagine this. Kim Jung Il imposes food rationing for the citizens of North Korea in response to country wide a food shortage. When asked if he was planning to reduce his familys personal food consumption he responds with "no, we dont need to conserve, all our food is imported from other countries. We are not the problem".
The point that is truly wizzing over the head of the anti-Gore crowd is that global warming is a problem whether Gore says so or not, and whether Gore conserves or not. Since everyone is so fond of analogies: imagine that during the bubonic plague, Al Gore had announced that the plague was being spread through unsanitary practices, and that if everyone would bath more often it would reduce the problem. Now, how idiotic would it be for people to respond by focusing on the fact (hypothetically) that Al Gore was personally a very unsanitary person? Very.
MarkP. To answer your question (the plague analogy)of course it is not idiotic! Rational people look at all the facts before making a sound judgment. The source of the data needs to be credible. Do you think people should take advice from Leonardo Decaprio because he drives a hybrid? The same car he drives back to one of his homes with 5 air conditioners? We see this time and time again. The irony here is that people that are not honest when trying to send a message damage the cause. If the rain forest is losing a 1,000 trees a day don?t say 10,000 because you feel the significance of the problem justifies embellishing the truth. That is why people like me tend to question well intentioned folks such as Al Gore. When he said ?the debate is over? he lost all credibility with me. How about ?the data is compelling and we have plenty of evidence that warrants immediate action now.? And during the Senate hearings when he was challenged to decrease his energy consumption he could have responded with ?I will do my best and here are some of the steps we are making to get there?. He responded by inviting the Senator to lunch. Is it too much to ask for the truth?
The trouble with quibbling over carbon offsets (which, people seriously don't seem to understand) is that it ignores the fact that while that electricity bill is quite high, he's purchasing his electricity from green suppliers. The problem is not one of energy consumption. It's one of energy consumption from "unclean" sources. In that respect, those levels of consumption are not part of the problem.
In terms of the analogy, imagine it's not a food shortage but simply a rice shortage. If his family is living high on the hog by eating wheat, our dictator is not part of the problem. Starving people can still resent him for being wealthy and having all the wheat he can eat, but they can't exactly lay the rice shortage at his feet.
Let?s be clear, he is not purchasing his electricity directly from green suppliers. Yes he does buy the credits which in theory offset production elsewhere. But the problem as he and others preach IS consumption. Since we as consumers have little or no control over how our utility company produces electricity when we increase usage we increase demand. If Al Gore decreases his usage the need for generating that energy decreases green or otherwise.
Keep in mind his message is not "buy more carbon offsets" his message is "we need to conserve". That he clearly has not done.
We shouldn?t give a pass to Jimmy Swaggert when he preaches family values while buying hookers on the side and we shouldn?t give The former VP a pass either.
I don?t suggest that he is "part of the problem" as you said in your wheat analogy I am just saying that his cause is a noble one but he is a hypocrite. If you deny this you are naive.
Keep in mind his message is not "buy more carbon offsets" his message is "we need to conserve". That he clearly has not done.
compared to who, Dave?
how about compared to others with similar holdings in the same area he lives in?
did you try that one on for size?
hey, the president lives in the white house.
damn lights are on all the time there.
bloody wasteful, eh?
seriously, you're absolutely making yourself look like a complete idiot pursuing this point.
everyone here is laughing at you, and not behind your back, which is even funnier.
Well there's one positive here: Absolutely no-one is questioning that global warming is real, and is a problem, and is a problem that needs to be addressed!
On the topic of Mr. Gore's alleged hypocrisy, it seems to me most of the people doing the complaining are complaining not because the solutions he proposes are unavailable to the average Jon or Jane, but because since he's rich he gets more choice in his range of climate-change-offsetting options.
But that's a more than pointless argument, as the Bush plutocrats well know. What matters is that he is in fact doing something. Several somethings, in fact, which include getting people to listen and do things themselves.
To point to Gore and say "Yes climate change is real, but he's a hypocrite," and then on top of that slander to assert that, until he changes his already-greener lifestyle to suit the people who have bayed against him, that no-one should change their consumption pattern ... That is itself villanous hypocrisy.
Keep in mind his message is not "buy more carbon offsets" his message is "we need to conserve". That he clearly has not done.
I think that his message is that "we need to put out less greenhouse gases." I don't think that Gore's goal is to force everybody to stop using energy. If we could use energy and have a lower carbon footprint, I seriously doubt that he'd come out against that. It's like the people who think that the Sierra Club are against the idea of people making money. It's a good smokescreen, but it's not accurate.
I really think that people have a serious misunderstanding of what carbon offsets actually do. If everybody either reduced their consumption or purchased carbon offsets, the result would be a net decrease in greenhouse pollutants. In fact, if no end-consumers reduced consumption and all of them purchased carbon offsets, the result would be a net decrease in greenhouse pollutants. There's really no getting around the fact.
When people play the hypocrite card, the point they really seem to be making is, "He's rich and I'm not, so he's a bad man." The fact that being rich makes it easier to reduce his net carbon footprint doesn't make him a hypocrite. Realistically, anybody who preaches that we should take some hit in quality of life for the greater good can be picked on for being a hypocrite for not giving until he has nothing left to give. Anybody who calls rich man who eats well while giving money to fight famine a hypocrite because he's not literally taking food off of his plate in the process has either taken a vow of poverty himself or is just trying to score cheap political points.
Do your part to prevent global warming. Stop breathing.
Have a nice day!
Al Gore is "rich, smart, and liberal"?
Rich? Yes. Liberal? Definitely.
Well, two out of three ain't bad...
I said "Keep in mind his message is not "buy more carbon offsets" his message is "we need to conserve". That he clearly has not done.
You said "compared to who, Dave? you?"
If you are interested in my personal conservation efforts I would be happy to send you information on how you can install a "grid tie" photovoltaic system similar to the one on my house I installed back in 1999. My system offsets on average 25% of my KW consumption. Dont assume that critics of Al Gore are in denial. His message is a good one. All I ask is that the messenger speak the truth and walks the walk. Is that to much to ask?
I live in southern California and the air has improved every year since the peek of the mid 70s. Our air is cleaner now than any time since sampling started back in the 1940s. I say this because most of the doom and gloom folks dont want you to know this. Ask any 8th grade student if our air quality is degrading and I bet they will say yes. The truth is very powerful. I would correct the student and say the air is cleaner now than any day on record and here are the reasons why.
If you try to mislead people by saying things like The debate is over you risk losing credibility thus hurting the cause. I say give us the facts and we will do the right thing. It is ok to say there are some that are unsure or disagree but lets take action anyway. Im cool with that.
Your assertion that I am making a fool out of myself may be correct in the minds of those who blindly follow self imposed leaders without questioning the message.
This fool likes facts.