Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Al Gore's posh home in the Nashville suburbs might be "carbon neutral," but it still uses a lot of power.
So much that last August Tipper and Al Gore used twice as much electricity in their two-building property as an average U.S. household uses in an entire year, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a think tank, reported Tuesday.
Public power and gas bills turned up by the group show that the man behind the Oscar-winning global warming wakeup documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," uses much more overall carbon-based fuel than the average American, spending thousands of dollars a month on electricity and gas.
"As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use," Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson said in a statement. The center says on its Web site that it "promotes personal freedom and limited government."
Kalee Kreider, Gore's spokeswoman, doesn't dispute the numbers the report is based on but says the numbers need a little context.
"You can't just look at a month's utility bills, or a year's utility bills and understand a man's life," she told FOXNews.com in a phone interview.
She also said that Gore's message is consistent with his lifestyle. He has said that families and organizations are going to use different amounts of energy, and they should first determine their carbon footprint — the overall energy usage in terms of carbon emissions — and do their best to reduce it.
The think tank report cited figures from the Nashville Electric Service that showed Gore burned through 22,619 kilowatt-hours of electricity at his house last August, a rate that is twice the level used by an average U.S. household in an entire year.
Click here to read the research center's press release on the report.
On Sunday, Gore's global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar. The movie has won accolades from a wide berth of groups, including many in Hollywood. In the film, Gore calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.
Using Gore's fresh win as a backdrop, the new report said Gore's energy consumption jumped by about 14 percent in a year. The Gore household averaged 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, and 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.
The report also said that the Gores' natural gas bills for his mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.
The Gores' home "carbon neutral," Kreider said, meaning that the overall household use of carbon-based energy, like coal-fired power plants and natural gas, is offset either by more fuel-efficient technology or through programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas-producing energy.
The report describes the Gores' home as a mansion, but Kreider refers to it as a "residence." She did not immediately know how many rooms the residence had, but described the second building on the property as a swimming pool house, adjacent to an outdoor pool.
Kreider said the 60- to 70-year-old house is undergoing renovations to add solar panels to reduce consumption off the power grid, and energy-efficient windows have been installed. The home also uses "compact" fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-saving technology, the Gores drive hybrids and participate in two programs that indirectly reduce carbon emissions.
One is through the local power company — the massive Tennessee Valley Authority — which runs the Green Power Switch program that uses some renewable energy like wind and solar power. The second is through a so-called carbon credit program, in which the Gores pay money to invest in a third party to reduce one ton of carbon emissions for every ton of carbon the Gores emit.
Asked to explain how the Gores use the amount of electricity they do, Kreider said they have a large family and often host guests. Both Al and Tipper Gore also have home offices. And she noted that much of Al Gore's time is spent trying to bring about awareness to the problem of global warming, which as a byproduct uses carbon-emitting power.
She noted that Gore's two companies, Current TV and Generation Investment Management — which supported the documentary film and book efforts — donated profits to global warming educational efforts.
Looking beyond the monthly bills, Kreider said, "I think you'd see, obviously, a pretty clear pattern here of trying to devote a substantial amount of time to his effort of trying to solve this problem" of global warming.