In December, Peter Schweizer, author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, questioned former vice president Al Gore’s Nashville energy consumption in an op-ed in USA Today. In the wake of his Oscar win, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research did something similar, showing some interesting progress and lack thereof. National Review Online checked in with Schweizer for some context and how he managed to make Al Gore’s world a little bit greener.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: If Al Gore were having an out-of-body experience and describing his energy consumption in an Oscar-winning documentary, how might he characterize it?
Peter Schweizer: He’d rather not go there, out of body or not. But I think all of us, when we start a crusade, need to crusade at home first. If you really believe in something, act on it personally, and try to influence your family and friends to follow it first. Particularly today in the era of the internet, with all sorts of information now available, it’s become relatively easy to see whether people are really walking the walk. I’m surprised that when it comes to the environment Al Gore didn’t do that. After all, he invented the Internet.
Lopez: There’s this conventional wisdom that conservatives don’t care about the environment, but you’ve done your part to make the earth a little greener, haven’t you?
Schweizer: I’m glad that I played a part in Al Gore converting his house to green energy. Never thought I’d be able to add that to the resume. But I think there are lots of thing conservatives have done to improve the environment. Capitalism is certainly better for the environment than socialism has been. (If you don’t believe me, look at the ecological record of Soviet bloc. Yikes!) Capitalism is so efficient and responsive to the demands of the public that it deals so much better with these questions. Capitalism has allowed us to develop the very technologies that make for a cleaner environment. So if you fight for freedom and capitalism, you are helping the environment. Conservatives care about the environment. It’s just that we are smart enough to recognize that using the power of the state doesn’t work very well and that free markets and incentives are a better way to go.
Lopez: Do you applaud the former vice president for his conservation efforts?
Schweizer: If Al Gore wants to cut his energy consumption by driving a hybrid, more power to him. That’s his choice. My problem is that so many environmental advocates don’t start with themselves and their families and gradually work their way out. They begin immediately by telling regular Americans what to do and try to erect laws to force compliance.
Lopez: What are carbon offsets and how much do they play into Al Gore’s green crusading?
Schweizer: The idea with carbon offsets is simple: You offset the carbon you produce by paying for someone else to be green. If I’m jumping on my Learjet for a quick trip to Paris I’m going to spew lots of carbon in the air, I can figure out how much and give money to one of several environmental programs that will offset what I produce by planting trees or helping build a green energy plant somewhere else. this counterbalances the carbon I’ve produced. This has become all the rage, particularly among wealthy environmentalists. The problem is that many of them want offsets for their Learjets while telling us that we need to trade in our SUVs. They wouldn’t be satisfied if SUV owners cut an occasional check for an offset. They want our SUVs gone. Their own Learjets….they are more attached to.
Lopez: Why do you call Al Gore a hypocrite? Could he be a well-meaning rich guy?
Schweizer: I don’t know what Al Gore’s motives are, no one can really know that. The point I’m simply trying to make is one of consistency. We’ve been told that we need to radically change our lifestyles or we will face our own demise. We’ve been told that we need to dramatically cutback our energy consumption. Those who are leading this movement need to do this first — to demonstrate their own seriousness about the matter — before they start coming after us. My point is give up our third or fourth home, and the Boeing jet before you lecture the rest of us about our SUVs and barbecues.
Lopez: What about the Oscars? Do you give Hollywood any credit for being Green?
Schweizer: I never watch the Oscars. If some Hollywood people want to dramatically change their consumption patterns they are free to do so. But again, lead by example, not with hyped up moral outrage.
Lopez: Does anyone who wants to be “green” have to give up his jet and solar power his home?
Schweizer: If someone truly believes that overconsumption is the root of the problem (and this is the consistent theme of the environmental movement) then it’s hard to justify not doing these things, particularly if you are calling on other, less affluent Americans, to make sacrifices, too. Private jets are not a question of security. Former presidents, current U.S. senators, all sorts of prominent individuals have flown on commercial airliners. It’s simply a matter of convenience. And aren’t we all supposed to be inconvenienced by going green? I think that was in the title of a movie…
Lopez: On another political figure: Given your past work on Al Franken, will you be working overtime to help Norm Coleman’s reelection campaign?
Schweizer: I’ve never been so interested in Minnesota politics. Go Norm!