Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Al Gore's Electric Bill

In the wake of Al Gore's Oscar win on Monday night, some folks over at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research decided to have some fun at the former Vice President's expense by printing a detailed analysis of the electric use at his Nashville home:

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

“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,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.
Wow. Gore fired back this morning through the progressive politics site, Think Progress, noting that he and his family try to soften the impact of their electricity use by purchasing green power and buying carbon offsets.

All I could think when I saw the original note is how much larger Gore's carbon footprint would have been if he had lived in a state that gets generates less of its electricity from nuclear energy? After all, Tennessee gets 28.6% of its electricity from nuclear energy (PDF), almost 10% more than the national average.

Plenty of folks are unconvinced at the sincerity of his response. As for me, I just think this whole episode points out how difficult it's really going to be to cut carbon emissions while continuing to provide reliable and affordable electricity. Feel good bromides alone aren't going to get the job done. For more, visit our friends over at NAM Blog and Wizbang.

40 comments:

Bill Gross said...

I was looking for a comparison between Carbon Offsets and Indulgences.

I found this on gristmill:
( http://gristmill.grist.org/print/2006/7/21/72551/3986 )

----
But it's worse than padding the books. Carbon offsets are disturbingly redolent of the sale of indulgences in the Middle Ages, by which the wealthy could expiate their sins without prayer or good works by greasing the palms of the Church hierarchy. Leaving aside whether carbon emitting is "sinful," the purchase of carbon offsets smacks of the same corruption that turned indulgences into "get out of Purgatory free" cards and helped set off the Protestant Reformation.

"Be the change you want to see in the world," urged the 20th century's greatest revolutionary. Gandhi wasn't speaking about the climate crisis, but his words still apply. At the same time that we press for policy changes like carbon taxes and efficiency standards, we Americans must move individually toward low-carbon lives -- bicycling instead of driving, replacing watt-wasting incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, and minimizing air travel. This personal commitment is essential, not just to deliver big reductions in carbon emissions but for the sake of moral consistency.

Preserving Earth's climate isn't a job that the environmentally concerned can subcontract. Telling others to cut back while we keep burning carbon will destroy our moral authority, no matter how many offsets we purchase.
----

That about sums it up.

Bill

David Bradish said...

And don't forget to note how much electricity comes from coal in TN in the fact sheet. 61%

Robert said...

Talk the talk or walk the walk:

The Crawford Winter White House has 25,000 gallons of rainwater storage, gray water collection from sinks and showers for irrigation, passive solar, geothermal heating and cooling. “By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home.

h/t Wizbang. RTWT

Headless Blogger said...

Since all the Tennessee nukes are TVA plants and are concentrated in the Eastern third of the state (as is a bunch of TN's hydro power), that statewide average lacks much meaning.

A committed environmentalist such as Mr. Gore certainly has a transmission line running directly from his estate to the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. What a PR coup to have the World's No. 1 Environmentalist, Nobel Prize Candidate Al Gore bragging about using nuclear power.

Joffan said...

The people most likely to be influenced by this irrelevance are those who are not quite sure about climate change and decide that Al Gore's lifestyle indicates that he's making it all up. I know he isn't, and plenty of people have been positively influenced by his documentary, but those same people might turn around and discard their new-found climate awareness.

I personally have no idea whether the Gore household is just a residence or effectively an office; whether he runs any energy-intensive activities from there like network servers or printing facilities. I only know it feels like political point-scoring.

With all that, I endorse bill's quotation of Gandhi, above, that we have to "be the change".

Brian Mays said...

So ... it's a moral issue

... unless you're rich enough to afford "offsets"?

Whatever happened to conservation?

Anonymous said...

Why is it "irrelevant" to ask an honest question? That is, is the presumed supreme leader of the environmental movement willing to not only talk the talk but walk the walk? Character matters. Character is destiny, and if a leader-by-acclaimation is proved to be an empty suit, a hypocrite, someone unwilling to practice what they preach, would people be so inclined to listen to his preaching?

KenG said...

The part that has me scratching my head is the $13,000 per year in natural gas. In Nashville? I heat a fairly large house in a much colder climate for less than 10% of that. Maybe we should chip in and buy Al some weatherstripping.

Anonymous said...

Attacks on Gore's personal energy consumption are obviously politically motivated.

As a graduate student in a nuclear engineering program and someone who believes that nuclear energy has an important role in our future, I believe it is a strategic mistake for the NEI participate in the antagonization of a popular democratic figure.

It's true that republicans have historically been more supportive of nuclear power than democrats, but I think the key to the future of nuclear power is to "de-partisan" the issue. The issue of climate change has provided a bridge by which some open-minded environmentalists have crossed. Do you think it is wise to tie nuclear power to a party whose president has an approval rating in the 30-40% range?

Al Gore is doing nuclear power no disservice by promoting awareness about the dangers of excess carbon emissions. In doing that, he is effectively already doing half of the work for the NEI. Can you really expect him to go out stumping for nuclear energy, also? That is the job of the NEI.

I think these attacks are petty and counterproductive. Nuclear power has enough barriers to overcome.

Joffan said...

It's not irrelevant to ask a question. However if Gore is as far as possible getting his power from non-carbon sources, and taking action on the rest, what's the problem? It's the hoopla that's irrelevant.

I don't think Gore is the "presumed supreme leader of the environmental movement". His continued consumption of non-carbon power is not a problem to me except as it denies that power to others. He may have good reason to consume at the level he does, or maybe he just chooses to do so. If you match rewards to results, the attention of the media allows him to advocate for causes very effectively, so perhaps he deserves it.

robert merkel said...

People seem to ignore the bit about Gore purchasing green power.

What this means is that his power company is obliged to invest in new renewable energy sources to supply the same amount of power as he purchased. Thus, Gore's net emissions from his electricity usage may well be zero.

And offsets aren't necessarily bad, as long as they genuinely result in the reduction of net CO2 emissions. There are probably limits to the scope of carbon offsets to work, but that's no reason for not taking advantage of the opportunities they offer. Grist Magazine views environmentalism as an issue of personal piety. Personally, I view environmentalism as a desire for healthy land, water and air. Personal piety can be saved for church.

Our anonymous graduate student has it right. While there are other reasons why new nuclear build is a good idea, without the impetus of global warming there would be very little interest in new nuclear build in the United States and, probably, across most of Europe. And, more than any other individual, Mr Gore is responsible for bringing this issue to public attention in the United States.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Ed Begley Jr. and Amory Lovins could go to Al's house and do a home makeover for HGTV or DIY (or Comedy Central?). I'd definitely Tivo that reality show.

Brian Mays said...

An anonymous NE graduate student wrote:

"Attacks on Gore's personal energy consumption are obviously politically motivated."

Films about global warming by former candidates for the office of President of the United States are obviously politically motivated.

Hyperbole and hysteria about natural disasters due to global warming are obviously politically motivated.

Your point?

Of course, these things are politically motivated, but they are also sometimes funny.

Don't knock Eric's message, which has consistently been "if you want to continue to generate reliable and affordable electricity while constraining greenhouse gas emissions, you need to have nuclear energy as part of the world's energy mix." This message is far more logical, far more consistent, and far less hypocritical than anything that Mr. Gore has put out.

robert merkel said...

"People seem to ignore the bit about Gore purchasing green power."

That's because anyone who has actually looked into it knows that it is irrelevant.

Gore's office claims that he has signed up for 100% green power through TVA's Green Power Switch, but if you look at TVA's generation numbers for the past three months, you would see that they generated only 31.5 GWh of "green" electricity (and about one-third of that is from burning methane) -- enough to power about 12,000 average homes or less than 600 Gore-sized homes.

TVA claims to provide power to "nearly 8.5 million residents of the Tennessee Valley."

TVA generated (according to their numbers for 2004) only slightly more than 0.01% (that's 1/10,000th) of its electricity from sources that are eligible for its Green Power Switch program. Sure the power companies are obliged to invest in new renewable energy sources, but only for marketing purposes.

Fortunately, about 30% of the "backup power" that is provided to the Green Power Switch customers comes from nuclear, so I guess we can say that Gore gets roughly 31% of his electricity from green sources -- 40% if you include hydroelectric. The rest (~60%) comes from Gore's dreaded fossil fuels, most of it coal. I bet, however, that Gore credits himself for 100% "green" electricity when he is calculating his own carbon footprint.

But Gore also purchases indulgences ... er ... "carbon offsets" to support his claim of a low-carbon lifestyle. The indulgences sold by the Catholic Church centuries ago built St. Peter's Basilica. Does anybody actually know where the indulgences sold by the environmentalists go? Is there any independent auditing of this stuff?

Anonymous said...

"Politically motivated", eh? Gee, Gore was a key figure in the Clinton Administration. Everything the Clintons did was done with a political calculation. Likewise, most, if not all, of what Al Gore does is done with a political motivation. He has hitched his star to the environmentalist wagon because he knows it will be the key to his regaining political power. Without it, he'd be just another washed-up politician. With it, he's up on stage rubbing elbows with the glitterati picking up his Oscar, planning his political comeback.

Let's not fool ourselves here, people. Al Gore is no friend of nuclear power. He hardly ever mentions it, and when he does it is to express "concern" about nuclear "waste". If and when he gets back into the White House, he's going to disavow nuclear energy in a heartbeat. He knows his political base opposes it, and he isn't going to cross them.

Ruth Sponsler said...

I happen to think the issue of Mr. Gore's power bills is funny.

I realize that it's a Reaganite-libertarian organization that released the data, and that it's essentially a political attack.

No one's denied the kilowatt-hours of power usage.

It's quite funny hearing so few calls on the Left for "negawatts" and so few references to the concept of wearing a sweater indoors, as Jimmy Carter did back in the days of high interest rates and stagnation.

I basically support Mr. Gore's message...thus...

I'm a little surprised he doesn't use ceiling fans in the summer and allow the thermostat to be set at 74 or 76. His peak usage is in July and August...exactly when most utilities experience their peaks...and when extra fossil fuel generation kicks in.

Since the numbers of KWh haven't been denied, Gore should confess his use of electricity and open up to support for nuclear energy. I can't believe he doesn't know the relative percentages of actual carbon-free generation with renewables as the child-sized slice of the pie and nuclear and hydro as the BIG slices.

I think that Al Gore knows the numbers perfectly well but is too beholden to certain Dem activists affiliated with Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups.

Eric's message is appropriate. Mr. Gore's usage demonstrates that the extreme conservation that would be necessary for living on solar and wind isn't an option for a lot of people. If we want carbon-free generation, we're going to need carbon-free baseload, which is where NEI and the TVA dams come in.

However, I think an HGTV "negawatts" home makeover at the ol' Tennessee homestead would be hilarious.

Doug said...

I also feel buying offsets is the modern-day equivalent of buying indulgences. If Al (or anyone else) has got spare money lying around, why not spend it on some solar panels? Or invest it in a company making electric cars?

Anonymous said...

What's the annual electricity and natural gas bill for the White House?

Let's at least be consistent in our ad hominem attacks.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

In response to our NE grad student: NEI recognizes that the importance of nuclear energy is too great to be limited by party lines. Its years of work to reach out to people that traditionally have not supported nuclear energy is a large reason that it is becoming less and less of a partisan issue. Even Nancy Pelosi has said that nuclear must be "on the table" when we talk about energy and climate change. NEI works with and supports both Republican and Democratic leaders.

That said, Al Gore has routinely dismissed nuclear as part of the solution to environmental concerns and increasing energy demand. See this post for examples.

Gore is a smart guy. He can run the numbers and see that we just CAN'T get where we want to be without nuclear playing a role. Lots of Democrats realize it. So why does he dismiss it? Clearly, it is purely political. If he were to embrace nuclear power, organizations like Greenpeace and Sierra Club would turn around and attack him quicker than you can install an energy-efficient lightbulb. They make up a large part of his support base and he can't afford to lose them.

So, in my view, he is a hypocrite. If he is as passionate about the environment as he says he is, he would have the cajones to stand up to organizations like Greenpeace, political base be damned.

Lisa

Anonymous said...

I have written about this matter at DKos, the Democratic Website.

I am a Democrat and damned proud of it, and my personal view is that Mr. Gore - who I hope will once again will be elected President of the United States - is NOT serving his cause well by a failure to account for his personal carbon utilization.

I agree with those who refer to the "offsets" as "indulgences." This is an excellent analogy.

But let's get real. I have been writing for a number of years on various liberal websites talking up nuclear power. Why? Because I'm an environmentalist. The matter has been clear since Chernobyl - the silver lining on that tragedy being that it delineated the "worst case."

Mr. Gore has faults, but his growth in stature reflects a growth in maturity and political skill. "An Inconvenient Truth" is hardly the most scientifically sophisticated argument ever made, but it's pretty good politics, and its framing reflects high intelligence.

I'll bet a zillion bucks that Al Gore could sit with anyone on this website and perfectly understand - and more importantly appreciate - what we are saying. He knows damn well the role of nuclear.

If you think about it carefully, no politician - left or right - is wise to necessarily blurt out his or her positions. Politics is the management of expectations and without such management, nothing can be accomplished. I regret to inform the highly intelligent people who write here that we, the Democrats, are hardly "there yet" on the issue of nuclear power. But frankly, without us raising the issue of energy and the environment, the clear route to the desperately needed nuclear revival would not be so obvious.

There is much, much, much more work to be done. We have to find a way to convince people that we MUST build nuclear reactors as the same speed we were able to build them in the 1960's. We have to convince people that we (and now I am speaking of the nuclear crowd, not the Democrats when I say "we") have the BEST environmental technology there is.

Sledgehammer politics will not necessarily be the best shot we will have at the timely approach to these important public perceptions. We will need some grace and at least a minimal bit of patience.

I have been working on Democrats about nuclear power for some time now. It is suddenly much easier than it ever has been.

NNadir

Doug said...

Gore (and others) ignores nuclear power as a response to climate change. Call it "an inconvenient solution".

Karen Street said...

I'm with NNadir. I teach and write on climate change and nuclear power, and am finding people who are disproportionately Democrats are increasingly interested in both. Part of the reason is Gore's movie.

Gore uses way too much electricity -- note that average use is the mean, the median use of electricity is considerably lower, so his energy use would look even higher if compared to the median. Gore has enough money to hire someone to find ways to reduce his energy use dramatically. Etc, etc, etc. No one else has posted emphasizing the work some of us put into reducing our GHG emissions, and that Gore and other large emitters really could do more.

The behavior of pro-nuclear people is part of what convinces some anti-nuclear people that nuclear power is OK. Then this....

Most of us hope that Gore changes his mind publically on nuclear power, sooner rather than later. I doubt that this moment will arrive any faster with all of the added personal attacks.

Anonymous said...

This is the "anonymous grad. student" again. I just want to distinguish myself from the other anonymous posts to start.


To Brian Mays and others-

I am not implying that I oppose anyone independent of the NEI sharing their political views with regard to the issue in the comments section of any of Eric's blog posts. My original protest was not targeted at you. Quite frankly, in that situation, that is your freedom, and only you have to face the consequences of excercising that freedom.


To Lisa and Eric-

My protest is directed at you, representatives of NEI, for engaging in an unnecessary attack.

Yes, consider how much of a hypocrite Gore appears for consuming $30,000 of energy per month at his mansion, while espousing that everyone should be doing their part to mitigate the harmful effects of carbon emissions. Does it make him sound less sincere?

Now, consider an industry/organization that says it is environmentally responsible, and wants to be a part of the solution to Global Warming. That same organization then engages in relatively unprovoked attacks on the person doing the most to raise awareness about global warming, in addition, this person is the most visible environmentalist in the U.S.

The irony is easy to see.

You must think the attack is worth it, but I think you risk a lot with relatively little to gain. PR is the main barrier to the nuclear industry, and this just doesn't help.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Welcome to our friend from DKos! NNadir, I have a lot of respect for the things you have written about nuclear power.

But I disagree with you that Gore dismissing nuclear by saying he doesn't see it playing a significant role is a simple matter of "managing expectations." If he said something more along the lines of what people like Pelosi and Ted Kennedy have said (need to take a second look at nuclear, it has to be "on the table") then I could accept your explanation.

If, as you suggest, Gore does realize that nuclear has to be part of the solution, then he is pandering to his base at the expense of real leadership. Not that he is the only politician to do so, but I have a hard time respecting such leaders no matter what side of the aisle they're on.

However, if Gore does express support of nuclear energy at some point, I'll be one of the first to applaud him on this blog and elsewhere and I'll personally send him an NA-YGN T-shirt!

Lisa

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous Grad. Student" again-

Lisa and Eric-

Sorry, even with the long winded post, i forgot a point I wanted to make.

There are plenty of groups not directly tied with NEI willing to take their shots at Gore ("Tennessee Center for Policy and Research" for instance), and poke holes in his credibility. Thus, there really is minimal gain in this for NEI, while the potential for damage is less certain.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind words Lisa.

I saw your interview over at the MIT website some time ago. Let me say that I am most impressed by your work to secure the nuclear future.

Your work is important and is, in fact, the hope of the world!

I cannot express how important it is to interest fine young people like yourself in nuclear technology. (I don't expect that I have much control over the matter, but I talk up nuclear careers to my kids - they're 8 and 12.)

It is a pleasure to speak to you.

I am not here to tell you that I speak for Al Gore - I don't - but before you identify Al Gore's "base" with Greenpeace - I need to point out that I am a member of his base. The declining worldwide membership of Greenpeace is *not* anywhere near as large as the membership of the Democratic Party. If you read my writings, I think you will find few people who take as much pleasure in savaging Greenpeace as I do. I think that it is a disgrace that the media represents this set of circus clowns as "environmental authorities."

But, let's turn to Mr. Gore.

Now, I have had some contentious arguments involving the dubious logical fallacy of "Appeal to Authority" and contentions about what Al Gore does and does not think about nuclear energy. Clearly there is a subset of people who support Al Gore who appeal to nuclear ignorance and are intransient about it. I don't deny that for a New York minute. The question is "how large is this subset?" and "Does this subset even count?"

All that said, if there is a politician on the face of the planet who could cut through the unfortunate Gorgon's knot of nuclear ignorance in an instant, I would like to know who is in a better position than Mr. Gore. He has credibility on climate change that no one else enjoys. Will he use that credibility in due course?

I don't know.

Whatever Gore thinks, you and I both know that there is no hope of addressing climate change without the massive scaling of nuclear energy, but I would submit that many people who buy into renewable platitudes are not as familiar with reality as we are.

In any case, Gore is not Kennedy (hopefully) nor Ms. Pelosi. They are already in power. Mr. Gore is out of power. There is a difference.

I am shameless enough to have considered the career of Mr. Gore and Mr. Lincoln in the same work, by examining Mr. Lincoln's position on slavery before he was in power. There is a considerable contrast between Lincoln's "moderate" posture as a candidate, and his actions as a President. I think that historians are mostly united in considering that only Mr. Lincoln could end slavery.

If you find the time, I invite you to read it and let me know how certain you are that Mr. Gore is, in fact, pandering:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/7/163353/839

I would be most interested in your comments.

I hope I will have occassion to remind you to send the shirt. I suspect that Mr. Gore is now at least an extra large, maybe even bigger.

-NNadir

Brian Mays said...

To the grad student:

The purpose of my response earlier to your comment was merely to point out that politics saturate this entire issue. To complain about political attacks (and yes, this is an obvious case of a political attack) is being a little disingenuous. Gore opened himself up for such attacks just for being a politician and especially for putting himself at the center of a controversial issue such as this one. It comes with the territory. Gore is a grownup, however. He's been around the block a few times, and I am sure that he is used to this kind of stuff by now.

I would also like to point out, however, that Eric has not attacked anyone (neither has Lisa for that matter). Eric has merely repeated a story that is current news and that does have something to do with nuclear power and energy in general, which is the purpose of this blog. Eric's only comments -- aside from links to other people's opinions -- were concerned with nuclear energy in Tennessee, and I fail to see how these comments can be construed as an attack on Mr. Gore in any form.

I think, however, that some of the people here are missing the point. I don't care how much energy Al Gore's house consumes. If he is well-off enough to afford a large house and pay the bills, more power to him. (Okay, bad pun, and sure, the timing of the publishing of Gore's electricity use was funny, but that's another matter.)

My disappointment in Gore comes from his response to these attacks. Instead of owning up to the (inconvenient) truth, his office puts out a pile of BS. Gore essentially says:

(1) I have signed up for 100 percent green power [implying that all of his power comes from renewables].

(2) I have installed solar panels and I use compact fluorescent bulbs.

(3) I have purchased carbon offsets to offset my family's carbon footprint.

Well, item (1) I have already covered above. Gore has signed up for a plan that is marketed as 100 percent green power. It is pure BS.

Item (2) is irrelevant. If the solar panels and CFB's were working, then his electricity consumption would not be so high.

Item (3) just means that he has paid money to somebody else to make his conscious feel better. Zippity-doo-dah.

Now, this is what I wish he had said (is anyone from the Gore office reading this, please?):

Yes, that report accurately reflects my residence's energy use last year; however, as a consumer of electricity who is deeply concerned for the environment and as an activist in the fight against global warming, I am doing everything in my power to reduce the amount of carbon that is being dumped into our atmosphere.

I have signed up for my utility's plan to provide electricity through green power. I am willing to volunteer to pay more for my electricity to encourage generation from environmentally friendly sources, such as wind and solar.

Unfortunately, today, these sources are not enough to provide the large amounts of power that are needed in the US. Therefore, I am pleased that my utility generates 40% of its electricity from sources other that fossil fuels. More must be done, however, which is why I advocate an aggressive program to expand generation using the low-carbon substitutes to fossil fuels that make up this 40%: solar, wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear energy.


Now, if Gore had published this reply, he would get a lot more respect from me and, I suspect, from some of the other people commenting on this blog as well. At least this response is honest and doesn't insult my intelligence.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

We welcome all relevant debate here at NEI Nuclear Notes. But because I am employed by NEI I can't have my own personal views? Besides the disclaimer on the front page about opinions expressed, I think I made it clear that it is my own personal feeling that Gore is being hypocritical.

Eric simply pointed to an interesting story. I didn't even mention the story about his energy use but voiced my objections to things he has said. So I fail to see how NEI has "attacked" him.

Gore is a politician. Politicians open themselves up to criticism of their positions. In this case, Gore has elevated his stature with his passionate work to combat climate change. But now that he has his largest audience ever, he is ignoring the biggest contributor to emissions reduction in this country and I suspect his reasons are purely political. I don't like that and I see nothing ironic in saying so.

Lisa

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

NNadir,

I missed your last post before I wrote my last message.

Thanks for the link. I'll certainly take a look at it.

And, regardless of his reasons, I would be absolutely delighted to retract my words and send that T-shirt should Gore change his public stance on nuclear power.

Lisa

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

NNadir,

I just read the entry at the link you gave. First, I have to tell you that I'm consistently impressed by how many books, papers, historical documents etc. that you obviously read. I could never keep up! And I do enjoy following along on your intellectual journeys.

I think the parallel you draw between Lincoln's thoughts and actions regarding slavery and Gore's thoughts and actions regarding energy policy are interesting.

However, I find myself less hopeful than you that Gore will eventually forge a compromise between the agendas of extreme environmentalists and those working to find real solutions. My skepticism stems mainly from the arguments he uses. You said yourself that his economic argument is "absurd." I find his proliferation argument equally questionable. So either he hasn't really studied the facts, or he is saying things he knows are untrue.

I would think that if he were on the same trajectory as Lincoln was when dealing with slavery, he'd find a more neutral tone and wouldn't rehash the same tired arguments of nuclear's opponents.

That said, I hope I'm wrong and you're right. I think Al Gore supporting nuclear would be the death knell for obstructionists like Greenpeace and would go far to change the minds of those that have been influenced by them.

Thanks for your insight and thoughtful discussion. You're welcome here anytime!

Lisa
ps (On a more trivial note, I'm not very impressed when people say "I'm not antinuclear but..." Public Citizen and others have tried the same line with me!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lisa.

It sounds like you have an open mind on Gore, and that's all I can ask.

With your indulgence, I would like to make a few more points.

First of all, it is important for a leader to understand and state clearly both sides of a question. If you refer to Lincoln's Cooper Union speech you will see that he states and explores the pro-slavery arguments. He concedes a difficult and frankly very questionable point - that slavery can continue; he was speaking in 1860.

In is 1858 Senate campaign, he famously made many statements that were explicitly racist. Without making these points, he could not hope to be elected, as the electorate was racist.

You should know that I cut my teeth on the nuclear question on the wrong side of the argument. To my deep personal regret, I was a part of the Shoreham opposition as a young man.

I don't wish to inflate myself, but I think I have been fairly successful and changing many minds about nuclear power precisely because I changed my own mind - once Chernobyl delineated what was really the worst case. I have been able to turn every anti-nuclear argument on its head, because I understand the appeal of these wrong arguments, how they are twisted. For instance I note frequently that so called "dangerous nuclear waste" differs from "dangerous fossil fuel waste" inasmuch as spent nucler fuel is easily contained and is perfectly reusable. I am intimately familiar with the objections, most of which are silly.

My argument with nuclear opponents - which is, you will likely agree, irrefutable - consists of a tautology goes like this:

"Nuclear power does not need to be risk free to be better than everything else. It merely needs to be better than everything else, and it is."

All anti-nuclear arguments evoke risk, and the risk, as you know, is grossly overstated in what I call "nuclear exceptionalism" - the belief that matters that apply to all forms of energy technology are only important in the nuclear case.

However you and I both know that like any technology, nuclear technology can be used for weapons purposes. While clearly this risk is not a show stopper, it is nonetheless real. A convincing argument would state such risk and then proceed to state how this risk would be minimized. An even better statement would compare the risks of the alternatives, like the unrestricted use of fossil fuels.

I think the case can be made that in the case of India and Pakistan, CANDU's have been used for weapons purposes. Now, I love the CANDU - I think it is an essential cog in the fuel cycle, but the CANDU does have a proliferation risk and we need to state explicitly how we will manage this risk, so that the public knows we are not merely mouthing rhetoric, but are balanced and careful.

All we need to do is to tell the truth.

As for Gore, I don't know if Gore will run again, and if he does, and he wins, I am not 100% sure that he will do the right thing, but I have considerable confidence that he will. I do know this: His dad took regular trips to Oak Ridge, and this had to be part of the dinner conversation when Gore was a boy. That can't be bad. To negotiate the Russian American nuclear disarmament treaty, Gore had to sit with nuclear scientists. That can't be bad.

The pro-nuclear argument clearly wins wherever the approach emphasizes rationality, and does so soberly, using appropriate timing.

I am clearly biased but I don't think that the Democrats are quite the anti-nuclear demons that we have been made out to be. Clearly we need to improve and we are improving - as Ms. Pelosi's talk shows. I would like to tell you that my political party has been a party of leadership on nuclear energy, but that has not been true, at least since the 1960's. At some point we got involved with the fool Ralph Nader - and the Public Citizen squad insinuated itself into our party's thinking - at least for some members. Note that Mr. Nader - the source of the urban myth about the toxicity of plutonium - ended up hating us anyway.

In any case Mr. Nader is not popular among Democrats.

It is important to note though, to repeat myself, that for all of our foibles, our nuclear policies have not been quite as bad as advertised. We will embrace nuclear power because, again, it is the only rational thing to do.

-NNadir

Anonymous said...

It's $30,000 annually, not $30,000 a month. Watch for the inaccurate figure posted earlier to get picked up soon in right-wing blogs.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Thanks NNadir.

I could write for pages about the issues you just raised, but it would be redundant because you've already addressed most of them on DKos much more eloquently than I could. And I think the only thing on which we disagree is our speculation of what Gore thinks and what he would do if elected president.

I can live with that.

Now if they would just let us run the world I think we could really get somewhere ;)

Lisa

Anonymous said...

Peter Sudman of NR sumarizes why I object so mutch to Gore's approach.

What Gore is saying that 1) people should restrict their energy usage and 2) pay significantly more for the energy they do use. In other words, he thinks you should use far less energy and that it should cost you far more for what you do use. To be totally blunt: He wants your energy use to be expensive and rare.

That's the exact wrong approach to address CO2. Nuclear lets us have our lavish lifestyle and cut CO2. I don't expect the American public to buy into a lifestyle with drastically higher energy costs and the attendant lifestyle changes. Bluntly, no Nuclear, no CO2 reduction.

In response to:

Our anonymous graduate student has it right. While there are other reasons why new nuclear build is a good idea, without the impetus of global warming there would be very little interest in new nuclear build in the United States and, probably, across most of Europe. And, more than any other individual, Mr Gore is responsible for bringing this issue to public attention in the United States.

That's a pretty sad statement. Coal's only probem is CO2?

Strip mining? So what.
Acid rain? So what.
Toxic ash waste? So what.
Mercury? So what.

CO2, now that's a big deal!

I don't get the line of thinking.

- Matthew B.

Anonymous said...

$30,000 per year is still a chunk. About $2500 per month by my ciphering. Compared to what us peons make, it's a huge slice of cash. It is over 50% of my net monthly pay. Maybe I should get into the business of selling carbon indulgences, er, offsets, to supplement my income. I have a Transam up on blocks in the front yard I was thinking about repairing. How much is it worth to you to have me keep it off the road...?

Anonymous said...

News flash for you all: Al's rich. He's got a big house. He probably inherited it from his dad, who was also rich.

At least Gore uses a lot of his money for good causes. Can equally or more wealthy GOP leaders say the same? And by the by, what are their annual electric bills, and do they make ANY effort to offset them?

It's pretty amusing to see all these corporate types suddenly turn egalitarian and socialist when it comes to skewering Gore.

David Bradish said...

This is interesting:

"The Tennessean reported that Gore buys "carbon offsets" to compensate for his home's use of energy from carbon-based fuels.

But how Gore buys his "carbon offsets," as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspaper's report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management.

Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he "buys" his "carbon offsets" from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn't buy "carbon offsets" through Generation Investment Management--he buys stocks..."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Al's rich alright. A real "man of the people". By the by, I don't really care about the electric bills of the GOP leaders because they aren't the ones flying around the world in private jets all the while preaching to the rest of us about reducing our energy usage. And I don't care that they may or may not buy carbon indulgences, er, "offsets" (from themselves). They are not the ones being hypocritical here, which is the point we're trying to make. Talking a good line is one thing, walking the talk is another. Gore can preach all he wants about "global warming" and "inconvenient truths", but while he's jetting around and using $30,000 a year for energy on one of several homes, it's not going to cut much ice with the common folks when he's trying to buy his way out of using carbon-based energy, paying others to do the penance that he himself should be doing (as he wants others to do).

Anonymous said...

According to Qzaki: 100,000 Chernobyl-type Nuclear Reactors Required to Sustain Gore Lifestyle [XLS]

R.D., Mobile, AL said...

Al Gore states that he buys Green Energy from solar and wind. I get the Solar energy part especially if he has solar panels on his roof, but what about the electricity and natural gas he has to take from the grid? I'm going to call up Alabama Power and Mobile Gas and demand that only "Green Energy" is sent to my house. I had no idea that Tennessee had Green Energy in the form of Wind Farms, but if Al Gore can get energy from wind in Tennessee, shouldn't I be able to get it in Alabama too?

docstheman said...

Al Gore's house is completely ridiculous. It made #3 on this article about energy wasters:

http://www.electricchoice.com/electric/index.php/top-7-biggest-electricity-wasters-1-might-surprise-you/