Tune in this weekend for a Fox News special report Power Politics: Energy and the Environment.
• Saturday, July 14 at 9 p.m. ET
• Sunday, July 15 at 11 p.m. ET
Are you an energy hog? Is America burning too many fossil fuels to feed your habit? The answer is yes, according to a handful of high-powered Hollywood celebrities.
Actor Robert Redford wants new regulations requiring more efficient cars and appliances. Barbra Streisand wants folks in California to use less air conditioning this summer and, whenever possible, to avoid using hot water and automatic dryers when doing the laundry.
Do Robert and Barbra have a point?
Well, they may. But talking about an energy diet is easier than living on one.
Redford hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival, which attracts 20,000 visitors from around the world to Park City, Utah. Even if all those guests only traveled from as far as Los Angeles, and they all flew coach on full 737 flights, they would burn more than 300,000 gallons of fuel to attend Redford's big event. Sundance also just opened a new digital production facility, which will certainly be munching its share of kilowatt hours. And by the way, Sundance is sponsored by an automobile manufacturer, a power company and several electronics firms.
The irony gets even better. Guess which power company is helping bankroll Redford's budding independent film empire? Try Enron, that notorious Texas energy firm targeted by California pols as one of the chief villains in the rolling blackouts.
Streisand would do well to review her own conservation habits too. For just one of her concerts at L.A.'s Staples Center, the arena likely consumes close to 40,000 kilowatt hours of electricity on show day, based on an energy audit of a similar building. When compared with the energy consumption of the average home in California, Barbra's Staples Center blow-out probably consumed enough electricity to light every home in California's Alpine County that day.
Perhaps Streisand and Redford should be the ones taking advice from their fellow citizens.
"I would invite Robert Redford to come live my life for one week," said Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer, mother of five and president of the Independent Women's Forum. "Just to have him do my laundry for a week would really, I think, be an eye-opener," she added with a chuckle.
Pfotenhauer, who served as an economist in the first Bush administration and later worked in the energy industry, believes that our high-kilowatt economy liberates women to spend more time on family and career, and less time doing chores.
"I don't know what I would do if there wasn't a microwave in my life," she said.
And how about Streisand's advice on washing clothes? She may actually be ahead of her time. In a Fox News interview, Ralph Nader said: "Do you have any idea how many wonderful backyards there are in American homes, that have clotheslines that could dry the clothes instead of putting them in the cellar, in the laundry room with an automatic dryer? It even feels better when you bring the clothes back from the backyard!"
Pfotenhauer isn't so hot on this idea. "My polite response would be that Mr. Nader obviously hasn't done a lot of laundry recently, and that he's probably not talking to a lot of women who actually do their own wash."
Celebrity advice on conservation doesn't seem to be winning over the Bush administration either.
I asked Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham for his take on the Redford energy plan, which stresses conservation and alternative energy instead of more fossil-fuel and nuclear power consumption.
"It's an approach that prevailed in California, where obviously [Redford's] been – at least professionally – very active," Abraham said. "In California, they've achieved the second highest level of conservation in the country. The role that renewable and alternative energy plays, in terms of electricity generation in California, is I think the highest in the country, and yet they're the one part of the country facing blackouts because of energy shortages. We cannot simply conserve and we cannot simply 'renewable energy' our way out of the challenge we have today."
Just as Hollywood is calling for more conservation of energy, the argument for more consumption may be stronger than ever.
Today's new power plants are cleaner and greener than their predecessors. In fact, emissions of major air pollutants have actually been dropping in recent decades even as the size of our economy has more than doubled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And we're more efficient than ever in our use of energy. Since 1973, we've grown our economy by more than 125 percent, but we've only increased our energy consumption by 30 percent.
What's more, there's ample evidence that increased energy consumption makes us richer, healthier and longer lived.
Even the energy that Robert and Barbra spend creating entertainment products probably isn't wasted. They're stars in a great world-leading, wealth-creating American enterprise, and may even make a few people happy with their movies and music. In fact, maybe we would all be better off if they stuck to movies and music instead of lectures.
Power Politics appears Saturday at 9 p.m. ET and Sunday at 11 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel.