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My Top 10 Energy Stories of 2007

First, thanks to all who contributed ideas. You may have an entirely different opinion on the most important energy stories. Feel free to share it. Many of these stories were contributed by various readers. Comments by readers are italicized. If you want to know who wrote what, you can see the entire comment thread here.

Here are my Top 10 Energy Stories of 2007

1. Oil price soars as media becomes Peak Oil aware

One reason I felt pretty safe in making the $1,000 bet on oil prices is that a move from $60 – the price in January – to $100 – the price at which I would lose the bet – would be unprecedented. Of course a worldwide peak in oil production will also be unprecedented, and I expect oil prices to soar when that happens. While I still don’t think we have quite peaked, what did happen is that Peak Oil awareness really hit the mainstream in 2007. I started noticing a great many stories on Peak Oil (and quite a few on Peak Lite), especially following the ASPO Conference in October. This was right in the middle of the sharp run-up in prices. So I believe that a major factor contributing to the fast run-up was the sudden realization by a critical mass of people that Peak Oil is on top of us. In that case, the value of oil will be much higher.

In addition to record oil prices, back in the spring we saw record-high gasoline prices as a result of sustained, record-low gasoline inventories. Conditions are currently favoring new record-high gasoline prices in 2008.

2. Criticism of biofuels mounts

The bloom comes off the biofuel rose. European studies showed oil-palm biodiesel was actually worse for the environment due to tropical rainforest destruction, and US corn ethanol plants lost money because of overbuilding. A general biofuel backlash took root due to higher food prices and other side effects.

While I was criticizing corn ethanol before criticizing corn ethanol was cool, in 2007 the media started asking critical questions about water usage, pollution from industrial corn farming, and the impact of ethanol mandates on food prices.

3. The Chevy Volt is announced

GM has dedicated a full product team and allocated a plant for mass production — the first time in history an electric car has achieved such status.

Years after GM killed the electric car, they are bringing it back in the form of the Chevy Volt. I have long advocated the need for the electrification of transportation as one of the key elements in any Peak Oil mitigation plan. Therefore, I am very pleased to see GM making another effort at electric cars.

4. Nanosolar begins to deliver

Cost-effective solar power would be a very big silver BB in a Peak Oil mitigation plan. Nanosolar has the potential to deliver a game-changing thin-film photovoltaic technology. If you don’t know much about Nanosolar, check out this interview with their CEO: 10 Questions for Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen

However, the potential for cost effective solar power also highlights the desperate need to tackle and solve the problem of energy storage for intermittent sources of energy like wind and solar power. Hopefully we will see some breakthroughs there in 2007.

5. LS9 starts up

For years I have dreamed of a microbe that eats garbage and excretes hydrocarbons. The beauty of such a system would be that the hydrocarbons would just phase out of solution, thus ensuring a low-energy purification step. If you think about it, the concept is not that far-fetched. The human body produces fats and fatty acids that are not too far-removed from the hydrocarbons that make up gasoline or diesel. There is no reason, in principle, that a microbe couldn’t be designed to do just that.

The difficulty lies in understanding the metabolic pathways well enough to modify them to produce the target molecule without severely compromising or killing the microbe. This is exactly what LS9 – the “Renewable Petroleum Company”, is attempting to do. And they have certainly assembled a team that just may pull it off.

6. Range Fuels breaks ground

In November Range Fuels – formerly Vinod Khosla’s Kergy venture – announced the groundbreaking of the first commercial “cellulosic” ethanol plant in the U.S. While I dispute the terminology (as I explained in this essay, it is actually a gasification process, which is not specific to cellulose), the process does have a chance to be a success in the long-run. Short-term, I believe they will remain highly dependent on generous subsidies because the capital costs for gasification processes are so high. But on down the road I think gasification makes a lot more sense than most fermentation processes.

One thing that I would have done differently would have been to produce diesel instead of ethanol. Once syngas is produced in a gasification step, there are many different products that can be made. It is not particularly efficient to produce ethanol in this process, but this is the kind of thing you end up with when the government is picking technology winners.

I do think Range Fuels has a high likelihood of becoming a significant technology. What little information is available certainly sounds promising, including the result from EBMUD that the Klepper gasifier was the most efficient.

7. First application for US nuclear plant in 30 years

NRG announces first application for US nuclear plant in 30 years:

NRG South Texas Nuclear

They propose to use GE’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor technology.

My personal belief is that we are going to need nuclear power to continue making a significant contribution toward our electricity needs. This will be especially true if electric transport takes hold. Therefore, I think it is a very big story that 2007 saw the first application for a new U.S. nuclear plant in 30 years.

8. Carbon capture & sequestration moves forward

The FutureGen alliance announces the site for its demonstration plant on Tuesday, Dec. 18:

FutureGen Announcement

For those not familiar with it, FutureGen is a clean coal demonstration plant that will include carbon capture and sequestration. There are 4 finalist sites. Two in Illinois and two in Texas. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate commercial scale CCS technology.

FutureGen selected Mattoon, IL for their site.

FutureGen runs a combined cycle instead of the single cycle of existing coal plants. Combined cycle plants can achieve 50-60% thermal efficiency vs. the 33% typical of single cycle, so it’s quite possible FutureGen will deliver more kWh/ton of coal than existing plants.

9. Progress on next generation biofuels

The biofuel spotlight turned to the future. Dozens of startups focused on cellulosic ethanol, gasification and other next-gen processes competed for headlines with “green diesel”, butanol and other biofuel initiatives from the oil majors.

Most of the oil majors have taken a pass on the ethanol craze, but they are looking at other biofuels. 2007 saw announcements from BP that they would team with D1 Oils to produce biodiesel from jatropha; from ConocoPhillips that they would team with Tyson Foods to produce “green diesel” from waste animal fats; and that BP and Dupont would team up to produce bio-butanol. (I wrote a reality check on bio-butanol here).

10. US Navy funds Bussard Fusion

I think you have to include the US Navy funding Bussard Fusion in there:

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=3139619&C=navwar

Bussard died a couple months ago. I had really given up on fusion, but his work actually appears to have a reasonable change to work. Hopefully with more funding his team will be able to make it work.

Yes, Dr. Bussard’s work will be carried on. First step is to construct WB-7 and replicate the results achieved with WB-6. Hopefully by the end of April 2008. If that works, then on to WB-8, and then an actual power generating plant.

The rest of the list (in no particular order), many of which could have easily been in the Top 10 list:

11. King Coal is still king

If we look for the stories that did not attract attention, surely one of the big ones has to be the continued surprising vitality of the international coal industry. King Coal has officially been dead for a long time. Who would have predicted that, 10 years after Kyoto, coal would once more be where it’s at, supplying more Btus to the world than ever before?

12. US Coal Plant cancellations, headlined by TXU cancelling 8 of 11 planned plants.

CO2, the primary driver behind the other half of our top 10 stories, has long played in Europe but will only achieve global influence by spreading through the US into the developing world. 2007’s coal plant cancellations marked the tipping point.

13. Al Gore wins Nobel Prize for work on Global Warming

Gore’s tireless efforts to educate the world on Global Warming was recognized with this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Tiny Carthage, Tennessee now claims two Nobel Laureates. (Cordell Hull is the other).

14. Shell releases details of their shale oil process

Probably the most important energy announcement was Shell’s release of info on their proprietary in-situ process for generating oil from oil shale. Could open a whole new branch of the oil industry, put a cap on the price of oil from conventional fields, and thereby inject some realism into windy dreams. But it turns out that Shell has been working towards this for about a quarter of a century. “Incremental advances” indeed!

15. Resource nationalization grows

While the seizure of the assets of international oil companies by Hugo Chavez got the most press, many other countries are moving to nationalize their oil resources. Many other countries, and even states like Alaska, are also passing laws to increase their tax revenues from the extraction of oil. The U.S. needs to sit up and take notice, because this will further constrain supplies. We can’t continue to count on a steady supply of oil from countries who don’t like us, yet we lack the political will to reduce our dependence on these countries.

16. New efficiency record for silicon PV – 42.8 percent from sunlight at standard terrestrial conditions

http://www.physorg.com/news104501218.html

The highly efficient VHESC solar cell uses a novel lateral optical concentrating system that splits solar light into three different energy bins of high, medium and low, and directs them onto cells of various light sensitive materials to cover the solar spectrum. The system delivers variable concentrations to the different solar cell elements. The concentrator is stationary with a wide acceptance angle optical system that captures large amounts of light and eliminates the need for complicated tracking devices.

In a way I find the Nanosolar story more compelling since they are actually in commercial production now. Still, the prospect of high efficiency PV without using exotic and/or toxic materials gives me hope.

17. Manpower shortages in the energy sector

Big Oil’s Talent Hunt

From the article:

ConocoPhillips (COP) has grand plans. With demand for oil soaring, the company announced on Dec. 7 that it will boost its exploration and production budget by 8%, to $11 billion, a war chest intended to fund massive projects from Canada to China to the Caspian Sea.

But there’s a potential obstacle to the company’s vision: not enough people to get the work done. Half of Conoco’s employees are eligible for retirement within five years. Unless older workers can be replaced, Conoco’s expansion could be costlier and slower than planned. In an interview with BusinessWeek, CEO James J. Mulva said that the lack of talent is one of the most dangerous threats to his company’s long-term health. “People are a big concern,” he said.

This is not just a big oil story. Lack of workers is hitting all sectors of the energy industry. It seems that college students would rather be lawyers or investment bankers than scientists and engineers.

18. Texas surpassed California in wind energy

This signals a shift in wind from high-cost, subsidized eco-darling to cost-effective energy source. As the low-cost provider, wind now thrives in low bureaucracy states such as former oil-king Texas. Meanwhile high-regulation states such as California lag behind.

19. Potential PV improvement

Potential improvement on PV front

Transparent electrodes created from atom-thick carbon sheets could make solar cells and LCDs without depleting precious mineral resources, say researchers in Germany.

Solar cells, LCDs, and some other devices, must have transparent electrodes in parts of their designs to let light in or out. These electrodes are usually made from indium tin oxide (ITO) but experts calculate that there is only 10 years’ worth of indium left on the planet, with LCD panels consuming the majority of existing stocks.

“There is not enough indium on earth for the future development of devices using it,” says Linjie Zhi of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany. “It is also not very stable, so you have to be careful during the fabrication process.”

20. Study analyzes off shore wind in US Northeast

http://www.physorg.com/news89650495.html

The wind resource off the Mid-Atlantic coast could supply the energy needs of nine states from Massachusetts to North Carolina, plus the District of Columbia–with enough left over to support a 50 percent increase in future energy demand–according to a study by researchers at the University of Delaware and Stanford University.

The study marks the first empirical analysis in the United States of a large-scale region’s potential offshore wind-energy supply using a model that links geophysics with wind-electric technology–and that defines where wind turbines at sea may be located in relation to water depth, geology and “exclusion zones” for bird flyways, shipping lanes and other uses.

21. A123Systems mass produces next generation lithium batteries

Shipping in DeWalt’s 2007 line of 36V cordless power tools, these new cells mark the 5th wave of rechargeable batteries (lead-acid, NiCad, NiMH, Li-ion and now advanced lithium). Advanced lithium chemistries from A123 and dozens of other vendors offer the possibility of cost-effective plug-in hybrids as well as applications in the electrical grid.

22. Electricity shortages, particularly in the developing world

Some appear to be related to climate change — droughts that require major hydro cutbacks. Some are clearly due to oil prices/supplies — poor countries that burn heavy diesel in their power plants and can’t afford it at the new world prices. Some are due to bad bets on fuel sources — natural gas generators put in, and the gas supply declining sooner than planned.

23. Solar thermal heats up

For decades the SEGS parabolic trough plant in California’s Mojave desert stood alone as the only large-scale CSP plant on earth, but 2007 saw a rebirth of this technology with the inauguration of the 64MW Nevada Solar One plant and construction of plants in Spain, Australia and elsewhere. California utilities have ordered up to 1750 MW of capacity from dish-Stirling purveyor Stirling Energy Systems and startups such as Ausra are pushing the price/performance barrier with linear Fresnel architectures.

24. First Solar market value hits $20 billion

As the first mass producer of non-silicon thin film PV, FSLR cashed in big-time in 2007. Their $1.40/W manufacturing cost is a huge competitive advantage, yielding fat profits and an eye-popping 200% growth rate. True to their name, First Solar got out of the gate first, but other non-Si players are still in the race. Companies using CIGS, including the much-hyped but yet-to-deliver Nanosolar, promise to break the $1/W barrier.

25. Cooper Pairs in insulators

http://www.aip.org/pnu/2007/split/849-1.html

One of the AIP’s top stories of the year, this discovery may well help us reach a better understanding of superconductivity and insulators both. Superconductivity is of course a holy grail in energy research, and while this discovery doesn’t directly lead to a room temp superconductor, it does add to the fundamental knowledge of material in the solid state.

26. Medvedev slated to take over from Putin

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20071217/92858987.html

Essentially Putin’s Russia will continue, and that has direct implication for all the fossil fuel industry in Asia, regarding everything from global warming to export control to defense postures. Putin’s Russia, one of an energy oligarchy, will continue to express those policies likely for a good portion of the 21st century.

27. Conditions in Iraq improve enough to get the oil industry back online

http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=54099

Opening the possibility that Iraq just might return to a functioning member of OPEC has direct implications on the availability of oil for import around the world.

28. USAF test flight of transport aircraft C-17 using CTL synthetic fuel

http://www.enn.com/pollution/article/24117

This heralds the onset of CTL and likely portrays our (US) future over the next couple of decades.

29. And now, for my wildcat speculation of the most important news item:

Namibia: Expert Confident About Oil Reserves

Southwest Africa will turn out to be a major oil exporting region over the next couple of decades, slowing the decrease in available net exports of oil.

30. The response of the global economy to the large increase in oil prices

Most people would have probably assumed that $90 oil would have caused mayhem in the global economy a year or two ago. Yet the effect has been relatively muted. I think this says a lot about how effectively individuals, businesses (and hats off to alternative energy firms), and governments have responded to increasing oil prices over the long term. Oil now has a much smaller (I believe around 50%) impact per GDP than it did in the 1970’s in most of the big western economies, including the US.

31. Tesla troubles

A not-positive but nevertheless noteworthy story is Tesla Motors recent troubles with putting the final touches on its long-awaited car, particularly with the transmission failure and the management shuffling.

And I love this suggestion for 2008. What a great idea this would be:

My favorite energy story for 2008 would be — Congress recognizes they cannot pick winners, and instead sets up a multi-billion dollar X-Prize competition for the first three alternate energy sources to supply reliable commercial-scale power at costs competitive with fossils.

So those were the energy stories that I, or various readers thought were significant in 2007. Were there other significant stories that we missed?

Looking back at the list, many (most?) of the stories were not anticipated at the beginning of the year. So, who knows what 2008 will bring. Any thoughts?

December 22, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, Chevy Volt, ConocoPhillips, ethanol, food prices, LS9, nuclear energy, oil prices, Peak Oil, range fuels, reader submission, solar efficiency, solar power, Tyson Foods | 12 Comments

Al Gore Makes Amends

Better late than never:

Gore makes Nashville home more ‘green’

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Al Gore, who was criticized for high electric bills at his Tennessee mansion, has completed a host of improvements to make the home more energy efficient, and a building-industry group has praised the house as one of the nation’s most environmentally friendly.

The former vice president has installed solar panels, a rainwater-collection system and geothermal heating. He also replaced all incandescent lights with compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs — even on his Christmas tree.

“One of the things that is tremendously powerful about what the Gores have done is demonstrate that you can take a home that was a dog, an absolute energy pig, and do things to correct that,” Shinn said.

In February, a conservative think tank criticized Gore for using an average of 16,000 kilowatt hours a month for an average monthly bill of $1,206 in 2006. The typical Nashville home uses about 1,300 kilowatt hours a month.

Gore has said the criticism was unfair because the 10,000-square-foot mansion was undergoing extensive remodeling. He said this week that “global warming denier” groups were trying to discredit him because they don’t like the attention he has given to climate change.

“You’re going to have people try to attack the messenger in order to get at the message. They have not been able to succeed,” Gore told CNN from Norway, where he picked up the Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work.

He still has pretty high electrical usage, but I grant that he probably has numerous people working out of his house:

Electricity usage at the home remains well above regional averages, but Gore’s power consumption decreased by 6,890 kilowatt hours, or 11 percent, between June and August, despite the heat wave.

Gore’s electric use increased again after he had to take his solar panels off-line in August so his new geothermal system could be integrated into the system. But his natural gas use has dropped 93 percent in the three months since the geothermal pump was activated.

At least he is trying to set an example.

December 14, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, global warming, sustainability | 69 Comments

Al Takes the Train

Because I gave Al Gore such a hard time over his electric bill, I thought I would mention this story. Gore is in Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Price, and he took public transportation from the airport:

Gore in Norway to get Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO, Norway – Former Vice President Al Gore arrived in Oslo on Friday to accept the Nobel Peace Prize he shared for the campaign against global warming, and shunned the traditional airport motorcade in favor of climate-friendly public transport.

Before his arrival with his wife Tipper, Gore informed his hosts that he would not need the traditional motorcade from the airport, preferring to take the high-speed and environmentally friendly airport train and then walking to his downtown Oslo hotel.

“I use public transport when I can. It isn’t always possible,” Gore told The Associated Press while walking up Oslo’s main street to his hotel. He said the train was much faster than a limousine, but that it was also a symbol of efforts to reduce pollution in hopes of slowing climate change.

“It is a gesture. It is also one of the changes we are all going to have to be doing anyway,” Gore said.

I wonder if he flew commercial? Hey, if I hadn’t asked, the first person to comment following the post would have. But it’s good to see that he made the gesture.

Speaking of Gore, what ever happened to this marvelous new invention that was supposed to be unveiled in his presence?

The rich, famous and influential prepare to hear the secret to climate-safe energy

A discovery that could give the world access to vast quantities of energy with minimal damage to the climate will be shown off for the first time at a glittering gathering of the famous, rich and influential next Friday night.

Al Gore is to be the star turn at a dinner where guests have paid at least £1,000 a head, and some will have parted with £50,000 for their share of the Aberdeen Angus steak and pink champagne, under the high ornate ceilings of London’s Royal Courts of Justice. The combined wealth of the diners has been estimated at £100bn. But the most unusual aspect of the evening is not the price of the tickets but the nature of the floor show. In place of professional performers, the guests will be regaled by people who are not always thought of as entertainers, though some think they are all mad. They are inventive British boffins who care about climate change.

They are hoping that the showcase dinner will knock years off the time it can take for industry to see the mass marketing potential of a new discovery. And the one that will be shown to Mr Gore and fellow guests is highly marketable and could revolutionise the market in clean technology, according to the founder of the British Inventors’ Society, Kane Kramer.

Mr Kramer, who was 23 in 1979 when he conceptualised the technology that led to the creation of the first MP3 player, refused to give specific details of the new discovery, or to name the inventor, so as to maintain the element of surprise for Friday. But he indicated that it is a breakthrough in micro-technology, and that British scientists who have tested it are convinced that it will work.

“This is something … that’s the accumulation of almost a decade of work,” he said. “It’s a new science, a Super Material. It would be 80 per cent cheaper than any alternative means of production, and it will contribute in a major way to reducing climate change.

Well, the dinner was last weekend, but I haven’t heard anything else about this “Super Material.” Sounded a bit suspect to me from the start, but I would have thought at least now we would know what the story was.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, global warming | 10 Comments

What It Takes to Be Carbon Neutral

A popular newspaper in Scotland, The Scotsman, has detailed what it will take for Britain to be carbon neutral within 20 years. I have said before that despite Al Gore’s pleas, despite the awareness and scientific consensus on Global Warming, I do not see the world becoming carbon neutral as long as there are fossil fuels left to burn. Some highlights from the article drive that point home:

Green Future Demands a Radical Shift in Lifestyles for British

Meat-free menus, battery-operated cars and an end to affordable flights.

These are among the radical visions outlined in a report which says Britain could be carbon neutral within 20 years – but only if major steps are taken to change our lifestyles.

Tumble-dryers would disappear and an “armada” of wind turbines would need to be built around the coast to achieve the goal, says the research by scientists from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

But there is scepticism as to whether any of the scenarios suggested in the report are achievable.

CAT says achieving such a drastic cut in emissions is possible and may be the only way to tackle climate change.

Paul Allen, CAT’s development director, said: “What we are saying is that we need a huge programme, a bit like the US space project in the Sixties.

Now, for some details:

Among the major effects would be that electric, battery-operated cars would quickly overtake use of the internal combustion engine. Households would be forced to invest in ways to make their homes energy efficient, and switch from gas to biofuels or renewable electricity.

But there would also be “negative” effects in terms of the lifestyle that people enjoy. Air travel would become far too expensive unless the industry “pulls something out of the hat” and finds a green fuel.

And the diet of the country would have to change to include much more organically-grown, locally-produced vegetables, and less meat.

The result of the new “carbon economics” would be to cut energy use by half, and this new demand would then be met entirely by a green supply.

Tens of thousands of wind turbines would be built, mainly around Britain’s shores, to provide 50 per cent of the country’s new energy needs. The rest would come from a combination of biofuel “combined heat and power” stations, wave power, hydroelectricity and tidal schemes.

Is that realistic? Tens of thousands of wind turbines. An end to air travel. Fewer steaks. Is it achievable? It may be achievable in a dictatorship, but not realistic in a democracy. People are not going to accept those consequences unless they are forced to.

Also note that this is only for Great Britain, whose 60 million population is 1/5th that of the U.S. Furthermore, consider that UK citizens already only use half the per capita energy usage of the average U.S. citizen, and it soon becomes clear that carbon neutrality for the U.S., or the world, is a pipe dream. All of the Live Earth concerts in the world aren’t going to change that. Carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to climb, and the outcome of this atmospheric experiment is uncertain.

Incidentally, there are a number of reader comments following the original article. If you think there is any possibility of realizing such a scheme, a quick review of the comments should put that notion to rest. I think it is a good plan, but I don’t think it has a chance of being implemented.

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, global warming, United Kingdom | 6 Comments

What It Takes to Be Carbon Neutral

A popular newspaper in Scotland, The Scotsman, has detailed what it will take for Britain to be carbon neutral within 20 years. I have said before that despite Al Gore’s pleas, despite the awareness and scientific consensus on Global Warming, I do not see the world become carbon neutral as long as there are fossil fuels left to burn. Some highlights from the article drive that point home:

Green Future Demands a Radical Shift in Lifestyles for British

Meat-free menus, battery-operated cars and an end to affordable flights.

These are among the radical visions outlined in a report which says Britain could be carbon neutral within 20 years – but only if major steps are taken to change our lifestyles.

Tumble-dryers would disappear and an “armada” of wind turbines would need to be built around the coast to achieve the goal, says the research by scientists from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

But there is scepticism as to whether any of the scenarios suggested in the report are achievable.

CAT says achieving such a drastic cut in emissions is possible and may be the only way to tackle climate change.

Paul Allen, CAT’s development director, said: “What we are saying is that we need a huge programme, a bit like the US space project in the Sixties.

Now, for some details:

Among the major effects would be that electric, battery-operated cars would quickly overtake use of the internal combustion engine. Households would be forced to invest in ways to make their homes energy efficient, and switch from gas to biofuels or renewable electricity.

But there would also be “negative” effects in terms of the lifestyle that people enjoy. Air travel would become far too expensive unless the industry “pulls something out of the hat” and finds a green fuel.

And the diet of the country would have to change to include much more organically-grown, locally-produced vegetables, and less meat.

The result of the new “carbon economics” would be to cut energy use by half, and this new demand would then be met entirely by a green supply.

Tens of thousands of wind turbines would be built, mainly around Britain’s shores, to provide 50 per cent of the country’s new energy needs. The rest would come from a combination of biofuel “combined heat and power” stations, wave power, hydroelectricity and tidal schemes.

Is that realistic? Tens of thousands of wind turbines. An end to air travel. Fewer steaks. Is it achievable? It may be achievable in a dictatorship, but not realistic in a democracy. People are not going to accept those consequences unless they are forced to.

Also note that this is only for Great Britain, whose 60 million population is 1/5th that of the U.S. Furthermore, consider that UK citizens already only use half the per capita energy usage of the average U.S. citizen, and it soon becomes clear that carbon neutrality for the U.S., or the world, is a pipe dream. All of the Live Earth concerts in the world aren’t going to change that. Carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to climb, and the outcome of this atmospheric experiment is uncertain.

Incidentally, there are a number of reader comments following the original article. If you think there is any possibility of realizing such a scheme, a quick review of the comments should put that notion to rest.

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, global warming, United Kingdom | 10 Comments

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.

February 28, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, conservation, energy policy, politics | 67 Comments

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.

February 28, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, conservation, energy policy, politics | 32 Comments

Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint

On the subject of energy policy, it often seems that hypocrisy and politics go hand in hand. The message is often “Do as I say, and not as I do.” I have addressed the hypocrisy of certain politicians on several occasions; like here, here, and here. And when I do so, I try not to preferentially attack a particular party.

To be honest, I don’t think either major party has demonstrated that they have a good plan or the courage needed for dealing with energy issues. For the Republicans, the answer seems to be to drill in ANWR, or for more offshore drilling. For the Democrats, the solution seems to be to pander to the public by threatening to punish oil companies for high gas prices and high profits (as if making gas prices lower is going to help matters). Both parties seem to think that ethanol is going to enable us to continue with our wasteful level of energy usage.

So, it is with that disclaimer that I write this essay. I was skimming The Oil Drum yesterday, and someone had linked to this story:

Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to read this article. Here is a sampling:

Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh — more than 20 times the national average.

I read An Inconvenient Truth, and watched the movie. I thought both presented compelling arguments, and I recommend them to everyone (even if you think Global Warming science is hogwash, you should understand the basis of the arguments). One of the stories that really stuck with me is how the Gore family had raised tobacco until Gore’s sister died from lung cancer. At that point they got out of the tobacco farming business because apparently only then did the full implications of what they were doing hit home.

I think there is a lesson in there, Mr. Gore. Your actions speak very loudly for you. If you are going to call on all Americans to conserve – which is a much-needed message – you must lead by example. You can’t consume 20 times the national average energy consumption. There is a word for people like that. Hypocrite.

I can understand Gore’s need to travel. Sure, he consumes a lot of fossil fuel trotting around the globe, but if people take his message to heart, then the net should be a fossil fuel and greenhouse gas reduction. So I don’t begrudge him that. What I can’t overlook is that such a high-profile spokesman on Global Warming would plead with Americans to conserve and yet demonstrate an inability to do this himself. I understand that Al Gore is an important guy, and that as former Vice-President his circumstances are more complex than the average Joe’s. But I simply don’t accept that he requires 20 times the energy usage of the average American (whose usage is already much higher than the rest of the world).

Now, some will rightly point out that Gore has taken steps to reduce his carbon footprint:

Gore’s Office Responds

The article is under the heading “Radical Right-Wing Agenda.” Really? Must it be a radical right-wing agenda to challenge what appears to be rank hypocrisy? I am certainly not a radical right-winger, but this doesn’t smell right to me. (For the record, I took on the Republicans when I addressed John McCain’s ethanol flip-flop).

Here is what the link states that Gore has done:

1) Gore’s family 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.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand.

What this tells me is that his true energy usage is much higher than 20 times the national average, but the steps he has taken has brought it down to that. And while Gore is to be commended for the steps he has taken, this still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which is: Gore’s consumption is incredibly high, and he is asking the rest of the world to conserve. You can’t say “Yeah, but I am reducing my carbon footprint by buying carbon offsets.” That won’t sit well with most people. The average person can’t afford to buy carbon offsets. But the average person can certainly conserve. Yet Gore is asking us to do so when he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to do so himself.

And while I support the idea of purchasing carbon offsets, I do think it is somewhat offensive to excuse gross over-consumption with the reasoning that you have bought indulgences. What does this really mean? It means that Gore can afford to consume more, because he is paying others to offset his consumption. What if everyone decided to consume as much as Gore? Where would the carbon offsets come from?

Set an example, Mr. Gore. Walk the talk. You have been in politics long enough to know that this is exactly the sort of thing that will diminish the impact of your conservation message. I preach the conservation message as well. But I am doing my best to walk the talk. It isn’t easy. It isn’t convenient. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. But if I am going to call on others to conserve, I must demonstrate my own willingness to do so. Because if I can’t, why should I expect anyone else to sacrifice?

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, conservation, energy policy, politics | 18 Comments

Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint

On the subject of energy policy, it often seems that hypocrisy and politics go hand in hand. The message is often “Do as I say, and not as I do.” I have addressed the hypocrisy of certain politicians on several occasions; like here, here, and here. And when I do so, I try not to preferentially attack a particular party.

To be honest, I don’t think either major party has demonstrated that they have a good plan or the courage needed for dealing with energy issues. For the Republicans, the answer seems to be to drill in ANWR, or for more offshore drilling. For the Democrats, the solution seems to be to pander to the public by threatening to punish oil companies for high gas prices and high profits (as if making gas prices lower is going to help matters). Both parties seem to think that ethanol is going to enable us to continue with our wasteful level of energy usage.

So, it is with that disclaimer that I write this essay. I was skimming The Oil Drum yesterday, and someone had linked to this story:

Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to read this article. Here is a sampling:

Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh — more than 20 times the national average.

I read An Inconvenient Truth, and watched the movie. I thought both presented compelling arguments, and I recommend them to everyone (even if you think Global Warming science is hogwash, you should understand the basis of the arguments). One of the stories that really stuck with me is how the Gore family had raised tobacco until Gore’s sister died from lung cancer. At that point they got out of the tobacco farming business because apparently only then did the full implications of what they were doing hit home.

I think there is a lesson in there, Mr. Gore. Your actions speak very loudly for you. If you are going to call on all Americans to conserve – which is a much-needed message – you must lead by example. You can’t consume 20 times the national average energy consumption. There is a word for people like that. Hypocrite.

I can understand Gore’s need to travel. Sure, he consumes a lot of fossil fuel trotting around the globe, but if people take his message to heart, then the net should be a fossil fuel and greenhouse gas reduction. So I don’t begrudge him that. What I can’t overlook is that such a high-profile spokesman on Global Warming would plead with Americans to conserve and yet demonstrate an inability to do this himself. I understand that Al Gore is an important guy, and that as former Vice-President his circumstances are more complex than the average Joe’s. But I simply don’t accept that he requires 20 times the energy usage of the average American (whose usage is already much higher than the rest of the world).

Now, some will rightly point out that Gore has taken steps to reduce his carbon footprint:

Gore’s Office Responds

The article is under the heading “Radical Right-Wing Agenda.” Really? Must it be a radical right-wing agenda to challenge what appears to be rank hypocrisy? I am certainly not a radical right-winger, but this doesn’t smell right to me. (For the record, I took on the Republicans when I addressed John McCain’s ethanol flip-flop).

Here is what the link states that Gore has done:

1) Gore’s family 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.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand.

What this tells me is that his true energy usage is much higher than 20 times the national average, but the steps he has taken has brought it down to that. And while Gore is to be commended for the steps he has taken, this still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which is: Gore’s consumption is incredibly high, and he is asking the rest of the world to conserve. You can’t say “Yeah, but I am reducing my carbon footprint by buying carbon offsets.” That won’t sit well with most people. The average person can’t afford to buy carbon offsets. But the average person can certainly conserve. Yet Gore is asking us to do so when he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to do so himself.

And while I support the idea of purchasing carbon offsets, I do think it is somewhat offensive to excuse gross over-consumption with the reasoning that you have bought indulgences. What does this really mean? It means that Gore can afford to consume more, because he is paying others to offset his consumption. What if everyone decided to consume as much as Gore? Where would the carbon offsets come from?

Set an example, Mr. Gore. Walk the talk. You have been in politics long enough to know that this is exactly the sort of thing that will diminish the impact of your conservation message. I preach the conservation message as well. But I am doing my best to walk the talk. It isn’t easy. It isn’t convenient. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. But if I am going to call on others to conserve, I must demonstrate my own willingness to do so. Because if I can’t, why should I expect anyone else to sacrifice?

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, conservation, energy policy, politics | Comments Off on Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint

Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint

On the subject of energy policy, it often seems that hypocrisy and politics go hand in hand. The message is often “Do as I say, and not as I do.” I have addressed the hypocrisy of certain politicians on several occasions; like here, here, and here. And when I do so, I try not to preferentially attack a particular party.

To be honest, I don’t think either major party has demonstrated that they have a good plan or the courage needed for dealing with energy issues. For the Republicans, the answer seems to be to drill in ANWR, or for more offshore drilling. For the Democrats, the solution seems to be to pander to the public by threatening to punish oil companies for high gas prices and high profits (as if making gas prices lower is going to help matters). Both parties seem to think that ethanol is going to enable us to continue with our wasteful level of energy usage.

So, it is with that disclaimer that I write this essay. I was skimming The Oil Drum yesterday, and someone had linked to this story:

Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to read this article. Here is a sampling:

Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh — more than 20 times the national average.

I read An Inconvenient Truth, and watched the movie. I thought both presented compelling arguments, and I recommend them to everyone (even if you think Global Warming science is hogwash, you should understand the basis of the arguments). One of the stories that really stuck with me is how the Gore family had raised tobacco until Gore’s sister died from lung cancer. At that point they got out of the tobacco farming business because apparently only then did the full implications of what they were doing hit home.

I think there is a lesson in there, Mr. Gore. Your actions speak very loudly for you. If you are going to call on all Americans to conserve – which is a much-needed message – you must lead by example. You can’t consume 20 times the national average energy consumption. There is a word for people like that. Hypocrite.

I can understand Gore’s need to travel. Sure, he consumes a lot of fossil fuel trotting around the globe, but if people take his message to heart, then the net should be a fossil fuel and greenhouse gas reduction. So I don’t begrudge him that. What I can’t overlook is that such a high-profile spokesman on Global Warming would plead with Americans to conserve and yet demonstrate an inability to do this himself. I understand that Al Gore is an important guy, and that as former Vice-President his circumstances are more complex than the average Joe’s. But I simply don’t accept that he requires 20 times the energy usage of the average American (whose usage is already much higher than the rest of the world).

Now, some will rightly point out that Gore has taken steps to reduce his carbon footprint:

Gore’s Office Responds

The article is under the heading “Radical Right-Wing Agenda.” Really? Must it be a radical right-wing agenda to challenge what appears to be rank hypocrisy? I am certainly not a radical right-winger, but this doesn’t smell right to me. (For the record, I took on the Republicans when I addressed John McCain’s ethanol flip-flop).

Here is what the link states that Gore has done:

1) Gore’s family 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.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand.

What this tells me is that his true energy usage is much higher than 20 times the national average, but the steps he has taken has brought it down to that. And while Gore is to be commended for the steps he has taken, this still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which is: Gore’s consumption is incredibly high, and he is asking the rest of the world to conserve. You can’t say “Yeah, but I am reducing my carbon footprint by buying carbon offsets.” That won’t sit well with most people. The average person can’t afford to buy carbon offsets. But the average person can certainly conserve. Yet Gore is asking us to do so when he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to do so himself.

And while I support the idea of purchasing carbon offsets, I do think it is somewhat offensive to excuse gross over-consumption with the reasoning that you have bought indulgences. What does this really mean? It means that Gore can afford to consume more, because he is paying others to offset his consumption. What if everyone decided to consume as much as Gore? Where would the carbon offsets come from?

Set an example, Mr. Gore. Walk the talk. You have been in politics long enough to know that this is exactly the sort of thing that will diminish the impact of your conservation message. I preach the conservation message as well. But I am doing my best to walk the talk. It isn’t easy. It isn’t convenient. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. But if I am going to call on others to conserve, I must demonstrate my own willingness to do so. Because if I can’t, why should I expect anyone else to sacrifice?

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Al Gore, conservation, energy policy, politics | Comments Off on Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint