The Gore Smear

Ken AshfordEnvironment & Global Warming & Energy1 Comment

The rightwing noise machine has set its sites on Al Gore.

A group as sprung up overnight, calling itself the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (it is, despite its official sounding name, a rightwing organization founded by a member of the conservative thinktank, American Enterprise Institute).  It issued a press release, picked up by Drudge Report, rightwing blogs, and Fox News, claiming that Al Gore’s utility bills for his house in Nashville show that he uses 20 times more energy than the average American household. This, according to the group, makes Al Gore an enormous hypocrite.

I’ll let Anonymous Liberal do the debunking:

This is a textbook example of the mindless swarming behavior that is so typical among right-wing partisan flacks. First, everyone on the right–from top to bottom–simply assumed that the content of this press release, which was put out by an organization none of them had ever heard of before, was factually accurate. Actually, that probably gives them too much credit. It’s not that they assumed it was accurate, it’s that they didn’t care. The press release was chalked full of truthiness, and that was good enough.

The press release claimed that Al Gore’s home in Nashville consumed 221,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity last year compared to a national average of 10,656 kWh per household. I have no idea whether the number cited for Gore’s house is correct, but let’s assume it is. The 10,656 number comes from data published by the Department of Energy. But it’s an average of all households nationwide (including apartment units and mobile homes) and across all climate regions. As it turns out, the region in which Gore lives–the East South Central–has the highest per household energy usage of any climate region in the country, a good 50% higher than the national average quoted in the press release (I assume this is due to the combination of cold winters and hot, muggy summers). So that’s misleading in and of itself.

Moreover, Gore lives in a large home (10,000 sq. ft.). If you look at the data, it’s clear that Gore’s energy usage per square foot (even assuming the 221,000 kWh number is accurate) is well within the average range for his climate region. So all this accusation boils down to is a claim that it is somehow "hypocritical" for Al Gore to live in a large house.

That’s awfully weak. Gore’s a former Senator and Vice President of the United States. Does he have to move into a studio apartment before he has the right to talk about climate change?

And more importantly, as Think Progress reports, even this watered-down hypocrisy charge entirely misses the point. What Al Gore wants people to do is reduce the carbon footprint of their residence as much as possible and then purchase carbon offsets to reduce the remaining footprint to zero. Gore has installed solar panels in his home, he uses fluorescent light bulbs and other energy saving technology, and he purchases his energy from Green Power Switch, a provider which utilizes solar and wind power. He then purchases carbon offsets to reduce his remaining carbon footprint to zero.

Could Gore use less overall energy if he and Tipper moved into a one-bedroom apartment? Of course. But he’s not asking people to move into smaller homes. He’s asking them to reduce their carbon footprints, which is exactly what he has done. He practices what he preaches.

Still, these sort of facts about Al Gore aren’t likely to deter the self-congratulatory right, now convinced they have "caught" Gore in an act of hypocrisy.  This is how they operate.