First and foremost, I think it’s fantastic that the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth took home the Oscar for best documentary of the year. It’s well put together and it presents important scientific ideas in a reasonably coherent and understandable way. Gore is doing some very good and important work in our world today to raise our awareness about the problem of global warming.
I wanted to start out with that paragraph because there’s been an attack on Gore since the Oscars that I want to address next. But I didn’t want to give the right what it wants – that the main story be answering their stupid claims about Al Gore’s energy uses. So I deliberately led off with the important news – that the Oscars has recognized what a significant issue human caused climate change is for everyone living on our small planet.
Now for the muck. Since the Oscars, and its hard to believe all this has happened in just the last 5 days, we’ve been privy to yet another example of the loudness of the blaring right wing noise machine. Right after Oscar night, an unknown right-wing group put out a news release claiming that Gore’s energy use at his home in Tennessee is much higher than that of the average American household. This unsubstantiated claim was picked up by all the usual conservative talkers – Rush, Fox News, etc. It bounced around so much that a Google search on Al Gore two days after the Oscars picked up more links to this story than to the Oscar win itself. And I’m sure that was exactly the result that the right was looking for.
There have been many responses in the liberal blogs to this stupid claim. I want to add my voice to that chorus. It’s important when the right puts out these stupid bits of “news” that they’re exposed for what they are – attempts to manipulate the media cycles with bogus tales.
The best response I’ve read to this comes from an article by David Roberts which appeared in the Huffington Post on February 28. There’s no way I can improve on the points Mr. Roberts laid out to explain why this attack on Al Gore is so wrong. I’ll simply quote them here. Roberts wrote:
- It's nice to see the conservative media taking the message of conservation and energy efficiency seriously. Hopefully they will hold their own leaders and readers to the same high standards.
- The Tennessee Tax Dept. does not consider the "Tennessee Center for Policy Research," which roughly no one had heard of before this, a legitimate group. It's run by a long-time right-wing attack hack, and its only registered address is a P.O. box. Why is everyone in the media taking what it says about Gore's electricity use at face value?
- Gore's electricity company has no record of being contacted about his bills.
- The "average" home electricity use quoted by TCPR is a national average that includes apartments and mobile homes. In Gore's climatic zone, the East South Central (Dept. of Energy PDF), the average is much higher, thanks to hot, humid summers and cold winters. Within that zone, Gore's usage is three (not 20) times average, and his per-square-foot usage is squarely average. (More here.)
- The Gores are not an average family. He's an ex-VP with special security arrangements, and has live-in security staff. He and his wife both work on their many business and charitable undertakings out of their house, so they have space for offices and office staff. All that would be tough to cram in an average size house.
- Gore buys the maximum allowable green electricity from the program offered by his utility.
- Most of the electricity in TN comes from hydro and nuclear, and so doesn't generate all that much CO2 anyway.
Again, congratulations to Al Gore. He’s shown us again and again what a loss it’s been for our country and the world that he hasn’t been our president for the past six years.