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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?