“Carbon for Sale!”

Mar 052007
Authors: Nick Hemenway

How would you define the word irony? This week, I finally have a clear definition. It came to me in the form of one of the most hilarious reports I have ever encountered.

As we all know, Al Gore’s famed “An Inconvenient Truth” recently won an Oscar for best comedy/faux documentary or whatever it was. In a deeply moving speech, the former vice president told us we all have to do our part to fix the global warming crisis. Apparently, he meant this in a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of way.

Last Monday, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan group, made an interesting discovery. After reviewing the records for Al Gore’s Tennessee mansion, it was found that the Gore mansion consumes 20 times the energy of the average American household!

Yes, it’s true; the captain of the green team is a hypocrite. Even more ironic is the fact that his rate of consumption has actually increased since the release of his film.

Clearly embarrassed, Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for the Gores, quickly responded to the report by saying the Gores’ “purchase offsets for their carbon emissions to bring their carbon footprint down to zero” (ABC News).

You may be asking yourself, what exactly is an offset?

Essentially, a carbon offset is an imaginary permission slip to use energy, similar in principle to the indulgences of the early Catholic Church. The basic idea is that if you think you are using too much carbon, you can buy someone else’s unused carbon footprint.

Naturally, this assumes there is a specific acceptable amount to compare consumption to. One way of measuring your impact is at carbonfootprint.com.

If you didn’t catch it, this practice of exchanging carbon subsidies doesn’t change one’s rate of energy consumption at all, but rather makes us feel better about our carbon usage. I thought we were supposed to reduce our consumption, not rationalize it.

But hold on my friends, because the fun doesn’t stop there. The story of Gore’s transgressions jump-started the tenacious blogosphere, and the truth was brought to light.

Last Friday, Ecotality.com found that Al Gore owns the company that he buys his carbon offsets from! Furthermore, these companies will only sell their offsets to Gore. What was the name of his movie?

So there we have it. Not only does the infallible Al Gore consume more energy in one month than most Americans do in an entire year, he also pays himself to cover his tracks.

If you are interested in joining the fearless carbon commando Al Gore, I myself will be selling my own carbon offsets to anyone who needs them. Prices are negotiable. Contact me for further details.

When we get back from Spring Break, we’ll finally get into the great myth commonly referred to as the global warming crisis. Until then, you stay classy Fort Collins.

Nick Hemenway is a senior mechanical engineering major. His column appears every Tuesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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