Wednesday, February 28, 2007

And This Invalidates the Scientifc Data How?

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a conservative think tank, has called Al Gore a hypocrite for having high electrical consumption in his Nashville, Tennessee mansion.

The electrical bills in his home run about $1,200 a month. Granted, that's approximately 15 times my average monthly electric bill. But a few points:


  1. The Gores, like many people living in Tennessee, including my parents, probably heat their home with electricity-- it's cheap (see #4). This inflates the electrical consumption

  2. The Gores, as the article points out, have a home four times the average home.

  3. The Gores live a "carbon neutral" life-- last year they used 191,000 kwh of electricity, and purchased slightly more than that in blocks of "green shares."

  4. Tennessee gets the bulk of its electrical power from hydropower generated by the dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority-- a zero emission generator of electricity.


But most importantly:

5. All that aside, how the fuck does this invalidate volumes and volumes of scientific evidence pointing toward carbon emissions causing global warming?

I believe that we call this game "Kill the messenger."

20 comments:

Dale said...

You might enjoy this post by James Johnny.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's also called avoidance by distraction technique.

The critics will only be happy when the Gores are living in a yurt and only eating things that cast no shadow. It's not like he drives a Hummer. (Please tell me he doesn't drive a Hummer)

Ian said...

"how the fuck does this invalidate volumes and volumes of scientific evidence pointing toward carbon emissions causing global warming?"

And that is called a straw man. Nowhere have I read is anybody claiming the following:

1)Volumes of scientific evidence suggests that human carbon emissions are contributing to global warming.
2)Gore says the carbon emissions are causing global warming.
3)Gore is using way more electricity than the average household.
4)Therefore, the scientific evidence is wrong.

You've misrepresented the position. The position is is that he is a hypocrite encouraging others to tighten their belts while he enjoys a home that uses 12x as much electricity as mine does while only being 4x the size.

Maybe this is significant, maybe it isn't. But it certainly APPEARS as though he isn't leading from the front, doesn't it? And, as is the problem with most moralizing, when one doesn't APPEAR to practice what they preach, they are justly subject to charges of being a hypocrite.

vikkitikkitavi said...

The problem with scrutinizing the personal life of a public figure, and then extrapolating the information you glean into a judgement about their policies and causes, is that those doing so are rarely privy to the complete information, nor can they ever be.

The primary focus of Gore's environmental campaign is not that we must all meet strict standards of consumption, but that we must compel our government to take action to force itself, and to force industry, to change the methods of consumption.

Gore is riding high now, and rightly so. He has been doing something important with his life, a claim those assholes at the TCPR can't really make.

Natalie said...

You have to think of where this study is coming from. SOme people simply don't want to believe that global warming is happening so the go after the public figure most associated with global warming. If that is their mission, the facts are sure to be skewed.

deadspot said...

That would be zero-emission power courtesy of FDR. The New Deal continues to kick ass and take names.

Suck it, Republicans.

Johnny Yen said...

Dale-
Thanks!

Barbara-
Well put. I'm certain that if the Gores lived like monks, the same people would be finding a way to criticize that.

Ian-
So I guess the original concept, then, is a straw dog, isn't it?-- my question is still, why is it relevant how much electricity Al Gore uses?

Of course, you selectively quoted my post and the information from the article. I can also use some big words and phrases too, like "fatuous argument," and "spurious contention." You completely ignored the point of my post. And had none of your own-- I'm assuming, though, from your tone, that you don't believe global warming is an issue. I clicked back on your name and found no blog attached to it. It really is a lot easier, isn't it, to critique other peoples' statements than to make your own. You've got a great career as a barber or cabdriver.

Gore is not a moralist. Pointing out scientific facts does not make you a moralist. By your measure, the AMA, with dietary and lifestyle recommendations are moralists. Why Al Gore then? I guess I could do the same, but my position as an inner-city science teacher doesn't reach many ears. As a former Senator and Presidential candidate, Gore is going to garner more attention for his message.

And who gets to determine the lifestyle of whoever takes on a cause? Do I have to stop eating to fight starvation? Do I need to infect myself with HIV before I can fight the AIDS epidemic? Do I need a sex change to be for woman's rights? Do I have to have sex with men before I can be against homophobia? The fact of the matter is that Gore, me and most Americans aren't given much choice in how we live. I drive to work and drive my kids places because Chicago's once-great transit system was dismantled. This happened in many places-- in fact, GM bought them and shut them down to sell fossil-fueled buses and ultimately cars. Our rail system is a world-wide joke-- China's was better when I visited there. We've made a series of choices that will lead to catastrophe unless we stop them. It's as much moralizing as when my doctor told me to lose weight and reduce carbs in my diet because I was developing diabetes.

But then, my doctor is a little overweight. I guess that makes his message irrelevent, oh, excuse me, hypocritical.

Hypocritical or not, what, I still ask, was the point? There is still global warming. It's scientifically documented. Reporting it doesn't make you a moralist. It makes you a reporter.

Vikki-
I think they're jealous of the Oscar.

Ian said...

"I'm assuming, though, from your tone, that you don't believe global warming is an issue."

Bad assumption.

"And had none of your own--"

Yes, I did. Perhaps it was a little too nuanced for you to catch.

"It really is a lot easier, isn't it, to critique other peoples' statements than to make your own. You've got a great career as a barber or cabdriver."

Again, bad assumptions. Did you get a bit upset because I didn't parrot back what you wanted hear? How's this:

"Great post Dale! You are absolutely correct! Gore doesn't appear to be a hypocrite! And in any event, what does it matter if he is? The science is the science, right?"

Can I have my gold star now? Will you stop with the personal insults?

Sheesh. I should know better than to point out questionable logic in those that are so emotionally involved that any kind of dissent, even if it is not substantial, is viewed as traitorous to the cause. Remind you of anybody?

I'll leave you to your echo chamber.

Toccata said...

The fact is humans have put this world in the environmental peril it finds itself and only humans can turn that situation around. Doing nothing is not an option.

Johnny Yen said...

Just a couple of points:

1. You appear to be the one having a problem with me not rolling over to your obviously superior logic.
2. You seem to have no discernible point other than the "yes, buts..." as I call them-- "yes, but Al Gore's a hypocrite."

I guess you missed the part in my post where I reported that he, for various reasons, is not a hypocrite. And of course you choose to ignore the bigger point: that it doesn't matter. Roosevelt was rich and helped the poor. Lyndon Johnson was a racist, yet helped African-Americans. David Souter is a conservative, yet his vote a few years back kept legal abortion from being challenged. Mick Jagger's womanizing pig-- but I love his music. The list is endless. If moral purity is what is needed to create or to push for social change, then none of us would pass the test.

Echo said...

Johnny, just thought I'd add:

The Gores run two offices with staff out of their home and pay a higher ($4 per kwhr) rate to ensure that they are using recyclable energy sources. They are also currently involved in the process of converting to solar power. They drive hybrids and employ the use of CFLs.

The person leveling the charges against Gore is a man named Drew Johnson who works for AEI and represents the oil industry. So much for a non-partisan article....

Here's a link to MSNBC reporting on the topic. Hardly a hypocrite...

Holly said...

This morning on The View the conservative little blonde former Survivor TV star ignoramus blabbed about this subject and lambasted Gore for his acceptance of the Academy Award on account of the statue not being biodegradable. C'mon.

I'm still a big proponent of thinking globally and acting locally, as long as you have no real political power like 99.99999% of us.

It's sad that it costs more to be "green" in the short term. I look forward to the day when it costs more not to be.

James said...

Johnny, thanks for the comment and thanks Dale for the shout out! I smelled something rotten in Denmark as soon as this came out. Don't take the remarks of my good friend Ian too personally. One of his favorite hobbies is to take an indefensible position and then defend it. I think he likes the challenge, but sometimes he gets a little carried away.

I think you're absolutely right that this is a "shoot the messenger" type deal. If the public believes that Al Gore is a hypocritical energy waster then they will be less likely to see An Inconvenient Truth II and it becomes much more easier to dismiss practically anything the man says. It seems that's happening regardless. Perception is reality.

One reading of Al Gore's electric bill is that he's a hypocrite for flogging environmentalism and, to use their jargon, he doesn't walk the walk.

Another is that we live in an incredibly wasteful society, and no matter what steps you take -green energy, off-sets, solar panels, etc - it may not be enough.

Erik Donald France said...

Some like it hot ;)

What I want to know is why Al didn't trim down for his Oscar appearance?

In all seriousness, Gore has been pointing out environmental issues for a long time. Remember Earth in the Balance? He's also been a longtime supporter of libraries and universal internet access. His only sin is that he's kind of flat in the charisma department.

I like your response here: "And of course you choose to ignore the bigger point: that it doesn't matter. Roosevelt was rich and helped the poor. Lyndon Johnson was a racist, yet helped African-Americans. David Souter is a conservative, yet his vote a few years back kept legal abortion from being challenged. Mick Jagger's womanizing pig-- but I love his music. The list is endless. If moral purity is what is needed to create or to push for social change, then none of us would pass the test." Glass houses. Though Mick is no pig, just a lusty lad who's as rich as a king, a "man with politesse" and charisma not unlike Bill Clinton (who also may fit the spirit of your list).

In any case, can't wait for the Bush-Cheney duo to be gone from the Big House.

Out of curiosity, is Ian so Grinchy for a reason? I know a gadfly who sounds a lot like him, from Oklahoma of all places. About 90% wrong about everythig that's vital.

Mob said...

So if a person has a larger house they're supposed to somehow heat and cool it with the same electricity consumption of someone in a two bedroom apartment if they want to make any points about the environment without being called hypocritical?

Interesting concept.

Dale said...

My work here is done. :-)

SamuraiFrog said...

I think Ian missed the point, which is that Al Gore isn't necessarily using more electricity, but paying more for it. And did everyone miss the point that struck me as the most important: that he's paying for energy from a non-emission source? I think his paying more for cleaner energy is kind of the point.

Anon. Blogger said...

"Conservative Think Tank"... strange enough, I guess. Too easy to take a cheap shot at that one.

What I find particularly sad is that a group called a "think tank" would 'think' that analyzing any one person's electric bill is a good use of their mental capacity, no matter what they find.

Perhaps they could spend a little more time 'thinking' about the subject at hand? (Global Warming) Even if Gore is a hypocrite (which I am not saying he is), how would that change the data on global warming?

It's always the same - find something personal about someone, no matter how good they are at the job they are doing, and discredit them based on something irrelevant.

Grrr. Sadly, there are too many people ignorant enough to be distracted by this kind of crap.

Ian said...

Off the main page, so you probably won't see it, but who cares, eh?

The point, Johnny, is that your main point, as evidence by the title of the post, and, your claim of "most importantly" is a straw man. How could you miss that?

Anyhow, as you kept ignoring that and going on about your other points, let's address those:

1. The Gores, like many people living in Tennessee, including my parents, probably heat their home with electricity-- it's cheap (see #4). This inflates the electrical consumption.

I don't know this to be true. They also spent over 1000 on their gas bill. But I'll just concede this.

2. The Gores, as the article points out, have a home four times the average home.

While Gore and his wife certainly don't "need" a house that size, they can afford it and are entitled to spend their money any way they see fit. Also, I'll admit that running an office from the home is somewhat mitigating.

3. The Gores live a "carbon neutral" life-- last year they used 191,000 kwh of electricity, and purchased slightly more than that in blocks of "green shares."

This actually turns out to be pretty absurd:

Gore's purchasing of "carbon offsets" are done through a company called Generation Investment Management. From their website:

We invest in long-only, global, public equities with a concentrated portfolio of 30-50 companies. We aim to buy high quality companies at attractive prices that will deliver superior long-term investment returns.

Not only that, but Gore is the chairman of the firm! So, he's essentially buying "carbon offsets" in the form of stock designed to return money to him (as all investments are) from himself.

And it is still not at all clear that this stock -- excuse me, "carbon offsets" -- actually help reduce carbon based energy at all. From widipedia:

the actual amount of carbon reduction (if any) from an offset project is difficult to measure, largely unregulated, and vulnerable to misrepresentation.

See here for a response to Gore's response to the criticisms of his energy usage. Not exactly a rag of the right wing smear machine.

4. Tennessee gets the bulk of its electrical power from hydropower generated by the dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority-- a zero emission generator of electricity.

This is just flat wrong:

Although TVA was formed to build dams and tame the river, only 11 percent of its installed capacity comes from 114 hydropower units. The bulk, some 65 percent, is provided by 59 coal-fired power plants. Another 24 percent comes from nuclear reactors. The small remainder is derived from gas turbines.

I don't know about you, but I've never heard that 11% constitutes "the bulk"

(B.T.W. That link also gives a great profile a great New Deal program that Deadspot seems to not understand.)

Now does all this mean that global warming is not a problem? Of course not. That's not the point at all. The point is, Gore is a hypocrite, and perhaps not the one to be leading such efforts, as he doesn't appear to do it by example, does he?

(Don't take my friend James too seriously. He evaluates evidence and argues from a predetermined conclusion.)

baaaa-baaaa-bye. Continue patting yourselves on the back.

Johnny Yen said...

--Continue patting yourselves on the back.

We'll do that. And you continue jerking yourself off.