The finger pointers

When I first saw the email that’s been going around comparing the energy usage of two houses in the U.S., I was skeptical. After all, I also received an email claiming Elvis Presley won a hot dog eating contest in Houston last year. And I got another claiming Rudi Giuliani is a Republican. You can’t believe everything you hear on the Internet. But I decided to check out the comparison made in the “Tale of Two Houses” email and found that it was pretty much true. One house uses 12 times as much electricity as the average home in the same area, according to the Associated Press, and 20 times the normal amount of fossil fuels, such as natural gas. That house is Al Gore’s Nashville, Tenn. mansion. The other house, sitting on a ranch near Crawford belongs to Dubya. It is just about as energy efficient as possible, using a geothermal central heating and cooling system and catching rainwater in a cistern to water the yard and garden. Wastewater from the house is also treated and filtered and goes into the cistern. The energy usage of these two houses is pretty much irrelevant, except for the fact that Gore is going around telling everyone else they need to save energy, while he’s one of the most wasteful people on the planet. In the pursuit of this endeavor, he has logged over a thousand airplane flights, mostly in first class seats or in private jets. Some of that was in promotion of the recent Live Earth concerts held all over the place. The Live Earth effort was touted as a huge success. The promoters claim it drew two billion fans worldwide. Other sources put the total at closer to 30 million. Either way, that’s a lot of folks, some of whom attended the live concerts, to which they traveled in vehicles that burned fossil fuels and emitted pollution. And that doesn’t take into account the electricity used to run the televisions and cool the houses of those who watched the concerts at home, or the greenhouse gasses those appliances emitted. That doesn’t matter anyway, since the fans could not possibly hope to match the performers in total wastefulness. The New York Post claimed these “artists” flew a combined total of 223,000 miles, and you can bet a lot of that was in private jets. You can also bet they didn’t stay in the local Motel 6. The fans, of course, are not completely innocent. Many of them probably watched the shows on their new flat screen televisions, which use three times the energy of the old style sets of comparable screen size. But since the only television signals available will soon be HD waves, the only choice any of us will have will be to use the new sets or quit watching television altogether. The fact that the new flat screen TVs use a lot of electricity is understandably not advertised, and neither is the fact that the new energy efficient light bulbs, the ones that look like oversized slinkys, contain mercury. Break one of those in your home and you’ve created a hazardous materials situation which, if handled properly, will use more energy than a thousand of those bulbs save in a year. But that’s the price we pay for saving the planet. It would seem the movie industry, while sincerely concerned about the environment and the future of our planet, is somewhat vague toward its own wastefulness. Granted, this is human nature. We can all see the faults of others while ignoring our own. But we don’t all go around complaining. Actor Ed Begley, Jr., for example, honestly tries to help. He drives an electric car and uses some alternative energy, which helps to make up for the fossil fuels used to power the movie studios where he works. This is admirable, but at the same time, Begley has said he thinks Africans should have electricity only where they “need” it, advocating little solar panels on their huts. I would submit that outdoors-persons do more to conserve energy and aid the planet than most people, especially actors. Hunters and fishers are, by nature, conservationists. Without woodlands and wetlands and clean, abundant water, we would not be able to hunt and fish. But then, you seldom hear of the contributions made by true conservationists, since they never go on television to brag about them or blame others for not doing more. Conserving energy saves us money, so we all try to be parsimonious for that reason, if for no other. And none of us wants the movie industry shut down just because it isn’t green enough. It would be nice, however, if we weren’t constantly denigrated for being wasteful by some of the most wasteful and hypocritical people in the country. ‘Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who once turned off a light. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex. 76856 or

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