Al Gore & Steve Maloney: Guess Which One is the Environmentalist?
I was intrigued -- but not really surprised -- to read about Green Advocate Al Gore spending an average of $2439 per month for heat and power at his "posh" Nashville, Tennessee mansion. The very wealthy man who falsely claimed to have "invented the Internet" and helped create the global warming hysteria is not exactly the most appealing of creatures. He's a hypocrite of the first order, self-absorbed to an overwhelming level.
He's the ultimate consumer. He consumes the attention, even adoration, of people who care what he says more than what he does. He consumes a vast amount of electricity and other forms of energy. Clearly, he consumes a lot more food than he needs. The people who know know him best -- the residents of Tennessee -- rejected him when he ran for President in 2000.
I'll admit it: I compare myself with Al Gore, and he doesn't come off very well, especially in matters related to his supposed passion: the environment.
Let's see, he's the left-wing environmentalist whose utility bill is $30,000-plus per year. I'm the right-wing critic of environmentalism whose electric bill is a little above $200 a month (two-bedroom, three-bathroom home) about $2500 annually. He does a lot of world traveling and regularly rides in gas-guzzling limousines. I do no world traveling, and I haven't owned an automobile in more than a decade.
I live with two disabled people, my wife who had a crippling stroke in 1991 and my stepdaughter, who has a learning disability and works at McDonald's. Before my wife and I became eligible in 2006 for prescription drug coverage (Medicare Plan D), our monthly cost for medications -- out-of-pocket -- was about $600-$700 per month.
My wife -- a computer whiz and corporate manager until her stroke -- can't work, and my stepdaughter has always had a minimum wage job. She and I are both on Social Security, and I make some money -- not a lot, but enough -- writing for a company in Illinois. I have a small pension from Chevron, the San-Francisco-based oil company.
Frankly, we get along just fine. But we had to make some significant adjustments, especially in terms of transportation.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, we decided to live without an automobile. Most Americans would find that almost inconceivable, but it's been a major positive for us.
An automobile is not an investment. Instead, it's a way to hemorrhage money. Buy a car for, say, $25,000, and you get the honor of spending thousands of dollars a year not only on payments, but also on insurance, gasoline, repairs, and parking fees. Five years after you purchase the vehicle, you have something that's well on its way to becoming a piece of junk -- and that's worth perhaps half what it originally was.
For us, we figured that having one car would cost us at least $350 per month. If you have more than one car, the figure would be much higher.
Put that money in the bank! After two years, you'll have as much as $8400, plus a much interest as your account generates over the 24 months. If you can invest the $8400 in a tax-free product -- say, in IRAs -- and get 6% interest per year, within 8 years your savings will be approaching $20,000.
Keep saving the $350 over a period of, say, 10-15 years, and your savings will be well up in six-figures. Of course, if you can get more than a 6% return -- and many people do -- your savings could be much larger.
A normal lifetime spent without a car could make your a millionaire, based only on the savings from your car-less life.
The great things about what J. P. Morgan called "the miracle of compound interest" is that it's subject to the Rule of 72. What this means is that if you gain an interest rate of 6% (si, your savings will double every 12 years. However, if you can get a rate of 12%, your savings will double every six years.
Many of you may be wondering how you can get along without a car. On the whole, it's a lot easier than you might think. That was true when I lived in Carnegie, three miles from downtown Pittsburgh. It's even truer at our present home in Ambridge.
Without a car, you need to live near a bus route. The Park n Ride lot, a hub for Port Authority Transit (Allegheny County) and Beaver County busses, which come-and-go about every hour during the day. Because I'm over 65, I can ride the busses for "free." My wife can ride for half-price, because of her disability.
But we don't ride the bus a great deal.
That's because we chose a place to live where nearly everything is reachable by old-fashioned shoe leather. Within six blocks, there's a: pharmacy (actually two of them), post office, bank, library, insurance office, Chinese take-out restaurant, Subway sandwich shop, a men's store, a medical testing center, the Ambridge town offices, a high school (Ambridge High) right across the street.
Also, our doctor's office is a 15-to-20-minute walk. There are many medical specialists with offices in Ambridge (podiatrist, rheumatologist, and the like).
Getting food is more of a challenge. The Foodland is about a 1 1/4 miles away, and my wife and I walk there. We use a four-wheel cart to carry the groceries. There are several other food stores -- two Giant Eagles, Saforas in Sewickley, and Shop n Save -- all requiring a short bus ride.
How do we handle food during extremely cold periods, like the recent one? We plan ahead.
We do a lot more walking than most people our age. That's not a negative. Rather, it is a way of getting something we really need: exercise. If we don't put ourselves in circumstances where we have to walk, we won't do it.
What about when we positively, absolutely must have a car? That occurs when we need to take one of our cats to a veterinarian, or attend a wedding or funeral? In such cases, we rent one from the Enterprise that's a five-minute bus ride from our homes. In fact, since Enterprise picks us up and drops us off, we can forgo the bus ride.
As for All Gore: well, he doesn't live in Ambridge. From the outside, it doesn't look like he walks a lot. I'm also guessing that he doesn't wear long underwear and a sweater in his home -- to keep the thermostat at a brisk 65 or 66. I know Nashville can get hot and humid, so I bet he keep his air conditioners (surely he has two) humming away from May 1 to October 1.
We believe strongly in not misusing finite resources, especially oil and natural gas. Unlike former VP Gore, we don't talk much about greenhouse gases and associated subjects. We grow most of our own vegetables in the back yard.
Because we're also trying to save money, we don't "purchase" our energy from one of the various "Green" sources available in PA. Gore's spokespeople say that he does purchase "green energy," which is significantly more expensive than the traditional variety (gas, oil, and coal).
Right now, "green energy" is fine for rich people, including the Gores. It's also good for people who live in the area served by the old TVA, which provides a great deal of hydroeletric power. In most areas of the country, Green Power isn't a reasonable alternative for people don't have abundant financial resources.
The Gores talk the talk. The Maloneys walk the walk, literally and figuratively. If Gore and family would move to Ambridge, I'd be happy to teach them how to put their money where their mouth is.