What is it about the most prominent environmental activists? Especially those who speak out on climate change? Why do they need private planes? And so much air conditioning?
I realize this op-ed was written by someone who is hostile to liberals, so it’s fine to take it with a grain of sea salt. Maybe everything he says about Al Gore is a pack of lies, although I’ve yet to hear anyone refute it:
For someone who says the sky is falling, (Gore) does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film. (In reality, Paramount Classics, the film’s distributor, pays this.)
Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.
Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.
But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore’s office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.
Eco-celebrities’ use of private planes was chided a bit more gently in this editorial in today’s LA Times:
In Hollywood, carbon offsets are the successor to the Prius: the hippest way for stars to flaunt their conspicuous non-consumption. Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters offset tour emissions by protecting forests. Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt invested in trees too. The producers of “Syriana” got into the act. This year’s Super Bowl was “carbon-neutral” — and so was the World Cup.
But why let the famous people have all the fun? Regular folks can buy carbon offsets too, using any of a number of Internet-based calculators to measure their own carbon footprints and purchase affordable mini-offsets, which might run anywhere from $30 to a few hundred dollars. Some websites will even send a decal or sticker suitable for the bumper of a Prius. Or Hummer, as the case may be.
It’s a nice idea, as far as it goes — a little consciousness-raising can be a good thing, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to get more windmills spinning on the grid. But as some environmentalists have noted, this kind of do-gooder consumerism doesn’t necessarily achieve an overall net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (which is, after all, the ultimate goal).
That will take regulatory oversight and global coordination. Not to mention a dose of real sacrifice from all of us — including those of us who live in 15,000-square-foot estates in Beverly Hills and travel in private jets.
Unless you are travelling to extremely remote places, private planes are utterly dispensible. If you’re doing a PR tour to launch a movie in major metropolitan markets, you can probably get there on a commercial flight.
It seems bizarre to have to explain this, but in case Arianna Huffington, Al Gore or Cameron Diaz are reading: Commercial flights are like mass transit, except in the air. The idea is, for the same amount of fuel (and pollution) that your private plane uses to get you, your make-up artist, your flack and other members of your entourage from LAX to JFK, a commercial carrier can take hundreds of people!
“B-b-but what about carbon offsets? I’m cool if I use those, right?”
Well, as the LA Times says, yeah, I suppose, technically. But how about this idea? Calculate how much carbon offset you would have to buy if you took your private plane, and go buy it. Then, take a commercial flight anyway. That way, you haven’t just evened the score — you’ve actually made a difference.
More importantly, global warming skeptics won’t be able to dismiss your cause by pointing out what a big hypocrite you are.
Hear me now and believe me later: Celebrities who claim environmental leadership but take private planes hurt the environment. They hurt it. I’ll say it again: You’re hurting the environment. You might as well just vote for Republicans. You might as well be in a secret meeting with Dick Cheney. You might as well be BP, spending millions on the “beyond petroleum” PR campaign while skimping on Alaska pipeline inspections. You make the real environmentalists, the men and women who work for grassroots organizations for low wages, look foolish.
If you just have to take private planes, if First Class just isn’t first-class enough for you, that’s okay. There are plenty of other good causes to choose from. But stay away from the environment.
Now don’t get me started on the stars with multiple residences who keep all of them air conditioned like meat lockers….