Inhofe’s Gotcha Moment — Absurdity of the Pledge, and the person calling for it …

Senator James Inhofe (R-Exxon) played a “gotcha” moment with Al Gore as part of his rambling opening statement.  
 The pledge plays to the smear campaign about Gore’s home energy use. This pledge — which is shooting around the denialist community — is faulty on so many levels. And, not surprisingly, Inhofe staff are crowing about Gore’s absolutely reasonable to refuse to pledge himself to an unreasonable pledge …

Yesterday’s Press Release
March 21, 2007
MATT DEMPSEY 202-224-9797

Search Marc Morano and Global Warming and you only get 42,900 hits on Google.  Attack on Gore, Morano came to the Hill from CNSNews, which is a sounding board from the right-wing sound machine.  And, he was known as Rush Limbaugh’s “Man in Washington”

Matt Dempsey is less (in)famous and only merits 2550 hits.

As Senator Barbara Boxer noted, elections have consequences. 

But, sadly, there is no indication in this material that it came from the minority side.

On the press release itself, there is no indication that this is not the opinion of the overall committee as opposed to a press release from the minority. Everyone already understands that, right?

It arrived as an e-mail from “” with no indication that this release came from the minority staff.  No chance of any confusion. Right? …


This, of course, is the line that they wish to make the rounds.  Sadly, the correct title might be “Former Vice President Al Gore sees through poorly worded and misleading lack of ethics call for a pledge” …

WASHINGTON, DC – Former Vice President Al Gore refused to take a “Personal Energy Ethics Pledge” today to consume no more energy than the average American household. The pledge was presented to Gore by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, during today’s global warming hearing.

Yes, okay, a truthful statement.  Yes, he rejected the unethical and devious gamesmanship.

Senator Inhofe showed Gore a film frame from “An Inconvenient Truth” where it asks viewers: “Are you ready to change the way you live?”

And, a great frame it is …

Gore has been criticized for excessive home energy usage at his residence in Tennessee. His electricity usage is reportedly 20 times higher than the average American household.

Okay, let’s not get into this into too much detail but:

  • Average … household” includes apartments, townhouses, etc … Gore lives in a detached home.
  • Gore’s area is the highest electricity use of the nation.
  • When controlled for square footage, Gore’s energy use is slightly below the square footage in his area.
  • Oh yeah, the Gores (Al and Tipper) have offices, frequently have visitors, etc …
  • And, it is former Vice President Al Gore — perhaps the Secret Service detachment has something to say about energy use there. (I.e., don’t we think they use some electricity.) 

Of course, putting things into context makes this passive voice “has been criticized” so much less powerful. Wouldn’t want to discuss an issue honestly, would we?

As a side note, I do believe that there are clear indications that Vice President Gore should have reacted along these lines: “Well, I thought that I was doing the right things. This news reporting has led Tipper and I to take another look. We’ve invited in an energy auditor and we are doing X, Y, Z to introduce more renewable power and to further reduce our energy use. It just shows that even someone who cares about this as passionately as I can learn something new and can learn something more that I can — and should — be doing.” For example, does Gore have solar hot water heating for his pool?  Why not LED lights rather than the reported gas lights along the driveway? There are indicatiosn that he could use less electricity and natural gas.

But, as long as we’re playing with “averages”, the odds are high that the Gore household uses zero home heating oil. That would place them 100% below the ‘average American household’ use of home heating oil. If we want to play with statistics, we can play some fun games.

It has been reported that many of these so-called carbon offset projects would have been done anyway. Also, carbon offset projects such as planting trees can take decades or even a century to sequester the carbon emitted today. So energy usage today results in greenhouse gases remaining in the atmosphere for decades, even with the purchase of so-called carbon offsets.

Inhofe’s “Gotcha” on this is, of course, done as a Gotcha moment. But, the fact remains that carbon offsets are — at best — confusing among many legitimate paths/programs, there are also many that are just short of fraud.  (For a good analysis, see:  Clean Air-Cool Planet who did an excellent report The Consumers’ Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (warning pdf).  For a perspective on this from an Ecotality blogger, see Bill’s Questioning Carbon Offsets.)

The real point — this should be easier and shouldn’t require research to have confidence that offsets are legitimate.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who adore you and would follow your example by reducing their energy usage if you did.”

Actually, is it “hundreds of thousands of people who adore” Al Gore? An accurate figure is probably easily 10s of millions and, perhaps more appropriately, globally this is likely to be easily 100s of millions. 

And, yes, Gore is already being listened to and followed …

Notice, by the way, the hidden criticism:  “if you did”.  As if Gore has not bought solar PVs and taken no steps to reduce energy use.  Again, his average energy use — despite home offices and tremendous wealth — per square foot is below that of his area.  Hmmm … that indicates action to reduce energy use.

Don’t give us the run-around on carbon offsets or the gimmicks the wealthy do,” Senator Inhofe told Gore.

Well, above are some thoughts on carbon offsets.  But, there are the Energy Three Rs:

  • REDUCE energy use.  Be efficient.  Conserve.
  • RENEWABLE power. Where possible — whether through own production or purchase.
  • REMEDIATE use of GHG-energy. If needing to use GHG-energy (such as for air flights or gasoline for a car), figure out a way to remediate it. (This is the carbon offsets issue which Inhofe’s snidely refers to.)

Remediation — which good carbon offsets are one path — is basically a necessity for anyone who participates in global commerce and cares about Global Warming issues.  After all, internet use — due to server farms — is actually a noticeable element in driving higher electricity use.

“Are you willing to make a commitment here today by taking this pledge to consume no more energy for use in your residence than the average American household by one year from today?” Senator Inhofe asked.

Again, very simply, the Gore household is not “average”.  Isn’t it odd this  gleeful attack on wealthy people for not living like the ‘average household’? (Yes, there is the issue of hypocrisy against beliefs … as per above, it seems that Gore should be doing more in his personal life to match his stated commitments.)

Senator Inhofe then presented Vice President Gore with the following “Personal Energy Ethics Pledge:

Again, that title is absolutely inappropriate, as we will see:

As a believer:

Note “believer”.

This is being put into the matter of faith rather than science. This plays to Inhofe and others who wish to attack those concerned with providing a better future as somehow replacing traditional faith with ‘environmentalism’.

that human-caused global warming is a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue affecting our survival;

Well, true …

that home energy use is a key component of overall energy use

Okay, roughly true.  In the range of 20% of US energy use (from construction through life cycle).   And, there is so much that can be done by the individual (see, for example, the Rocky Mountain Institute Home Energy Efficiency resources) and by the society (how about 100% GHG-free infrastructure by 2030 … Architecture2030).  And, well this is something that the average individual can have a quick impact on with minimal cost.

that reducing my fossil fuel-based home energy usage will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions; and

Okay, a truism.

that leaders on moral issues should lead by example;

Well, I agree with this as well.

I pledge to consume no more energy for use in my residence than the average American household by March 21, 2008.


1.  The average household is not an appropriate comparison. See above …

2.  If the issue is fossil-fuel energy and global warming, why does the pledge not make that distinction?  Oh, perhaps that is because the Gores produce some of their own electricity with PV panels and pay additional money to their utility for ‘renewable energy’, money that helps foster increased renewable power generation.

Gore refused to take the pledge.

And, through refusing to agree to this unethical “Gotcha” gamesmanship showed that he can read and figure out the inananities that were put in front of him by Senator Inhofe (R-Exxon).

The Inhofe Scale

Lou Grinzo, over at the Cost of Energy has come up with the concept of The Inhofe Scale.

The Inhofe Scale will be used to measure statements (but most definitely not the speakers who make them) that exhibit a noticeable and willing detachment from reality. The scale is calibrated so that 100 equals the detachment seen in Senator Inhofe’s “greatest hoax”, polar bear, and Mars quotations. Extra consideration is given to positions espoused with an excessively cavalier attitude or downright meanness, and those from people or organizations that have a obligation to get it right.

Just to be clear, this is a measurement of detachment from widely accepted reality … And by “willful detachment from reality” I mean far more than simple ignorance.

The Inhofe Scale merits incorporation by all of us. Framing absurdities and inanities for what they are. Thank you, James Inhofe, you might just have made your first real contribution to American society.


One response to “Inhofe’s Gotcha Moment — Absurdity of the Pledge, and the person calling for it …

  1. It seems to me that the bottom line is that vice-president Gore wants to live his life as the high life, while encouraging everyone else to live their life in a much more restrictive fashion. Then he tries to make amends by selling himself carbon offsets through his own company. The image VP Gore projects of himself is not one of a person who is concerned about man’s impact on global warming, but one of a person who is trying to scare the rest of the world into investing in his company.

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