Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Funny numbers in TCPR 'Gore mansion' press release

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research made a splash last week with their press release claiming that energy usage in Al Gore's Nashville-area compound had actually increased ten percent since 'green' renovations had been completed.  TCPR was made news last year when they first brought Gore's conspicuous consumption to light. Although Team Gore denies any connection between TCPR's 2007 report and the subsequent renovations, the timing is, as they say, suspicious.

Your humble Heretic, of course, couldn't pass up an opportunity to highlight the latest release, joining countless others in the blogosphere.  I guess it is basic human nature that we are not as rigorous about fact-checking data that support our point of view.  It is also basic human nature that we try hard to find holes in data that appear to disagree with our point of view.  Sometimes such opposition research can yield results that further the cause of integrity in the AGW debate. 

Blogger Tim Lambert is no friend of the skeptic community, which no doubt made it easy for him to notice discrepancies between TCPR's 2007 release and last week's release.  At the risk of causing my readers to lapse into an eye-glazed stupor, let's look at the claims made in the two reports:
    February 2007 press release
  • Gore's 2006 energy consumption: 221,000kwh/year [i.e. 18,417kwh/month]
  • Average American household consumption: 10,656kwh/year [i.e. 888kwh/month]
  • Gore's consumption 20 times the average American household
    June 2008 press release
  • Gore's 2007 energy consumption: 213,210kwh/year [i.e. 17,768kwh/month]
  • 2006 monthly consumption: 16,130kwh
  • 2007 consumption 10% increase over 2006
  • 2007 consumption would power 232 normal homes for a month
The 2008 report's numbers are internally consistent, but they do not mesh with what was claimed in the 2007 report.  Comparing the annual numbers, Lambert noted that a 2006 total of 221,000kwh and a 2007 total of 213,210kwh yields a 4% decrease, not a 10% increase.  On the basis of this observation, Lambert declared TCPR to be an unreliable source and summarily dismissed the larger point raised in the newest press release (namely, that Gore consumes energy like a drunken sailor).

Looking only at this month's release, however, the numbers do work out: the monthly consumption increased from 16,130kwh to 17,768kwh, which is indeed a 10% increase.  This raises problems with last year's press release, though.  That report gave Gore's 2006 annual consumption as 221,000kwh, but 16,130 x 12 is actually 193,560kwh. 

Sorry for the blizzard of calculations; let me get to my point.  The biggest discrepancy appears to be an incorrect annual total in the 2007 press release.  To my knowledge, TCPR has never corrected or clarified this number, and as of this moment TCPR has not yet responded to my request for a clarification.

As long as TCPR allows this discrepancy to stand, its credibility in the AGW debate will be open to legitimate question.  I'm hoping that integrity will win out over the simple desire to score political points over Al Gore.