Religious intolerance is associated in the minds of many today with Islamic radicalism. Yet, there is a Western variety on the rise that has to concern us greatly as well -- and it is not climate change orthodoxy. Challenge the belief that the Earth is warming dangerously due to human activity, or criticize any of its high priests, and the wrath of true believers will be visited upon you.
This troubling fact was brought forcefully home recently to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a smallish think tank dedicated to energy research and located in Nashville, former Vice President Al Gore's hometown. After watching the over-the-top acclaim accorded Mr. Gore's so-called documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" at the Oscars, staff members had the bright idea of checking on the Gore family's energy usage. As it turned out, the Gore mansion interestingly uses 20 times more electricity than the average American home.
Little did the staff anticipate that by posting the facts of the Gore family's bloated and certainly hypocritical energy consumption on their Web site, they would create an international firestorm, become the subject of death threats, vicious verbal abuse and almost see their Web site shut down because of the onslaught. According to the center's spokeswoman, Nicole Williams, a deluge of calls and e-mail have flowed in from all over the world, as far away as Germany, Australia, Turkey and Latin America.
"Conspiracy theorists have made up all sorts of stories about us, who we are and who we are backed by," Ms. Williams says. "Our president once had an internship at AEI, and now they say we are funded by AEI. Personally, I have been asked 'whose whore are you?' I have been called 'a stupid redneck,' 'liar,' [and some profane names]. I have also been told that I 'had better watch out.' People have posted personal information about us individually on the Web." The facts that led to Mr. Gore deserving "a gold statue for hypocrisy" are these: Despite the fact that Mr. Gore in his movie hyperbolically calls climate change "the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced," his sentiment has not spurred him or his family to change their lifestyle.
According to data gleaned by the Tennessee Public Policy Center from Nashville Electric Service, which supplies the Gore mansion in Belle Meade near Nashville, the Gores burned 221,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006, more than 20 times the national average of 10,656 kwh. Not only that, but Mr. Gore's electricity consumption increased substantially between 2005 and 2006. And in addition to the nearly $30,000 the Gores pay in electricity bills a year, they pay an average of $1,080 on natural gas usage per month.
"An Inconvenient Truth" is fast becoming a primary text for the environmental movement. It is now mandated viewing in the schools of several European countries, like Great Britain and Norway. Yet the movie's producer, Mr. Gore is personally responsible for greenhouse gas emissions on an epic scale.
Now, readers of The Washington Times will recall that it is not the first time that Mr. Gore has displayed an astonishing gap between theory and practice. Who can forget the image of Mr. Gore floating beatifically in a canoe in New Hampshire in the 2000 election? Inquiries by an enterprising reporter for The Times uncovered that the river had to be dammed by the U.S. Park Service to raise the water table, which produced enough draft to float Mr. Gore's boat, so to speak.
Mr. Gore claims that it does not matter how much energy he burns because he buys Carbon Emission Offsets, a concept that used to be popular with the right and now has been taken up by Mr. Gore and friends. It means that wealthy consumers like Mr. Gore pay a fee to splurge, which is then invested in reducing carbon emissions in the developing world, allegedly a zero-sum game. Mr. Gore's money stays in the family, though. The company he deals with is called Generation Investment Management, LLP. Based in London and Washington, its chairman and founding partner is none other than Al Gore.
"I think of carbon offsets as 'indulgences,' " says Ms. Williams of the Tennessee Center for Public Policy Research, referring to the practice of the medieval Catholic Church selling the forgiveness of sins. What we need in environmental affairs, perhaps, is a reformation that will upend the orthodoxy and bring people back to their senses.
Helle Dale is director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Washington Times