A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Al Gore’s Mansion


Q: Is it true that Al Gore’s mansion uses significantly more energy than the typical home?

A: The main claim in a chain e-mail was true when the original message began making the rounds in 2007. Since then, the Gores have made several changes to their home.

FULL QUESTION

Is this true??

Tale of Two Houses

[EET ]House #1
A 20 room mansion (not including 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400 per month. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in a Northern or Midwestern ‘snow belt’ area. It’s in the South.
————————————————————————

House #2
Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university.
This house incorporates every ‘green’ feature current home construction can provide. The house is 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms) and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground.

The water (usually 67 degrees F) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.

~~~~~
HOUSE #1 is outside of Nashville , Tennessee ;
It is the abode of the ‘Environmentalist’ Al Gore.

HOUSE #2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas;
It is the residence of the Ex-President of the United States, George W.
Bush.

So whose house is gentler on the environment? Yet another story you
WON’T hear on CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, or read about in the New York Times or the Washington Post. Indeed, for Mr. Gore, it is truly an "Inconvenient Truth."[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

This e-mail has been circulating since 2007, the year former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Oscar. It was basically accurate then. Gore’s Nashville mansion consumed a large amount of energy compared with the national average, and President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, had several environmentally friendly features. However, both the Gore and Bush residences have since changed.

Bush v. Gore: 2006

The Internet myth-busting site Snopes.com wrote about this e-mail and a similar one two years ago, finding that the main messages were true. The Associated Press reviewed the Gores’ energy bills and reported that the family consumed 191,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006. This was considerably more than the amount of electricity used by the typical house in Nashville, about 15,600 kilowatt-hours a year.

An older version of the e-mail claimed that "Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359." That figure was just about right, according to the numbers crunched by the AP. However, this e-mail has mutated the claim to an "average bill for electricity and natural gas [that] runs over $2400 per month." And we could find no basis for the expanded claim.

The e-mail says the Gore home "consumes more than 20 times the national average" in natural gas. We suspect the e-mail’s author meant to say the Gores consume that much in electricity, since such a statistic was reported by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. But the AP disputed the electricity figures published by TCPR, a group that is skeptical of the severity of global warming and the role of humans in causing it. Still, the AP figures show the Gores used 12 times the energy of a typical Nashville home.

In addition, at about 10,000 square feet, Gore’s home is a little less than four times the size of the average new American home built in 2006. In contrast, the Crawford ranch belonging to Bush was about 4,000 square feet. A 2001 article in the Chicago Tribune said that the Bush ranch used geothermal heat pumps, as well as other environmentally friendly features.

Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for Gore, didn’t dispute the electricity figures published by the AP at the time. But she said that the Gores work from their home and purchase energy from renewable solar, wind and methane gas sources. She argued that by participating in the "green" utility program and investing in renewable energy projects worldwide, the Gores were living a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." 

Bush v. Gore: 2009

The e-mail has become dated, however. The now-former president Bush has moved into a new home in Preston Hollow, Texas, that is about 8,000 square feet – double the size of his Crawford ranch.

Kreider also told us in an e-mail that the Gores have made several eco-friendly changes to their home, which is now LEED certified. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this means that Gores’ home has earned credits in five categories: "sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality." Kreider told us:

Kreider, June 16: The Gores’ home is certified by the US Green Building Council as a Gold LEED certified home for retrofitted homes. As part of the LEED certification process, they upgraded their windows, lighting, appliances and insulation, among other items in and around the home […] The residence is powered with a geothermal system as well as 33-solar panels.  The Gores also participate in the "Green PowerSwitch" program offered by their utility [company].

Kreider also noted that, contrary to what was claimed in the original e-mail, the Gores’ residence "does not have a guest house."

We didn’t ask for the Gores’ electric bills, so we can’t say how much efficiency improvement the family has accomplished. But the e-mail was on target in 2007; it’s out of date now.

– Andrew Karter

Sources

"Glass Houses." Snopes.com. 28 Mar 2007, accessed 19 Jun 2009.

"Al Gore’s Energy Use." Snopes.com. 28 Feb 2007, accessed 19 Jun 2009.

"Group says Gore’s home overuses electricity." USA Today. 27 Feb 2007, accessed 19 Jun 2009.