You Can Gore Home Again

Even a Nobel Prize winner is not immune to criticism, although Al Gore’s detractors were harping on his eco-unfriendly McMansion long before the award was bestowed upon him in October.

In February, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (“an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee through free market policy solutions”—I smell libertarianism) issued a press release that Gore’s 80-year-old, 10,000-square-foot home was “His Own ‘Inconvenient Truth.’” They noted that the average American household uses 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, while Gore’s $2.3 million mansion bills in the Nashville burbs were more than twenty times that amount—221,000 kWh. His gas bill, they noted, average $1,080 in 2006.

Cut to ten months later, and Gore announces his home has been retrofitted as a model of green living. The house—and pool—is now heated by solar panels (which could only be allowed after a zoning change) and geothermal pumps, and rainwater is harvested. Incandescent bulbs have been replaced with—you guessed it—compact fluorescents and LEDs, which also adorning his Christmas tree (I wonder if it’s the recycled aluminum kind, the most eco-friendly and priciest?). The renovation should cut energy consumption by eleven percent, and the home will be rated LEED gold.

Gore told the Associated Press that the changes had long been planned, and that the censure from his adversaries wasn’t the impetus for the shift. "The only thing that has changed is that we're more public about it because of the misleading attack by a global-warming denier group,” he said.

Gore’s not the only one to get some flack for his big digs. Presidential hopeful John Edwards’ was also accused of real estate hypocrisy when the well known populist’s $6 million, 28,200-square-foot mansion came under scrutiny—his political rhetoric about the two Americas, rich and poor, seemed flatter somehow when we saw how tightly he clung to the former.

Housing should be a political issue, I agree. Except how come we’re not talking about the subprime fiasco and building affordable green housing? A better bit of news might come if Edwards’ and Gore move to more reasonable sized dwellings and donate their old ones to middle income writer and artist types who can neither afford to rent nor buy…like, um, me.