The Sopranos Leads Al Gore to Expand His Carbon Footprint

Newspapers have historically been vocal advocates for good environmental policy. So when millions of people start to consume them electronically, on computer screens, instead of on paper that comes from trees and must be thrown away, wouldn’t you think that newspapers would stand up and cheer? Well, not necessarily, since newspapers still make a lot more money selling ads on paper than they do on the computer.

What about Hollywood and film distribution? Again, Hollywood is historically known as an environmentally sensitive enclave. Let’s consider three of the main models of film distribution.

The old one is to build a gigantic movie theater to which customers must drive in order to see a film. Very profitable (Ratatouille, which I liked far more than my kids did, took in more than $47 million this weekend), but not very environment-friendly.

Then there’s the Netflix model, with DVD’s whizzing through the mail; again, a lot of energy is consumed, in this case by mail trucks, but at least it’s a pretty efficient consumption.

And then there’s the third model, which is taking a long time to get here, but it’s happening: digital downloading, even of first-run films. Like the electronic newspaper, this model presumably consumes far fewer resources than the older model.

Television, of course, has used this model since its invention: electronic distribution of its programming, delivered door to door with little friction. So you’ve got to think that anyone who considers himself a friend of the environment is a friend of television, yes?

Al Gore, it turns out, is indeed a friend of television. He particularly likes The Sopranos, and, like the rest of the relatively small but deeply devoted tribe who likes the show (myself included), Gore was very excited to see the final episode. One problem: he would be flying from Chicago to Istanbul during the broadcast. His solution: he called the producer Brad Grey, who had a top-secret DVD of the episode delivered to Gore’s plane on the tarmac in Chicago. As much as Gore loves the environment, the Sopranos siren song tempted him to expand his carbon footprint just a little bit that day. Will this go down with Bill Clinton‘s infamous 1993 haircut as another episode of Sins of the Tarmac?


egretman

Yes, but watching at home often doesn't compare with watching in the theatre.

I saw Ratatouille this weekend at one of the Alamo Drafthouse theatres. The movie was great. My organic root beer/Blue Bell icecream float was superb and the college age date crowd was free of kids.

Life is good.

egretman

....does Root Beer release CO2?

Oops.

bertrecords

Al Gore is mocked because he doesn't follow the Jimmy Carter model of turning down the thermostat and wearing a sweater?

My idea for reducing emissions should be mocked instead: http://davetravels.blogspot.com/2007/06/kyoto-is-far-away.html

trevorburnham

This analysis ignores the fact that whoever paid for the DVD to be shipped (Gore?) had that much less money as a result. The relevant question is, what was the alternative that said money would have been spent on?

If it were a haircut, then that would, indeed, have a smaller carbon footprint. Perhaps a Pigovian subsidy on haircuts is in order.

egretman

What's Gore supposed to do? Go live in a cave somewhere and eat vegetables? While all the religous conservatives wait for the second coming to solve all our problems and while neocons drive hummers and black suburbans and send their kids to Messiah college?

This reminds me of liberals in Texas who want the cities to conserve water so that conservative Republican suburbs can grow without limit.

I don't think so.

I waste water all the time. But I need some help down here. These lakes are big!

frankenduf

this posting, while funny, I think blurs the distinction between public and private regulation- for the societal issue of energy resources, we need government regulation to steer macro consumption- it doesn't matter if Gore rides a bike or not- there's no practical hypocrisy between modifying public policy and micro consumption
ps- yeah, ratatouille is entertaining (the animated water is amazing!), but what was with Linguine overreacting when the rats raid the pantry?- he only had ownership via the rat's accomplishment- so the rat is ethically co-owner of the restaurant!?

egretman

Ever since the low-carb craze during which I saw an overweight woman in Burger King eating a hamburger patty between two pieces of lettuce sans bun as if a bun was her only problem, I have come to realize that we Americans are no longer serious people.

Can anyone here on this blog seriously see America changing their ways for the cause of Global Warming? At least until the water levels are up to the 10th floor of the empire state building?

I mean....anyone?

bgrabow

The mail truck that delivers my Netflix DVDs leaves its carbon footprint six days of week, regardless of whether it brings something flat, round and silvery for me (which can be used over and over again by past and future viewers, as opposed to the other paper-based items the carriers leaves in my mailbox).

At the margin, the better example of the Netflix model's carbon footprint are its consumables, which amount to little more than its trademark red and white envelopes.

Chris Mealy

Taking cheap shots at Gore doesn't make you superior.

Is there a Levitt-only feed?

tarochan

"Ever since the low-carb craze during which I saw an overweight woman in Burger King eating a hamburger patty between two pieces of lettuce sans bun as if a bun was her only problem, I have come to realize that we Americans are no longer serious people."

That, is brilliant.

Micheal

What? Al Gore doesn't have a Slingbox?

Doug Karr

How is this a cheap shot? I think it simply shows the hypocrisy of politicians... always talking the talk but never walking the walk. Bravo to Stephen for pointing this out.

If you want to put yourself out in the world as a true environmentalist and make large sums of money doing it, you better be prepared to have your actions put under a microscope. Gores a big boy, he can handle it.

bertrecords

Q: Can anyone here on this blog seriously see America changing their ways for the cause of Global Warming? At least until the water levels are up to the 10th floor of the empire state building?

I mean….anyone?

A: What if rich people connected to powerful lobbyists think there is a buck to be made? Their media blitz will convince us that whatever they are selling makes our teeth whiter and us safer from Saddam. In America, it only seems that the future and progress are mutallly exclusive.

p.s.-- Guiliani will claim credit for saving all of the lives above the ninth floor.

byront

Everyone just loves to take cheap shots at Al Gore. Why don't you just lay off? Virtually everything in our economy costs carbon. We already KNOW that. Thank you. That's what he's trying to change.

lgritz

The post presumes that viewing a movie at the theater has a high carbon footprint, and shipping a Netflix disk is less, and that downloading and viewing it at home on TV/computer is lower still.

But is this true? Has anybody done a back-of-the-envelope calculation, taking into account such things as reproduction (and disposal) of the film itself, electricity of the projector, gasoline to drive to the theater, etc., VERSUS differential gas use to transport the Netflix disk, produce the disk, run the lights and robots in the Netflix warehouse VERSUS the electricity for your computer/TV, the communications line, and the servers feeding you the movie from the other end?

Maybe 100 people running computers to watch their movies is a greater carbon footprint than if they viewed it together in a theater (even if many of them drove a mile or two to get there).

Seems like there's an interesting accounting to be done here to find the real answer.

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zatavu

You know what, no, Gore should live the way he expects everyone else to live. I abide no hypocrites. I live the life I expect everyone else to live, and Gore is no better than me, even though I know he thinks he's better and smarter and wider than everyone else -- which is why he thinks he should be put in charge, of course. He's one of the "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" crowd, and his every example of hypocrisy should be pointed out. And not just his, but every other hypocrite out there who expect everyone else to sacrafice, but not them. I'm tired of self-centered, self-righteous jerks like him telling everyone else how to live. The best people like him deserve is to be satyrized.

egretman

Yes, but watching at home often doesn't compare with watching in the theatre.

I saw Ratatouille this weekend at one of the Alamo Drafthouse theatres. The movie was great. My organic root beer/Blue Bell icecream float was superb and the college age date crowd was free of kids.

Life is good.

egretman

....does Root Beer release CO2?

Oops.

bertrecords

Al Gore is mocked because he doesn't follow the Jimmy Carter model of turning down the thermostat and wearing a sweater?

My idea for reducing emissions should be mocked instead: http://davetravels.blogspot.com/2007/06/kyoto-is-far-away.html

trevorburnham

This analysis ignores the fact that whoever paid for the DVD to be shipped (Gore?) had that much less money as a result. The relevant question is, what was the alternative that said money would have been spent on?

If it were a haircut, then that would, indeed, have a smaller carbon footprint. Perhaps a Pigovian subsidy on haircuts is in order.