Thursday, March 1, 2007

Carbon Offset Rant

Last night on All Things Considered they reported on Al Gore's Oscar win for An Inconvenient Truth and said that a conservative think tank* had checked with the Tennessee power company and found that "The average American uses about 11,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, but Al Gore devoured 221,000 kilowatt hours." I won't go into the use of the word "devoured" which obviously shows a serious bias, but if the numbers are true it is a shame that the Gores aren't more careful about their energy consumption. According to an episode of All Things Considered from last summer the average American house is 2349 square feet, and the Gore house is 10,000 so that means that it's reasonable for them to consume four times the amount of energy (44,000 kilowatt hours) but that's still only one fifth of their actual usage. I'm sure there are reasons for this but I do think it's disappointing. However, none of this is the cause of my rant - instead it's Gore's reply to the amount of energy he allegedly uses - he says that he conserves etc. but also that he buys carbon offsets.
Carbon offsets have become really popular it seems among the types of folks who are both famous and consider themselves environmentalists - they seem to show up all the time on TV talking about this. But I think carbon offsets are really just a form of hypocrisy. I'm all for donating money to companies that plant trees or do other things to remove carbon from the environment. But people who can afford to donate to these companies shouldn't then feel good about using as much electricity as they would like! Conservation is something that we all need to work harder at (certainly myself included) - everything from using less electricity and driving less and buying less stuff in general. When done right, conservation is actually less expensive, and not just an alternative for rich people to feel good about themselves. Okay, rant over.

* Doesn't it seem like think tanks have suddenly sprouted (or would the right term be "welled up") everywhere recently? What do these people do all day, and who funds them? I tend to picture a bunch of men in suits inside a very large fish tank trying to do research on all the evil people who've made up concepts like evolution.


Mark said...

I couldn't agree more! I found myself going "Wha?" while listening to this yesterday. The interviewer asked a telling question: "How do you know your carbon offsets are actually working?". The person being interviewed pretty much ducked the question entirely! (He said something to the effect of "pick a reputable carbon offset company, and blindly trust them.")

What's next - paying people to eat less so you don't feel bad about chowing down McDonald's burgers?

SabraGirl said...

I love it - I'm going to pay someone to exercise for me so I can sit on my ass all day :-) While I'm at it I'll pay someone to age for me too and I'll stay 29 forever!

Erhan said...

my mother would completely agree with you. Unfortunately I spent the entire conversation trying to convince (read: lie) to her that this was all blown out of proportion and that Al Gore is still an amazing conservationist. Reason: I didn't want her to lose this new found passion for the environment.

That being said, I really don't need to worry about my parents and energy conservation. We're talking about immigrants who would do absolutely anything possible to keep those hydro bills low. How else can we explain coming home at Christmas to a 60F house with both parents parading in summer gear? Miraculously in the summer when it reaches 95F their body memory triggers the cypriot genes. Result? We have the best sqft:energy$ on the block. Not Al Gore style, immigrant style :)