Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth?

Trust the right-wing nutjobs to rack up an issue where none exists. On the heels of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth winning couple of Oscars, a clearly dubious policy research organization, Tennessee Center for Policy Research (sorry, no link love) dug up Al Gore’s utility bills [via email from Niket]. In their role as an allegedly ‘independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan research organization’, they tout exposing Gore’s hypocrisy for consuming “22,619 kWh — guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year.” Of course, a cursory look at their website reminds us of the now infamous Swift Boat for Veterans hit job on John Kerry and TCPR are clearly not independent let alone nonpartisan. In fact, Gore responded to the allegation and suggested that he buys carbon offsets in his attempt to reduce his ecological footprint, which undoubtedly is larger than any of us thanks to his globe-trotting talks on global warming. But is he a hypocrite?

Frankly, he is as much as a hypocrite as Bush is for not sending his currently unemployed daughters to Iraq. The latter implications is absurd and even Bush’s harshest critics will admit it. Not so with the global warming skeptics. Any chink in the armor they find in supporters of global warming, which is basically everyone with a basic understanding of science, they’ll use it to further their cause of denial. As Amanda Marcotte succinctly puts it:

After years of being fed a steady diet of propaganda that says that everything from regulation on polluters to diplomacy is some sort of strike against freedom while also being asked to support a series of pointless laws meant to restrict pot smoking and birth control, wingnuts have grown accustomed to believing that the only legitimate government restraints on liberties are those that strike at behaviors that are suspect only because they bring pleasure to the unwashed masses. As such, they view the necessary restrictions on carbon use as some sort of moral crusade against sins they personally like to indulge and so they grasp at the “hypocrite” slander, as if that meant something.

Exactly! So aren’t the right wingnuts also subject to hypocrisy too? And if this latest charge has political undertones, I fail to see them. Gore isn’t running for office or even openly supporting those who are. This is a classic case of refusal to change old habits or to cling on to obsolete ideas or technologies that have been proven to harm everyone on this planet.

Also looking at the bigger picture, has proving Al Gore’s hypocrisy reduced the threat of global warming? Or even disproved it? I bet not. Al Gore himself admits that mere individual effort is not enough to reverse global warming although collective actions of individuals might make a dent. He largely implores big government, which unfortunately is a reality today, to make policy changes to further the fight against global warming. Such changes does not necessarily mean forcing everyone to buy a Prius but in fact shifting priorities from emphasizing use of fossil fuels to using renewable non-pollution energy. A slight change in percentages in subsidies that the government regularly doles out can have a profound impact.

The entire smear campaign is trying to get rid of the guilt and pass the buck. As Amanda says, “Calling Al Gore a hypocrite and deciding this excuses your SUV-driving doesn’t change the facts; the planet will still fry even as your conscience is clear because you called Gore a hypocrite. Even if Al Gore were the highest carbon emitter on the planet, this would not change the truth about global warming one bit.” Many are also touting Bush’s green Crawford Ranch and claiming that he is more green than Al Gore. Well, in that case, why doesn’t Bush talk his walk? And definitely Bush can be even more ‘greener’ by talking about the green technologies he uses on his ranch. But he chooses not to. Why? Because it would be hypocritical?

Once again, the global warming issue is beyond what Al Gore chooses to do. He is simply a face to the movement that people tend to identify easily with. If the right wingnuts can attack Michael J. Fox for supporting the cause for a Parkinsons disease, then I guess I cannot expect any better from them. I guess, the attempt to find dirt on Obama hasn’t turned up anything so they are choosing to attack individuals who aren’t even running. I feel sorry for them.

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  • BongoP’o’ndit

    Wingnuts are desperate – get ready to find more non-issues being highlighted to obfuscate the real ones.

    Also check this and this if you havent already. The latter is a brilliant smackdown on Rice’s recent comments by Olberman.

  • Niket

    The problem is that in the American right, the fringe elements have gotten much more of a central stage. 10 years back, we would call them nuts. But now, Ann “kill-ragheads-bomb-NYTimes” Coulter, Michelle “Internment” Malkin, Glenn “assassinate-Iranian-nuke-scientists” Reynolds, and others are somehow the mainstream.

  • confused

    Hmm. Okay. Here is my question.

    Unless there is evidence that global warming is going affect me, why do you think I should be inclined to pay for it when people who are making so much noise over it are not-not unless everyone pays!

    In other words, why do you think I should pay for your concern?

  • Prasenjeet

    I don’t think much rational discussion can come out of a blog post ranting about rightwing nutjobs (or liberal moonbats, etc) but here’s my take on this.
    First, coming from the Neal Stephenson/Diamond Age school of thought, I don’t think hypocrisy is a problem as such: it’s quite possible for someone to have different ideals and actions (as Stephenson said, it might be a “spirit is willing but flesh is weak” sort of thing). The problem arises when you consider Al Gore’s consumption levels and project them into the general population. What happens if everyone in America lives the way he does? everyone in the world?
    You say “Al Gore himself admits that mere individual effort is not enough to reverse global warming although collective actions of individuals might make a dent,” but that’s not what we usually hear. The usual message is “Yes! You can make a difference!” followed by plenty of guilt-inducement and “repent the end is nigh”.
    For example, the Mayor of London’s office is quoted as saying households contribute to 38% of all emissions. And motorists (particularly in London, but other British cities are raring to follow in London’s footsteps) are shamed into switching to woefully inadequate (and risky from a security PoV) public transport systems. So is it that the plebians are supposed to make sacrifices so that the rich can live well? (You should see how many MPs use public transport in this country.)
    At this point Gore, by being the poster boy for a lot of green pressure groups, is getting his comeuppance and frankly I can’t complain — people who hide behind a holier-than-thou facade (be it religious fanatics or greens) deserves whatever bad press they get.
    Also, your ad-hominem attacks on the organisation that outed Gore doesn’t change the fact that Gore consumes a lot more energy than the average American (who in turn consume far more than much of the world). In Gore’s specific case he said he’s doing ALL he can to reduce his carbon footprint. Really? all? Does he really need a McMansion-class house? Could he not travel using public transport and lead by example? (of course, if he was actually that inspirational, he’d be President by now)
    Finally his excuse — that he’s buying carbon offsets — rings hollow. Anyone with the faintest idea of how carbon offsets work in practice knows that trees don’t grow on demand.
    I have to say this entire affair reminds me of Arundhati Roy’s house on protected forest land. Again, hypocrisy isn’t the problem, a missing sense of equity is — the sense that’d tell carbon-thumpers that other people want to have as good a life as they do.
    –Prasenjeet (who has a much lower carbon footprint than Gore, thankyouverymuch)

  • Patrix

    Bongo, thanks for those links. They were great! And know what surprises me…it is not even close to election time and the attacks are already beginning. But pray why Gore?

    , I guess the squeaky wheel gets the oil in today’s news-hungry media. Can’t help it, its happening everywhere.

    Confused, you just laid down the omnipresent issue of tragedy of commons. Of course, it is free will. If you believe in it completely, you shouldn’t be faulting Gore at all irrespective of what he chooses to tell others.

    Prasanjeet, First of all about the comments being eaten up. More than two links in comment will land it in a moderation queue.

    Anyway, admittedly Gore may be consuming far more energy than an average American but then he isn’t your average American. I bet he consumes just as much power as any person of his status would. Probably Bill Gates multi-million dollar hi-tech home would rank right up there. But then let us not get into the petty game of dictating how an individual should live his or her life. I bet you that his big ass carbon footprint is largely influenced by his frequent air travel. But then again, he couldn’t take public transport to travel around the world, could he?

    If carbon offsets are grudgingly accepted as a solution by industries, I see no problem in Gore using them as well but as you said, they aren’t useful in the long run.

    As far as my ‘ad-hominem attack’ on an ‘organization’ is concerned, I have no respect for clearly partisan and biased groups who spring up overnight with nothing constructive to offer so I stand by what I said about them.

  • BongoP’o’ndit

    err…. just stopped in to say that I dont care for the new theme…fonts are too small (especially those in blockquote)

    Will be back later to take up certain issues with Prasenjeet…

  • gawker

    I have a 1000 sq foot apt and it costs me 150 bucks a month to heat it. Gore has a 10,000 sq foot house. Why is it surprising that his electricity bill would be ten times mine? (its actually less than it should be) Just goes to prove that Americans really need to introduce the study of mathematics in school.

  • gawker

    confused : Your argument sounds like you’re asking why you should bother not throwing your garbage into your neighbour’s garden since your neighbour’s concern does not affect you.

  • sqrlta

    of course unrelated, but ur blog looks good now. :)

  • Elaichi chai

    I’m surprised with the rigidity with which you dismiss global warming skeptics. I am a definite agnostic when it comes to global warming – and I believe I do have a ‘a basic understanding of science’.

    Amazes me that you dont show the same receptivity to global warming skepticism as to almost anything else that you blog about.

    Anyways, this post isn’t about me challenging global warming or asking you to convince me otherwise. I just feel you’re somewhat emotional to this issue. Maybe thats what prevents you from even considering other points of view.

    Elaichi chai

  • Patrix

    Bongo, Trying out a clean look, re. Of course, tinkering with the stylesheet will continue. Looking forward to your thoughts on Prasanjeet’s comment which I believe are worth discussing about.

    , right. I’ll try to explore the issue of public interest sometime.

    Sqrl, thanks :) at least one vote in favor.

    Elaichi Chai, well, considering how much of their protest is rooted in ideology and short-term economic gain, my dismissal of their skepticism is at best mild. I mean no personal comments on your beliefs coz I don’t know them entirely yet. I would accord them the same respect that I accord intelligent design believers.

    Yup, I admit being emotional because I can’t stand repudiation of valid scientific facts by irrational denial.

  • BongoP’o’ndit

    Ok let me start by saying that I am a former global warming skeptic, and currently of the fence, but the arguments are looking more convincing by the day.

    However, I do believe that

    (a) there is nothing wrong in being careful with resources and not wasting more energy than is absolutely necessary. I believe that many of the energy savings technologies that global warming proponents are advocating might require a higher initial capital, but will make economic sense in the future.

    (b) I hate being preached at and do not like the holier than thou attitude of many global warming advocates. Personally I am also not a huge fan of Al Gore and did not appreciate the sudden mushiness of the Oscar organizers in declaring themselves green or the ‘Gore is God’ attitude that seemed to prevail.

    Having said all that, I find the smear campaign launched at him over a non-issue and started by a fly-by-night partisan fringe group (and then picked up gleefully by Faux News) absolutely sickening. Prasenjeet calling Patrix’s post an ad-hominem attack is ironic since that is exactly what the right-wing is indulging in here.
    Calling Gore a hypocrite for energy usage is like calling Bush a hypocrite since he refuses to go into Irag to fight himself (or send his children!).

    Regarding Gore’s electricity consumption: Gore’s mansion not only houses his family – but also his and his wife’s offices (therefore he s not commuting at all) as well as security guards that are mandated by American laws. Therefore his bill is supposed to be higher. Secondly, Gore actually pays extra for ‘green power’ such as solar or other renewable energies.

  • Ashutosh

    The trend is interesting; whether it’s Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, or Al Gore, in the last year or two, people have turned to making ad hominem attacks because they cannot really refute the points. Sad indeed (though hardly clever; everyone knows this now). Can’t find fault with the pudding? Blame the cook’s character! Ridiculous.

  • Ashutosh

    According to the right wingers then, Al Gore has absolutely no right to say or do anything until he starts living like the poorest of poor Americans. Nice.
    In fact, these days, I think these ad hominem attacks serve a classic straw man purpose; blame Al Gore and his lifestyle to somehow undermine global warming itself. Sorry, but many of us are not that dumb…

  • Santosh

    80% of right wingers dont even think global warming is a problem. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, the left wingers are crying that the world will end tomorrow (not in those words but still). I think the Inconvenient Truth is somewhere in between and our children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences of our opulent life style. I had a post a few days back on a congressional poll which showed the major differences in ideologies between the two parties when it came to environment.

  • Santosh

    Btw, your spam filter sux :-)

  • Patrix

    Bongo, I echo most of your thoughts and share your sentiments on global warming opinions.

    , I hear ya! And most of these people often preach, hate the sin and not the sinner. Twisted analogy but I think it can fit.

    , you’re right. After all, it is a difference in ideology that dictates their opinion. I bet the ‘global warming’ scientists wouldn’t have any problem in looking at countering facts or data.

    And I know, the spam filter sucks. Since I haven’t messed with the filter per se and have only changed the theme, I’m wondering what am I doing wrong here. Until then, I’ve to check my spam folder regularly and ‘rescue’ your comments :)

  • confused

    Your argument sounds like you’re asking why you should bother not throwing your garbage into your neighbour’s garden since your neighbour’s concern does not affect you.


    Not really, because in that case the neighbor would throw his garbage right in my (hypothetical) garden.

    As far this issue goes, I echo most of what Bongo has already said above, I certainly believe that global warming is a problem but solution to is hugely complex. For example, your basic maths won’t appeal too much to a poor Indian or Chinese who is being asked to make sacrifices. He will certainly point to choices a lot of Americans are making and refuse those sacrifices and I would be the last person to blame him.

    Finally, I am not calling Al Gore a hypocrite merely on the basis of his electricity bill, as you said it might be simply due to the fact that he lives in a much bigger house. However, if I was to find that Al Gore was still using old incandescent bulbs, I would be very much inclined to call him one for if you are not prepared to show your concern even by small gestures, then certainly something is wrong.

  • Steve

    There are no amount of fancy words that can explain away the facts. Gore DOESNT practice what it is he preaches. This doesnt mean the message is wrong, it just means that Gore is a hypocrite. Buying back your own personal guilt by buying carbon offsets, doesnt do anything to take away from the fact that he used 20 TIMES the national average in electricity at his home. This power comes directly off the same powerlines that everybody in his commmunity uses. Buying carbon offsets doesnt illiminate his overall usage.

    Is Gore ready to CHANGE his lifestyle? How does he “offset” the carbon produced by his usage of private planes?

    Its so easy to tell everybody else how to live their lives, isnt it?

  • Patrix

    Steve, I find it ironic that you would use the line – “There are no amount of fancy words that can explain away the facts”. Let me say this one more time, 20 times the national average is an unfair comparison because first as a reader pointed out, his home not only doubles up as his office but also that of his wife. Second, he is not your average American. He uses private planes because it is the most efficient way to get around to spread the message of global warming. It can be considered hypocritical but unless, he can say “beam me up, Scotty” he has no other alternative.

    I bet he is trying to implement energy saving measures in his home so at least that is more than what an average American would do. On the issue of carbon offsets, I don’t see any ruckus raised on such incentives given to industries. So I guess we have come to terms with the fact that it is a legitimate and acceptable but nevertheless stop-gap solution. So singling out Gore alone isn’t making your case stronger.

    Lastly, I don’t understand why any American would like to be told how to live their lives and even though Gore does that, I bet his words are mere suggestions.

  • Desi Right Wing Nut

    As a rightwingnut myself I think the attacks on Al Gore stem from these points:

    1. While global warming is measurable, the jury is out on human contribution.
    2. The exaggerations in Gore’s documentatry are ridiculous. This is not matched by reality.
    3. Al Gore buys Carbon offsets from a company that he partly owns.
    4. Environmentalism on the whole has started looking like a religion now. Not that there is anything wrong with religion. Watching out for the environment is a good thing. But then using dogma and guilt as opposed to rationality and science to control mass behavior is one of the downsides of religion.

  • Patrix

    Desi Right Wing Nut,

    1. While global warming is measurable, the jury is out on human contribution.

    No it is not. Almost all scientists believe that humans are a causal factor. The media chooses to spin its own story though.

    2. The exaggerations in Gore’s documentatry are ridiculous. This is not matched by reality.

    I didn’t see any major exaggerations. All climatic events the movie shows have already happened. His predictions are merely based on those events.

    3. Al Gore buys Carbon offsets from a company that he partly owns.

    Don’t know about that but I don’t think it’s illegal as other individuals or corporations might be doing so too. At best, it might be a loophole that needs fixing. How does that pertain to this debate, I don’t know.

    4. But then using dogma and guilt as opposed to rationality and science to control mass behavior is one of the downsides of religion.

    Surprising (and ironic) that those who oppose global warming would accuse environmentalists of using dogma and guilt.

  • desi right wing nut

    Response to your response.

    1. Key word – “believe”. Not “know”. Not “have proven”. But “believe”. As in “believe in Santa Claus”

    2. Check out

    3. It is not illegal to make money. Nothing wrong with being rich. He is entitled to his larger than average house and greater than average carbon footprint.
    However it is disingenuous to make propaganda movies – and drum up support for legislating “carbon caps” and then be in the business of selling “carbon offsets”

    4. What is surprising and what is ironic?
    Stay with me here. The question is not global warming. The question is *anthropogenic* global warming.
    I do not subscribe to the story of anthropogenic global warming. Similar to how I do not subscribe the story that Noah’s ark had dinosaurs on it. Or in the Noah’s ark to begin with.

    Do not assume that everyone that disbelieves the anthropogenic theory is a bible-thumper. You have one exception right here.

    In any case, the whole reason I ended up on your blog was because I generally googling for information on sites showing the worldcup matches. Your post was great. Thanks much for it.

    And for the record I like liberal moonbats. They keep us right wing nut jobs from falling off the edge.

    Take care.
    Go Team India!

  • Patrix

    Desi Right Wing Nut,

    When scientists say they believe in something, they are usually backed up by facts.

    It is easy to label Gore’s movie as propaganda but it is ironic(again) that those who do are doing exactly that. Give me a link to a peer-reviewed article that counters his claims. The main grouse of the opponents is that we aren’t causing global warming or as you put it, ‘anthropogenic’ global warming. How much exactly is as good as predicting rainfall for next month.

    I cannot change your views if you have decided not to believe. So I guess, I’ll leave to enjoy my cricket links. I’ll have more when the World Cup begins.

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