Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gore isn't quite as green as he leads us to believe


Al Gore has spoken: The world must embrace a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." To do otherwise, he says, will result in a cataclysmic catastrophe. "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb," warns the website for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. "We have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin."

Graciously, Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline, drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore's example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." But if Al Gore is the world's role model for ecology, the planet is doomed.

For someone who says the sky is falling, he does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film. (In reality, Paramount Classics, the film's distributor, pays this.)

What Do You Think?

Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore's office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.

Gore is not alone. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has said, "Global warming is happening, and it threatens our very existence." The DNC website applauds the fact that Gore has "tried to move people to act." Yet, astoundingly, Gore's persuasive powers have failed to convince his own party: The DNC has not signed up to pay an additional two pennies a kilowatt hour to go green. For that matter, neither has the Republican National Committee.
Maybe our very existence isn't threatened.

Gore has held these apocalyptic views about the environment for some time. So why, then, didn't Gore dump his family's large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum? As executor of his family's trust, over the years Gore has controlled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oxy stock. Oxy has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.

Living carbon-neutral apparently doesn't mean living oil-stock free. Nor does it necessarily mean giving up a mining royalty either.

Humanity might be "sitting on a ticking time bomb," but Gore's home in Carthage is sitting on a zinc mine. Gore receives $20,000 a year in royalties from Pasminco Zinc, which operates a zinc concession on his property. Tennessee has cited the company for adding large quantities of barium, iron and zinc to the nearby Caney Fork River.

The issue here is not simply Gore's hypocrisy; it's a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn't he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives.

Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy


Democracy Lover said...

I saw Gore's movie recently and although your comments about his lifestyle are interesting, they really don't detract from the message of the film which is that global warming is real and the greatest threat to mankind today. The personal lifestyle of the presenter does not affect the credibility of the scientific data he presented.

The Democratic Party isn't going to respond because they rely on contributions from interests that would be negatively affected by serious environmental action. The problem is corporate control of our political process, not the political parties.

While Gore obviously has other motivations here (getting into the 2008 Presidential race), he is doing a service in getting the word out on this issue. Frankly we have progressed beyond the point where the actions of a few well-meaning individuals can save the planet. We need strong national and international leadership of the kind our government, whether under Republican or Democratic control, is highly unlikely to provide.

jason said...

In other words, Democracy Lover, it doesn't matter if George W Bush was absent from some National Guard duty back in the 1970s if his leadership today is the best course of action for the American people (and maybe the world)?

I agree in principle. But we still can't separate the personal habits and actions (practice) of leaders from their rhetoric (preaching) I really believe the message Gore is bringign is a good message, but the messenger might actually be hurting its importance by not practicing what he preaches. The sooner we kick our oil addiction, the sooner many of our problems .... like global warming and our Chinese fire drill in the Middle East .... will be closer to being solved.

That Cleaning Lady said...

My dad's favorite line was always "Don't do like I do, do like I say", which is crap no matter who it comes from. We ALL need to use less and impact less. Our family buys organic from local organic farmers, we don't eat any beef products. Yes, we both drive cars, but we also bike and hike a lot to do our small parts to lower use on oil and fight obesity. However, if every politician flies his/her Lear Jet to their respective public outtings, then jumps in their chauffer-driven limo's in their dry-cleaned suits to eat grilled sword fish and drink avian water, It makes me darn mad. Oh, and Democracy Lover, the lifestlyle of the presenter certainly does affect the credibility of the message, how can you actually respect someone's message when they're standing on a landfill (ok zinc mine) and talking about living green? Kermit said it best.."It ain't easy being green..."