A lot has been made recently regarding Al Gore and the energy consumption in his home. Showing how Al Gore has not been practicing what he preaches regarding energy conservation. In this post I’ll compare George W. Bush’s personal conservation record with Al Gore’s and attempt to debunk the practice of “carbon offsets” and using the purchase of “green energy” to alleviate the guilt of overconsumption.
While Al Gore has been bloviating about climate change and how we the masses must change our habits, he has continued to be an energy hog. While Bush has made private choices in his life to live in an environmentally friendly low-footprint manner. The environmental website off grid begrudgingly reports about the Bush Ranch.
George Bush’s policies on just about everything to do with the environment are wrong headed and destructive, but you cannot say the same for his ranch in Crawford Texas. Amazingly, given his oil industry links, Bush’s ranch is off-grid, boasting a range of eco-features including geothermal heating and cooling, that would make Leonardo di Caprio proud. The passive-solar house is positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls. Does his inside knowledge lead him to suspect that he will need it to survive a downturn very soon?
more after the jump
The details in the article paint a picture of a ranch designed to be environmentally friendly. Some of the key features of the ranch are shown in this passage:
The tin roof of the house extends beyond the porch. When it rains, it’s possible to sit on the patio and watch the water pour down without getting wet. Under a gravel border around the house, a concrete gutter channels the water into a 25,000-gallon cistern for irrigation. In hot weather, a terrace directly above the cistern is a little cooler than the surrounding area.
Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into purifying tanks underground – one tank for water from showers and bathroom sinks, which is so-called “gray water,” and one tank for “black water” from the kitchen sink and toilets. The purified water is funneled to the cistern with the rainwater. It is used to irrigate flower gardens, newly planted trees and a larger flower and herb garden behind the two-bedroom guesthouse. Water for the house comes from a well.
The Bushes installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses about 25% of the electricity that traditional heating and air-conditioning systems consume. Several holes were drilled 300 feet deep, where the temperature is a constant 67 degrees. Pipes connected to a heat pump inside the house circulate water into the ground, then back up and through the house, heating it in winter and cooling it in summer. The water for the outdoor pool is heated with the same system, which proved so efficient that initial plans to install solar energy panels were cancelled.
The energy systems in the home aren’t the only thing that is environmentally friendly. For instance the size of the house is much smaller than similar buildings on properties in the area.
“By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home. “Clients of similar ilk are building 16-to-20,000-square-foot houses.”
The Bushes even helped reduce the waste stream of a quarry through the use of less desirable stone.
The walls are built from discards of a local stone called Leuders limestone, which is quarried in the area. The 12-to-18-inch-thick stone has a mix of colors on the top and bottom, with a cream- colored center that most people want.
“They cut the top and bottom of it off because nobody really wants it,” Heymann says. “So we bought all this throwaway stone. It’s fabulous. It’s got great color and it is relatively inexpensive.”
Contrast this with the recent revelations about Al Gore’s energy usage. Instead of designing his home to be energy efficient to start with, Gore is relyingon purchasing his electricity from “clean sources” and using “carbon offsets”.
Kreider said Gore purchases enough energy from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and methane gas to balance 100 percent of his electricity costs.
Gore, who also owns a home in the Washington area, has said he leads a “carbon-neutral lifestyle.” To balance out other carbon emissions, the Gores invest money in projects to reduce energy consumption, Kreider said.
This method is becoming trendy among the hollywood left as well. The carbon offset method allows a person to purchase credits that are obstensibly used to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
The legitimacy of carbon offsets aside, Gore’s reliance on purchasing wind and hydro-power as electricity has it’s problems from an energy balance standpoint. Going back to my fundementals in Chemical Engineering, a displine that is based upon mass and energy balances, a quick look at how Gore’s excessive energy use affects the availability of clean power is shown below.
There is a finite amount of energy on the grid at any one time. This energy comes from a variety of sources. Some of them are renewable. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch which Gore belongs to outlines the amount of green power available on the TVA system.
The power that actually comes into your home is not from the exact source you may be “buying” your power from. The fact that you don’t buy your power from a “green source” does not mean that you are not using a renewable source of energy. For us here in New England we get a lot of our power from Hydro-Quebec for instance and their massive hydro-electric plants in the Canadian Shield.
Using the facts outlined above one can begin to see that since Al Gore is using a tremendous amount of energy, even though he is buying green energy he is depriving others in the TVA grid from using that green energy. In effect through his disproportionate use of green energy he is forcing his neighbors onto traditionally produced electricty from fossil fuel burning power plants.
With a finite energy pool the feel good methods Gore is using are just a hollow shell game. They do not have the effect Gore believes they do. Bush fundamentally understands this, as the design of his home shows.
What could Gore have done differently in the design of his home, to really make a difference. He could install a passive solar heating system, or use geothermal heat like Bush. Given his wealth he could also do things that someone in the middle class may not be able to afford, adding solar panels to the house. There are solar panels today that blend into the architecture of a home. They are called Solar Save roofing tiles and have the look of normal roofing.
There you have it, on the subject of conservation George Bush walks the walk, while Al Gore talks the talk.
As the wise Yoda once said “do or do not, there is no try.” Bush does, Gore tries and falls short.