Gore and CO2

by Kieran Healy on May 31, 2006

“Tim Lambert”:http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/05/you_call_it_lying_cei_calls_it.php finds “Iain Murray”:http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OTVlODk1YWJlMmRlMGY2ZmI4ZDI2MmNlODJhNjA2YmM engaged in a contemptible bit of smearing. Previously, the CEI “falsely claimed”:http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/05/cei_exaggerates_by_a_factor_of.php that Al Gore was producing 4,000,000 times as much CO2 as the average person in the course of his daily activities, given his heavy use of air travel. This estimate turns out to be way, way off. In addition, it now turns out that Gore is trying to make his promotional tour carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets, presumably from organizations like “TerraPass”:http://www.terrapass.com/. Murray’s response?

bq. Translation: I am rich enough to benefit from executive jets and Lincolns because I pay my indulgences. All you proles have to give up your cars, flights and air conditioning. The new aristocracy; there’s no other way to describe it.

Purchasing carbon offsets is of course a “market-based”:http://www.terrapass.com/faq.html#13 solution to the externalities associated with individual use of cars and air travel and so on. You’d think that the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Review would be in favor of that sort of thing. But if Gore is doing it, then it must be the purest form of aristocratic statist elitism.

Back in the day, Murray was the sort of person you could “have a reasonable disagreement with”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2002/09/19/crime-and-punishment-part-3/. But then he went to work for CEI and he went rapidly downhill. Because he had to follow the CEI line, he began to make “stupid mistakes”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/07/10/the-cost-of-emission-control/, “bad arguments”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/12/29/uncertain-science/ and “unsupportable smears”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/11/04/annals-of-premature-accusations/. His trajectory is a good illustration of the principle that being paid to follow a certain political line regardless of what the evidence says will turn you into a hack. Taking empty pot-shots at Al Gore is just the latest step down the ladder.

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06.01.06 at 12:45 am



Yentz Mahogany 05.31.06 at 5:11 pm

To be sure, there’s no incentive for one to be sensible when one’s job is to make their readers stupid.


jre 05.31.06 at 6:08 pm

Indeed, Murray’s pathetic slide is yet another example of evolution along a line of constant wankerness in the direction of increasing wingnuttiness.
As you’ve noted, there was hope for him at one time. It is sad to hear him sing “Rich Liberals Think They’re Better Than You” in imperfect harmony with the rest of the loons.


seen 05.31.06 at 6:25 pm

Actually, a pretty typical specimen of the “honest conservative”.

I.e., a lying sleaze-bag corporate apologist.


Tom F 05.31.06 at 6:44 pm

Another reason I don’t read National Review…always with the class warfare, always bashing the rich. They should move to Russia if they don’t like it here!


Christopher M 05.31.06 at 6:54 pm

It’s totally disingenuous. I can’t speak for Gore, but certainly the majority of those on the left concerned about global warming also support tax transfers from people who make the kind of money Gore does to the “proles” so beloved by Murray. And Murray knows that. It’s impossible to say whether he’s being disingenuous on purpose or because he’s ideologically blinded, but those are the options.


David Sucher 05.31.06 at 7:16 pm

I don’t even see the issue. Gore is saying that we have a problem — global climate change — and none of us is exempt. In order to mobilize opinion to actually do something, Gore has to take part in the world as it is.

The converse seems to me to be quite contrived. It would mean that no one who wants any sort of change can use the existing social mechanisms to change things. Rather limiting and bad policy. We want people to use existing structures to create new one — (unless we are revolutionaries who wish to topple everything.) Say you don’t like the powers a legislature has given itself. So under the murray argument, that means that you can’t go to that same legislature and argue to it that it has made a mistake, short-sghted policy etc etc.

It would suggest that can only take part in the social structure as we find it if you agree with everything about it. Bad idea.


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Seth Gordon 05.31.06 at 9:02 pm

Liberals aren’t allowed to be rich. Hence the stereotype of liberals as white-wine-swilling elitists, the uproar over Hillary Clinton making a killing in the commodities market, etc., etc.

I’m not sure how much of this is _ressentiment_ and how much is a cynical attempt to direct people’s envy of those richer than themselves against politically convenient targets.


roger 05.31.06 at 9:18 pm

If that is the best they can do in countering Gore, they are in big trouble. There was a poll taken recently and published in the National Journal that is irresistable, a map of the phenotype of Big Petro. It was billed as a congressional insiders poll. This was the question and these were the results. The Conservative war on science goes on!

“Do you think it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made pollution?

* Republicans (35 votes)

Yes 23 percent
No 77 percent


“The Earth is warming — that much is certain. What is not certain, however, is the role of man versus nature. The press has made up its mind and is taking the side of extreme environmentalists.”

“Even if temperatures are rising, a dubious proposition in itself, there is absolutely no conclusive evidence that it has anything to do with man. Remember, there was a Medieval Warm Period that lasted from about the 10th to the 14th centuries, followed by the Little Ice Age. We could be going through something similar, if indeed we are going through anything.”

“Respected scientists from both sides of the issue have presented convincing evidence. However, proponents of the ‘global warming as a result of man-made pollution’ theory have failed to prove that the fluctuations we are seeing are not the natural fluctuations we know have occurred over the course of history, well preceding the planet’s population by humans.”

“But there is a preponderance of evidence in this direction.”

” ‘Political science’ is a misnomer and so would be ‘judicial science.’ Mistrial declared.”

“There’s no question that man has an effect on the environment. But what that actually amounts to, nobody is certain. Liberals and environmentalists point to every other weather system as an example of man-caused climate change: If it’s too hot, that’s evidence of ‘global warming.’ If it’s too cold, that’s more evidence of ‘global warming.’ We need more research and less demagoguery.”

* Democrats (42 votes)

Yes 98 percent
No 2 percent


“Yes, beyond the shadow of a doubt. All major scientific bodies of the world agree that humans are changing the climate and that we must take immediate action to avoid dire consequences.”

“There have been 868 studies, peer-reviewed, and not a single one doubts it; there is no controversy.”

“There is no other proof available. Besides, the way we have treated this planet, what else can we expect?”

“There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that the Earth is warming as a result of man-made greenhouse gases. The only ‘scientists’ who disagree are those whose ‘research’ is funded by the oil companies, who were appointed to a federal commission by George Bush, or who believe in ‘intelligent design.’ ”

So here’s the question: who was the 2 percent in the no column for the Dems? Joseph Lieberman?


Keith 05.31.06 at 9:19 pm

Theoreticlaly, Gore could drive aorund in a corn powered weeny mobile, but then they’d just make fun of his ride.

Actually, Willie Nelson has been touring for years in a biodiesel bus. Gore could concievably do something similar to help lower his contribution to the emissions of the world but, do they have biodiesel everywhere he’s going? prfobably not and carrying it aorund with hi would be prohibitively expensive…

Of course, the whole argument is a back handed way of saying Gore should stay home and shut the fuck up.


sbk 05.31.06 at 9:35 pm

My impression was that the National Review more or less openly upheld a double standard for conservatives and liberals. Maybe there’s a tortured argument from Carl Schmitt in favor of it. The most significant goal is to support conservatism and conservative causes — even if they’re sometimes internally inconsistent — and attack liberalism and liberal causes. I might be wrong about this, but do they really argue much in favor of non-partisan fairness? It seems like they often have specifically avoided that stance. E pluribus unum, against all enemies, etc. If I’m off-base here (no pun intended), please enlighten me.


Jim Harrison 05.31.06 at 10:39 pm

The pundits have taken a blood oath to prevent any competent human being from becoming President of the U.S. Gore, who is obviously the most qualified candidate of either party, will therefore be unceasingly attacked by the Press.


Gar Lipow 05.31.06 at 11:53 pm

The main issue here is that National Review will use any excuse to attack anyone getting out information they don’t want us peasants to have.

But without letting this be the main point, it is an important secondary point that buying offsets is pretty damn useless.


>Suppose you run a scrap steel furnace in a poor nation – an old fashioned Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) that has finally worn out. It won’t pay to do one more rebuild. You have cheap coal power in your neighborhood, so you decide to buy an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) which will pay back the difference between it and another BOF very quickly indeed.

>But you know, the coal burned to make electricity for your new furnace puts a lot less pollution (including carbon) in the air than your old direct coal burning BOF. Isn’t there some way to get paid for this? Why yes, indeedy. Pay a consultant certified by a major carbon market a hefty fee. He will produce a thorough and convincing report certifying that you could have gotten another ten years out of that old BOF; only carbon credits convinced you to switch to an EOF. The carbon market will certainly believe it, and they will issue a certificate. Voila! You created a new annual source of bouncing baby offsets to soothe the guilt liberal rock stars would otherwise feel as they travel in jet airlines and diesel buses.

>“Mommy, where do carbon offsets come from?”

>“Well, you see honey, when a major polluter and a consultant love money very much they express that love together in a special way. And nine months later the consultant produces an extremely long piece of paper.”

Links for in depth info on this can be found at:



TheDeadlyShoe 06.01.06 at 6:27 am

A good point Gar… but it is something, corruption or no. It does bear unfortunate resemblances to the corrupt fuel processing tax credit thinger, which was IIRC intended to promote alternative energy but has proved nothing but a tax loophole for oil companies.


nick s 06.01.06 at 6:53 am

it is an important secondary point that buying offsets is pretty damn useless.

Funding the provision of solar panels in Indian villages to replace kerosene generators — one of the projects that Gore is funding as an offset — is slightly different.


Gar Lipow 06.01.06 at 12:17 pm

>Funding the provision of solar panels in Indian villages to replace kerosene generators—one of the projects that Gore is funding as an offset—is slightly different.

A point. Still is he picking the projects directly or is he giving money to a fund? Because the problem with a carbon market is that it almost has to be corrupt. Also, funding reductions elsewhere is great, but ultimately we have start cutting in the first world. Even if every poor nation became carbon neutral rich nation about alone is disasterous. There really is not that much room for emissions trading. Ultimately just about everyone has to cut. I think you are going to have use a combination of regulations, public works and green taxes if you want to make significnant cuts. Emssion trading even at its best would make a marginal contribution. And emission trading as it is likely to happen in the real world is more likely to slow or prevent emission reductions. Bad money drives out good. Bad carbon credits will drive out good in the carbon markets – which in turn will discourage innovation.


SamChevre 06.02.06 at 8:44 am

I’m on both sides of this. So I’ll give the Sam’s-thoroughly-annoyed-neighbor answer (vocabulary changed): don’t take it as my answer, though.

Gore’s policies would hurt us, badly. Gas prices are already ridiculously high. I can’t afford a nice new vehicle–this 1985 Impala is all I have. And the only job I can find is 30 miles away. And Gore wants to make me spend even more on gas, because it would be “better for the environment”–but he flies all over in a big jet and has plenty of money so he can afford it but he wants ME to not be able to afford to drive 2 hours to see my mom once a month.

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