Al Gore’s carbon footprint

BusinessWeek’s Bruce Nussbaum is picking up the meme regarding Al Gore’s carbon usage at his home in the “posh” Belle Meade area of Nashville. As I live in Al’s ‘hood, I’d like to clarify one thing about his carbon use. It may be true that his kilowatt hours of electricity and lbs. of natural gas have increased since the movie Inconvenient Truth came out, but I’ve noticed that he’s added lots of trees and bushes to his lot, as well. So, to be accurate about his carbon footprint, I think you’d have to consider those in your calculations. And while I’m not a carbon-neutral nut (however, I’m a zealot for alternative energy sources), I think it would be easy for Gore to balance out any carbon consumption issues he might face by planting a few acres of trees on his farm land southeast of Nashville.

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  • Trees and bushes do NOT help. They hurt.

    It’s sunlight hitting chlorophyll that converts CO2 to O2 and turns carbon into vegetable material. When you have grass, all the sun hits green matter. When you have a tree blocking the sunlight from hitting the grass, part of the sunlight hits a green leaf, which is a wash, but in winter, there are no leaves, and in the fall, the leaves are colored because there’s no chlorophyll. Some of the sunlight hits bark, which does no carbon good, and some of it hits dead leaves on the ground.

    If you had a nice carpet of grass, that’s 100% green matter working for you.

    If gore was planting ivy on the walls of his house, and planting grass on the roof, yeah, that’d be a little improvement, but not a whole lot.

    A solar panel in near earth space, getting sun 24 hours a day, generates 130 watts per square foot. Gore’s house used 18.4 million watt-hours per month in 2006.

    Gore’s house used 18.4 million watt-hours per month in 2006. While sunlight has about 130 watts per square foot in near-earth space, photosynthesis is about 11% efficient – and half the time, the earth is facing away from the sun, not towards it. At this point, Gore needs to have 10.7 acres of rapidly growing green matter in order to compensate for his electrical usage.

    What’s more, the light company has to generate much more electricity than it can charge for, because of generation and transmission losses. What’s more, there’s the energy used to mine the coal and operate the trains to haul the coal to the electrical generation facilities. Even before we consider the energy used for the miners to drive to work, and the energy used to heat and cool their houses, and provide them with food and clothing, we’ve doubled the footprint. Gore needs 21.4 acres of rapidly-growing green matter to compensate for his electrical usage.

    And that assumes that there are no cloudy and overcast days. It would require even more green matter to compensate for those.

    Oh, and he uses a lot of natural gas, as well – $12,960 annually. The Department of Energy figured $6.78 per million BTU in 1997. Has the price doubled since then? At that rate, it’s about a 955 million BTU, which is 280 million watt-hours. His electrical consumption is only 18.4 million watt-hours per year. That means we need to multiply everything by 16.2.

    He DOES have a large mansion – 20 rooms, 8 bathrooms – but 346 acres is more than half a square mile. That’s a big roof. And in order for the plantings on his roof to qualify as a gain, he’d have to have plopped his mansion down on bare ground, or otherwise, he’s simply replacing the grass that would be growing there in the first place.

  • Hudge

    Paul – have a little hit of some fresh ocean air:

  • Hudge