Reports on criticism of Gore omitted steps he reportedly took to reduce "carbon footprint"
Research ››› ››› BRIAN LEVY
Coverage by several media outlets of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research's (TCPR) criticism of former Vice President Al Gore's home energy bills omitted some or all of the steps that Gore has reportedly taken to reduce the effect of his home energy usage. These steps were reported by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, CNN financial correspondent Ali Velshi, and a February 27 article in The Tennessean of Nashville. On the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann said that TCPR's criticism "omits" that Gore's home includes "home offices for himself and his wife, as well as a guest house and special security measures," and that the Gores' use of "renewable sources" from the "Green Power Switch" program "actually costs more for the Gores." Olbermann further reported that, according to Green Power Switch, "some smaller homes consume energy in the same range of usage as does the one on the Gores' property." On the February 27 edition of CNN's American Morning, Velshi also noted that Gore's purchase of "green power" increased Gore's utility costs.
Gore purchased 108 blocks of "green power" for each of the past three months, according to a summary of the bills.
That's a total of $432 a month Gore paid extra for solar or other renewable energy sources.
The weblog Think Progress also reported that Gore's office said "Gore's family ... sign[ed] up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch" and "purchas[ed] carbon offsets to offset the family's carbon footprint."
Additionally, a February 27 Associated Press article, questioned TCPR's assertion that the Gores used more than 220,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006. The AP reported that "according to bills [it] reviewed," "[t]he Gores used about 191,000 kilowatt hours in 2006," while TCPR "said that Gore used nearly 221,000 kilowatt hours." The AP reported that TCPR president Jason "Drew" Johnson "said his group got its figures from Nashville Electric Service. But company spokeswoman Laurie Parker said the utility never received a request from the policy center and never gave it any information."
In contrast, a CNN report on Lou Dobbs Tonight that aired several hours after Velshi's report, as well as reports by Fox News, MSNBC, CNN Headline News, the Los Angeles Times, and National Public Radio, as well as a New York Post editorial and an editorial and a separate column in The Washington Times, omitted some or all of the actions reportedly taken by the Gores; none of them raised the question in the AP report about the accuracy of TCPR's figures, including several that aired or were published after the AP article:
- On the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson said he was judging Gore by "the rules [Gore] set out" and asked Competitive Enterprise Institute president Fred L. Smith Jr. if Gore was "living like a king, at the expense of our planet? Am I missing something?" Carlson noted the "quote, 'offsets' " as Gore's "defen[se]" of what Carlson called "quite a big carbon footprint," but agreed with Smith that such "offsets" are like "indulgences" from "the Middle Ages."
- On the February 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, guest host Kitty Pilgrim noted that TCPR "says that Gore's own home uses 20 times the national average for power." Radio host Joe Madison argued that "put[ting on] solar panels" is "a good flip-flop." Radio host Mark Simone claimed that Gore was only installing panels " 'cause he got caught."
- On the February 27 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, host Glenn Beck asserted that Gore "has a huge carbon footprint" and said that the "the Gores paid almost $30,000 in gas and electric in 2006." Beck did not report any of Gore's reported efforts.
- On the February 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity asked actor Ed Begley Jr. if Begley had the "the courage to say, when [Gore] travels around in private jets, when [Gore's] using this type of energy, 20 times the national average, that [Gore's] a hypocrite?" Hannity added that Gore's energy use "is pure, Class A hypocritical living." In response, co-host Alan Colmes noted the Gores' use of "green power."
- The February 28 Washington Times "Inside Politics" column reported part of a February 26 ABCNews.com article noting TCPR's criticism of "environmental hypocrisy." While the ABCNews.com article quoted Gore's spokeswoman saying that the Gores "purchas[ed] their power through the local Green Power Switch program," the Times quoted a Gore spokeswoman saying only that the Gores work out of their home and that all that "Vice President Gore has asked is for families to calculate that footprint and take steps to reduce and offset it."
- A February 28 Washington Times editorial not only asserted that "Gore apparently thinks he should be exempted personally from his own carbon morality," but added a falsehood about Gore, as well, stating that Gore was "busy inventing the Internet." As Media Matters for America noted, the assertion that Gore claimed to "invent the Internet" has been thoroughly debunked.
- A February 28 Los Angeles Times article noted the Gores' energy costs and that Gore "invests in renewable energy." It did not explain that the investment raised the family's energy costs, nor did it note the other steps the Gores are reportedly taking.
- On the February 28 edition of NPR's All Things Considered, host Melissa Block reported that Gore's office "said the Gore family does a lot to reduce its carbon imprint, such as making renovations that include solar panels and purchasing carbon offsets" but did not note the Gores' other reported efforts.
- In a March 1 New York Post editorial, the Post asserted that Gore's "carbon footprint" is "[p]retty hefty" and that because of the Gores' energy use, "the carbon footprint -- the amount of greenhouse gas generated to keep Gore in kilowatts -- grow[s]." However, the Post later noted that "[a] spokeswoman for Gore ... insisted the former Second Family purchases enough energy from renewable sources to offset their sizable carbon footprint," to which the Post added: "No doubt."
From 7 a.m. ET hour of the February 27 edition of CNN's American Morning:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN (co-host): Al Gore is firing back this morning, on critics who say that he is not practicing what he was preaching in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The day after Gore took home an Oscar for that movie, critics are charging that Gore's mansion in Nashville devours over 20 times the national average in kilowatt-hours. The average electric bill is 1,200 bucks a month! A thousand dollars a month for the gas bill.
Spokeswoman says that Al Gore told -- rather a spokeswoman for Al Gore told CNN that the Gores make up for all of that. "The Gores purchase," she said, "all their power through the local Green Power Switch program. It's 100 percent renewable power and they are in the midst of a renovation, which includes installing solar-powered panels on their home, which will enable them to use less power."
VELSHI: And we've been reporting this morning that Al Gore's big house is partially green. Gore produced bills that showed that he purchased 108 blocks of green power for each of the past 3 months. It's worth about 432 bucks a month extra that he paid for to use solar or other energy sources coming into his house.
One group says that that's about the equivalent of recycling two and a half million aluminum cans, or more than a quarter million pounds of newspapers. So, it might be a trend that folks want to take advantage of, Soledad.
From the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: Al Gore has never lived in the White House, at least not yet, but he's got some pretty nice digs anyway. His family home in the Nashville area sprawls for 10,000 square feet, and according to the Nashville Tennessean, it costs the Gores about 1,200 bucks a month in electricity. That's quite a big carbon footprint, needless to say. Well, Gore defends his prodigious energy consumption with the fact that Mr. Gore pays for, quote, "offsets," which fund the production of renewable energy, like solar power. Here to discuss the meaning of this story is the president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Fred Smith. Fred, welcome.
SMITH: Hi, Tucker. We're back to the Middle Ages in indulgences, aren't we?
CARLSON: Yeah, I mean, here -- here's the thing. I don't typically go into how people live their private lives. I like to keep that -- kind of out of politics, but the nature of this global warming debate is almost by definition personal. The idea is -- and Gore said it out loud the other day. He said, "It's not political. It's moral." The way you behave in your off-hours, your private life at home, could determine the future of the Earth. So, the personal is political, according to the rules he set out, and so I think it's very relevant that this guy is living like a king, at the expense of our planet. Am I missing something?
SMITH: No, you're not. And, in fact, if he stayed at home, he'd actually use even less energy. Flying around the world in jet travel is not exactly what you would call a green lifestyle. But remember, as you point out in your beginning, he is now expiating for his evil consumptive ways by buying indulgences.
From the February 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
PILGRIM: Let's -- let's move on to another personality in this whole issue: Hollywood and Al Gore. They just loved each other, and it was a very, very interesting night.
But today, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research says that Gore's own home uses 20 times the national average for power. This is after collecting an Oscar for his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.
JOE MADISON (talk show radio host): Yeah, and I drove over here in an Escalade that you guys had pick me up.
And, you know, somebody said, well, he's flip-flopping, because he's now going to put solar panels on. Well, this is a good flip-flop. I'm glad he's going to do that, but, come on, we can all be hypocrites, too.
PETER BOYLES (radio host): Do you remember --
SIMONE: He's doing it because he got caught.
MADISON: Now, it wasn't my Escalade, by the way.
BOYLES: But you remember -- you remember, during the big debates on civil rights and the debates on bussing, and then they found that most of these people who are voting on bussing, oh, yeah, let's -- they have their children in private schools. And hypocrisy, in politicians, well, there's something brand new.
SIMONE: Here's the new term. This is what our listeners are calling it: Gulfstream liberals. They used to have limousine liberals. These guys that fly around in private jets and preach that you shouldn't waste gas are Gulfstream liberals.
You know what's interesting, the president of the United States put in solar power, thermal heating in the White House a few years ago. His ranch in Texas -- completely green: solar power, thermal heating. That truck he drives around in is hydrogen, so -- and he never -- he never gets any credit for that.
MADISON: Well, let's give Gore a little credit for -- because at least he said, "I'll change it. I will put solar power."
SIMONE: He got caught!
MADISON: And I think give him credit for -- well, fine, but you know, Bush got caught and he's still in Iraq.
From the February 27 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK [video clip]: Al Gore, what a fraud. I may have a bigger carbon footprint than Al Gore. I'm not sure. I want to see my carbon footprint. And if it's not big enough, I'm going to expand it.
I'm going to go out and smoke coal cigarettes today, just to piss Al Gore off. But I'll show you his carbon footprint, and it will astound you, how a guy who's telling me to use a fluorescent light bulb has a huge carbon footprint.
BECK: Now, turns out that Al Gore is a big hypocrite on this, according to, at least, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. His 20-room house, pool house devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006. I don't know how many I really spent until this morning. I looked it up. That's more than 20 times the national average. Gore's average monthly electric bill was about $1,300. That means that the Gores paid almost $30,000 in gas and electric in 2006.
Well, lucky for Al Gore, his Oscar goody bag included 100,000 free pounds of greenhouse gas reductions from TerraPass. The press release says that this is enough to balance out the average year in the life of an Academy Award presenter. For example, 100,000 pounds is the total amount of carbon dioxide created by 20,000 miles of driving, 40,000 miles on a commercial airline, and 20 hours in a private jet, and a large house in Los Angeles.
From the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: So, is our third story tonight outrageous hypocrisy, a minor embarrassment, or a demonstration of a different kind of windpower? First, that allegedly nonpartisan think tank, which just happens to have gotten its story picked up by the notorious Drudge Report today, is called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. Twenty-seven-year-old President Jason "Drew" Johnson, hailing from the same American Enterprise Institute that takes money from big oil, cheerleads the war in Iraq, and consistently -- and now to pretty consistent laughter -- downplays global warming.
That said, even a partisan think tank can get the facts straight. So, the facts: last year, Gore's Tennessee property consumed almost 221,000 kilowatt-hours, 20 times the national average. It cost him more than $16,300. But Johnson's press release, calling on Gore to walk the walk when it comes to home energy use, omits several other key facts. The former vice president's home has 20 rooms, including home offices for himself and his wife, as well as a guest house and special security measures.
Furthermore, the Gores buy energy produced from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Tonight, Countdown confirmed with the local utility officials that their program, called the Green Power Switch, actually costs more for the Gores -- four dollars for every 150 kilowatt hours. Meaning, by our calculations, our math here, that the Gores actually chose to increase their electric bill by $5,893, more than 50 percent, in order to minimize carbon pollution.
The utility is also telling us that some smaller homes consume energy in the same range of usage as does the one on the Gores' property.
From the February 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Seems the truth keeps getting more inconvenient for former Vice President Al Gore. A new report from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research shows that the Gore household consumes at least 20 times more energy than the national average.
The report flies in the face of Gore's message about the need to reduce energy emissions, and it also questions whether the former vice president and his legion of Hollywood stars are legitimately leading by example.
HANNITY: If Al Gore is going to carry this message, doesn't he need to walk the walk? And do you have the courage to say, when he travels around in private jets, when he's using this type of energy 20 times the national average, that he's a hypocrite?
HANNITY: He needs those three or four homes, the eight bathrooms, the 20-room mansion. He needs the Gulfstream to live his life, because he's Al Gore. But the rest of us, we're going to get lectured by him about our SUV use? And you don't see that hypocrisy? That is pure, Class A hypocritical living. Why can't you just acknowledge that?
BEGLEY: I don't want to -- I'd like to learn more about the multiple homes. I'd like to learn more about this. I'd like to hear his response to all this before I comment. But I can I tell you it's possible to live very simply. I live on very little, and I take public transportation. I ride my --
HANNITY: I'm praising you. You're not a hypocrite, Ed. And I read you ride your bike to different Hollywood events, I read recently.
HANNITY: You know, but Al Gore -- for example, the average American home consumes 10,656 kilowatt hours. In just the month of August alone, he used twice the national average, and that's only one of his homes. And I'm just --
BEGLEY: I want to talk to --
HANNITY: Go ahead.
BEGLEY: I'd like to talk to him and see his response to this study before I comment on it. I will come back on and I'll give you a fair comment.
COLMES: Actually, I'll give you his response, Ed and Rachelle [Begley] and Drew. It's Alan Colmes. Drew, I don't think you're telling the whole story. Gore, for example, bought 108 blocks of green power feeds for the past three months. That's the equivalent, by the way, according to the National Electric Service, of 2.48 million aluminum cans. Did you collect -- I wonder if you collected that over the last few months.
JOHNSON: The question isn't whether I collected it --
COLMES: What's that?
JOHNSON: The question isn't, "Did I collect it?" I'm not going around telling people that they need to change the light bulbs in their house --
COLMES: But you're not telling the whole story about what Al Gore is doing. You're not acknowledging --
JOHNSON: No, the truth of the matter is --
COLMES: -- that he's doing carbon trade-offs and he's doing a number of things that he --
HANNITY: That's a joke.
COLMES: No, it's not a joke. He's actually -- you're not telling the whole story.
COLMES: By the way, he's purchasing all his power through a Green Power Switch program. It's 100 percent renewable power. Why aren't you telling that part of the story? All you're doing is attacking Al Gore.
JOHNSON: This power switch program -- he's been a member of this power switch program for three months.
From the February 28 Washington Times "Inside Politics" column:
Gore's utility bills
Back home in Tennessee, safely ensconced in his suburban Nashville home, former Vice President Al Gore is no doubt basking in the Oscar awarded to "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary he inspired and in which he starred. But a local free-market think tank is trying to make that very home emblematic of what it deems Mr. Gore's environmental hypocrisy, ABC News reports.
Armed with Mr. Gore's utility bills for the past two years, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research charged Monday that the gas and electric bills for the former vice president's 20-room home and pool house devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours last year, more than 20 times the national average of 10,656 kilowatt-hours.
"If this were any other person with $30,000-a-year in utility bills, I wouldn't care," says the center's 27-year-old president, Drew Johnson. "But he tells other people how to live, and he's not following his own rules."
Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for the Gores, did not dispute the center's figures, taken as they were from public records. But she pointed out that both Al and Tipper Gore work out of their home, and she argued that "the bottom line is that every family has a different carbon footprint. And what Vice President Gore has asked is for families to calculate that footprint and take steps to reduce and offset it."
From The Washington Times' February 28 editorial, "Al Gore's glass house":
How "inconvenient." Former Vice President Al Gore, preacher-in-chief of the carbon-footprint gospel, himself owns a mansion which burns through more electricity in a month than the average American family uses in a year. You didn't hear that Sunday night, of course. Mr. Gore's Oscar acceptance speech for "An Inconvenient Truth" instead claimed that climate change is a "moral issue." Mr. Gore apparently thinks he should be exempted personally from his own carbon morality.
Gas and electricity for Mr. Gore's 20-room Nashville manse cost nearly $30,000 last year, the free-market Tennessee Center for Policy Research reported in a post-Oscar release. Heating and powering the pool house alone cost Mr. Gore $544 a month. The estate's total 2006 power consumption was almost 221,000 kilowatt-hours. The average American household uses less than 11,000. But then, average folks weren't busy inventing the Internet.
From a February 28 Los Angeles Times article:
Noncommercial aircraft and other carbon-related indulgences have caused politicians considerable turbulence recently.
A conservative group has condemned Al Gore for racking up an average monthly electricity bill of $1,200 at his Nashville mansion last year while championing the anti-global warming cause. A Gore spokeswoman said the former vice president invests in renewable energy to offset his electricity use.
As part of an ethics push, the House and Senate are toughening restrictions on lawmakers who fly private jets, though exceptions for members and spouses who own planes are under consideration.
From the February 28 edition of NPR's All Things Considered:
MELISSA BLOCK: On Sunday night, when the movie An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar, its star, Al Gore, took the stage with this message about global warming.
GORE: People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started with the possible exception of the will to act, and that's a renewable resource. Let's renew it.
BLOCK: Not so fast, according to a press release from a group called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, which calls itself a libertarian think tank. The center called up the Nashville Electric Service and asked about the bills for the Gores' 10,000-square-foot home.
JAMES "DREW" JOHNSON: The average American uses about 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, but Al Gore devoured 221,000 kilowatt-hours.
BLOCK: That's Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
JOHNSON: It sort of raises the question, "Is he doing the sorts of thing that he's asking us to do?"
BLOCK: In last couple of days, the center's research has gotten a lot of attention. And in response, Al Gore's office said the Gore family does a lot to reduce its carbon imprint, such as making renovations that include solar panels and purchasing carbon offsets. But how do carbon offsets work? We asked Mark Trexler. He's president of Trexler Climate and Energy Services. That's a climate-change consulting firm.
From the March 1 New York Post editorial:
How big is Al Gore's carbon footprint?
Gore grabbed an Oscar Sunday night for his global-warming horror flick, "An Inconvenient Truth" - and took the opportunity to lecture America about its duty to Go Green and stay there.
Now a Tennessee think tank has revealed an inconvenient truth of its own -- about what Gore actually practices, as opposed to what he endlessly preaches.
The Tennessee Center for Policy Research, using public records, calculated the Gores' energy use for the past two years at their new 20-room, 10,000-square-foot home in suburban Nashville.
In all, the main house and the pool house used an average 18,414 kilowatt-hours (KWH) of power a month last year; that's 14 percent more the 16,200 monthly KWH they devoured in 2005.
Thus does the carbon footprint -- the amount of greenhouse gas generated to keep Gore in kilowatts -- grow.
Take your typical 800-square-foot, one-bedroom Manhattan pad: You could fit 12 1/2 of them inside the Gores' abode.
A spokeswoman for Gore didn't dispute the figures, but insisted the former Second Family purchases enough energy from renewable sources to offset their sizable carbon footprint.
But that's just another way of saying that the rich truly are different.
Gore, a Kyoto Protocol advocate, has enough socked away so he won't miss a meal should that treaty ever be adopted -- and wreck the U.S. economy.
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