Friday, August 24, 2007

Chickengreens of the upper crust 

Since I've done my bit this morning to foster undifferentiated anxiety over global climate change, I feel that I have earned some skeptic-offsets that I can apply to bashing the chickengreens -- rich people who demand enormous sacrifices from not-rich people so as to reduce anthropogenic global warming, while dumping tons of carbon themselves to travel without having to rub elbows with the Great Unwashed. If you have access to today's Wall Street Journal, read "Living Large While Being Green" in today's "Wealth Report" column. If you do not have access, enjoy this fair use excerpt:

It's not easy being green -- especially if you're rich.

With their growing fleets of yachts, jets and cars, and their sprawling estates, today's outsized wealthy have also become outsized polluters. There are now 10,000 private jets swarming American skies, all burning more than 15 times as much fuel per passenger as commercial planes. The summer seas are increasingly crowded with megayachts swallowing up to 80 gallons of fuel an hour.

Yet with the green movement in vogue, the rich are looking for ways to compensate for their carbon-dioxide generation, which is linked to global warming, without crimping their style. Some are buying carbon "offsets" for their private-jet flights, which help fund alternate-energy technologies such as windmills, or carbon dioxide-eating greenery such as trees. Others are installing ocean-monitoring equipment on their yachts. And a few are building green-certified mansions, complete with solar-heated indoor swimming pools....

Others say the efforts are little more than window-dressing, designed to ease the guilt of the wealthy or boost their status among an increasingly green elite. Environmentalists say that if the rich really wanted to help the environment, they would stop flying on private jets, live in smaller homes, and buy kayaks instead of yachts.

"Carbon offsets and these other things are feel-good solutions," says Lester Brown, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute. "I'm always interested in people who buy a carbon offset for their jet to fly between their four big homes. These kinds of programs postpone more meaningful action."

Either way, an increasing number of companies are launching programs designed to help the rich live large while staying green. Jets.com, a private jet service, plans to start a program in early September in partnership with the Carbon Fund. After they take a trip, customers will get a statement on their bills telling them how much carbon dioxide their flight emitted and what it would cost to buy offsets from the fund.

The offsets are a bargain compared with the flights: A round-trip private-jet flight between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Boston costs about $20,000. The offsets for the 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted would cost about $74, the company says.

V1 Jets International, a jet charter company, rolled out its "Green Card" program that it says accentuates "the positive effect your flight emissions will have on the environment." The company calculates the total emissions from the trip and then buys a carbon offset from the Carbon Fund. "From a jet perspective, we have a responsibility to look after the damage that these planes do," says Andrew Zarrow, V1's president. The company also has created technologies designed to make flights more efficient by selling seats on "deadleg" trips -- flights that are returning empty from one-way trips.

A fully loaded Gulfstream G400 burns 100 gallons of fuel per passenger per hour. The comparable figure for a Boeing 777 is 6 gallons. Per hour, the Gulfstream dumps one ton of CO2 per passenger, compared to 0.06 tons for the Boeing. If you believe that incremental CO2 is driving changes in our climate which may lead to catastrophe, then there is simply no defense for routinely traveling by private jet.

Look, it is wonderful to fly by private jet, but it is also entirely unnecessary. Yes, celebrities particularly will bleat that it is uniquely burdensome for them to fly commercial, but that is basically hogwash. Twenty years ago one used to see celebrities and other wealthy people in the first class cabins of scheduled commercial flights. Only the ultra-rich had their own jets. Today, the fractional jet business has made private jet travel affordable for the merely wealthy. People spend the money for the extravagance because it is so much more pleasant and convenient than commercial travel. But that is all it is -- pleasant and convenient. Surely that is not a reason to destroy the world?

As Glenn Reynolds put it a few days ago, it would be much easier to believe that CO2 emissions have led to a crisis if the people who are most vocal in promoting that idea acted as if they believed it. One way they could do that is to buy offsets and not fly on private jets. The two actions, after all, are actually and morally independent. The linking of offsets to indulgence is either self-deceptive or propagandistic, but it is not logical or moral.


By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Fri Aug 24, 12:07:00 PM:

A neighbor works at Goddard here in Maryland and also "commutes" to JPL in California. He is a older white guy, very conservative on "various issues" (he loves private equity combines, despises Hillary Clinton, supports the fact that many folks with interest only mortgages are loosing their homes, and supports the war in Iraq). However is the lefty green meany on matters of research funding, the war he says is in effect between "religious fanatics in the Bush Adminsitration and Congress" and science & education, and of course global warming. He studies Venus so I guess that's his paradigm.

The punchline is he and his cohorts take a chartered jet out of National (I refuse to call it Reagan) and sometimes BWI often twice a week to and from Pasadena when in my opinion (based on what he's told me and my wife), he's hooked up to everything from Greenbelt or even his home. Punchline Two: they all take separate cars to get to the airport. Punchline Three: he drives a gi-normous Lincoln Navigator (the only older white male I've EVER seen behind the wheel of such a behemoth). I'm sure he uses WAY too many napkins and paper towels too LOL I recently asked im about the hypocrisy afoot and he assured me that his SUV was nothign compared to the emissions in China. Nuff said.

P.S. he says before the end of the 21st Century we will discover life on at least two of Jupiter's moons and one of Saturn's --but Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, in a rare show of unity, will try to squelch the revelation as a threat to their "monopolies." After seeing Christine Aramapour's multi part expose on CNN, that part at least doesn't sound so daffy.

Have a nice end of summer.  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Fri Aug 24, 12:12:00 PM:

Off topic but migh I also suggest two other books for labor day beach reading (given your right wing clientele on this blog): Jack Tars & Commodores and Six Frigates (by Ian Toll, a pal)--both of which have excellent overviews of the war with the Barbary Pirates, O'Bannon the leatherneck captain, jeffersonians versus Federalists, blah blah. Enjoy...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 24, 03:01:00 PM:

Boy, do I wish I were one of the geniuses who came up with the idea of selling carbon indulgences.

We could turn liberal white guilt over anything into a profitable business. Hell, that's what Jesse and Al have been doing for years. What do you suppose the next profitable venture off of liberal white guilt will be?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 24, 04:54:00 PM:

I dunno...clearly you feel there's nothing to be guilty about so why the hell do you even care? ;-)  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Fri Aug 24, 05:17:00 PM:

...take a chartered jet out of National (I refuse to call it Reagan) and sometimes BWI often twice a week to and from Pasadena...

This is the giveaway that you're lying. I know two REAL scientists working at Goddard. That sort of travel opulence and frequency simply isn't available in any department's budget to research scientists.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 24, 06:42:00 PM:

Why woud they travel out of Reagan when Baltimore is just down the road?  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Fri Aug 24, 08:23:00 PM:

Hey Purple Glistening Nub--that's what he told me. We share a mail box square; I don't live with him. Unless he works for some sort of bizarre contractor, that's his story. He holds extreme views on climate change but flies often (I've seen the luggage and such and he has his ubiquitous dangling ID) and drives this huge bus of an SUV...

I'd think you'd just be happy I agreed with you tools on something! :-) I guessed wrong.

FYI, due to traffic etc BWI is often more convenient than National even though you might be geographically closer. This is the only place I knowof where you could probably walk to work faster than driving.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 24, 09:05:00 PM:

I am glad (and shocked) Chambers and I can agree on something. Ian Toll's "Six Frigates" is an insightful, entertaining read. "Jack Tars and Commodores" has been out for several years but remains a wonderful treatise on the early years of the US Navy and Marine Corps. Jeez there's hope (minute) for you yet.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 25, 10:17:00 AM:

AL GORE and TED TURNER wealthy green advocates whp live a good pampered life then demand we all live a simple life and conserve while they waste it all i mean turner logs,mines, his own property and holds canned hunts ald AL GORE uses $30.000 of electricity a month he floes here and there in his private jets and has his 4 mpg limos THEY ARE ALL HYPOTCRITS  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 25, 10:46:00 AM:

"But that is all it is -- pleasant and convenient. Surely that is not a reason to destroy the world?"

Well, TH, I've now only read about nineteen articles and seen three documentaries claiming that, according to geologic records, CO2 trails global temperature variations by some 500 to 800 years. It has to do with the deep oceans absorbing, and then releasing, CO2 as they try to maintain a balance with a volatile

But, according to your alarmist statement above, CO2 is the driving force behind global warming.

I would suggest that these two theories are mutually exclusive and that only one of them can be right.

I would further suggest that you continue your investigation, starting here.

"The linking of offsets to indulgence is either self-deceptive or propagandistic, but it is not logical or moral."

Yikes. I might have used the word "hypocritical", but 'immoral'? Now you're placing societal values on commercial endeavors? Many people consider logging to be 'immoral', too, ya know, so does this mean you're also against logging?

I mean, consider the plight of the poor Spotted Owl. All he wants to do is live in peace and harmony with the universe, but no! Evil, greedy man must come along and denude the pristine forests, all to satisfy his lust for more, More, MORE resources!

Doesn't that also sound immoral to you?

But if morality is the issue, couldn't it be argued that "some good" is a lot better than "no good at all"? Consider two scenarios:

Scenario A: Some guy jumps in his SUV, drives all over the place and dumps a ton of earth-crippling chemicals into the atmosphere.

Scenario B: Some guy feels guilty about his pollution, buys some carbon offsets which will plant a tree on his behalf, then jumps into his SUV, drives all over the place and dumps a ton of earth-crippling chemicals into the air.

At least a tree was planted in Scenario B.

How is planting a tree 'immoral'?

On the other hand, I'd be a little hesitant to hand somebody some money to dump a bunch of iron oxide into the ocean in order to feed the plankton so they'll grow and eat the bad, mean, evil carbon dioxide, which, in case you haven't been paying attention, is about ready to happen.

Dumping iron oxide into the ocean.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 26, 03:32:00 PM:

And look at all those they got into this rediclous and fruadelent SAVE THE RAINFORETS campaign it was a ripoff  

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