A tale of two houses, or an Inconvenient Hypocrite

Since all of us are enjoined to watch our "carbon footprint" these days (calculate "your impact" here!), I thought I might provide a public service by reprising the comparison some enterprising soul made between Al & Tipper Gore's house in Tennessee and George & Laura's spread in Texas:

House 1: George & Laura Bush Residence, Texas

The four-bedroom home was planned so that "every room has a relationship with something in the landscape that's different from the room next door. Each of the rooms feels like a slightly different place." The resulting single-story house is a paragon of environmental planning.

The passive-solar house is built of honey-colored native limestone and positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls of the 4,000-square-foot residence.

Geothermal heat pumps circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground. These waters pass through a heat exchange system that keeps the home warm in winter and cool in summer. A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof urns; wastewater from sinks, toilets, and showers cascades into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is then used to irrigate the landscaping around the four-bedroom home, (which) uses indigenous grasses, shrubs, and flowers to complete the exterior treatment of the home. In addition to its minimal environmental impact, the look and layout of the house reflect one of the paramount priorities: relaxation.

A spacious 10-foot porch wraps completely around the residence and beckons the family outdoors. With few hallways to speak of, family and guests make their way from room to room either directly or by way of the porch. "The house doesn't hold you in. Where the porch ends there is grass. There is no step-up at all." This house consumes 25% of the energy of an average American home. (Source: Cowboys and Indians Magazine, Oct. 2002 and Chicago Tribune April 2001.)

House 2: Al & Tipper Gore, Tennessee

This 20-room, 8-bathroom house consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year. The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, this house devoured nearly 221,000 kWh, more than 20 times the national average. Last August alone, the house burned through 22,619 kWh, guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of this energy consumption, the average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Also, natural gas bills for this house and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year. In total, this house had nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for 2006. (Source: just about anywhere in the news last month online and on talk radio, but barely on TV.)