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Guess whose house this is....Sorprise
By Wenceslao Hevr
Posted: Tuesday, March 13 2007
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Here\'s a tale of two houses. Read the description of each, and then try to guess who its owner must be.

Our first home is a great example of conspicuous consumption and wasted resources. It\'s a mansion in an upper-class suburb, with just under two dozen rooms and 8 bathrooms. Combined with its guest house, the home consumed 16,000 kWh per month in 2005. Then An Inconvenient Truth came out ... so how did this homeowner respond? In 2006 the energy usage rose above 18,000 kWh per month. This is over 20x the national average!

This home consumes more energy in 30 days than most US households do in a year and a half! In total, the owners paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for this estate in 2006.

The owners of the home claim they offset their usage by purchasing carbon credits. If global warming were a religion, this would be like the indulgences paid to the Catholic church before the Reformation. The overly wealthy can pay a small (for them) fine, and then be allowed to break rules (such as saving energy) the common folk are supposed to obey. It may work, but it sets a bad example, and in the end holds poor people to a different, unfair standard. And it does little to stop pollution, because the person paying the carbon credits is only paying an extra fee -- they\'re not changing their habits.

By most accounts, this home is an example of how people in this climate-aware era SHOULD NOT be living.

Our second home is the polar opposite. Situated on a 1600 acre plot of hot, dry prairie land, it\'s a modest home of 4,000 square feet. Below the home is a network of pipes descending 300 feet into the earth, where the dirt and rock keep a constant temperature of 67 degrees. Pumping this water back up into the home helps to cool it during the summer, and to heat it during the winter. It\'s a closed network, so the water is simply recycled.

\"Passively solar,\" the home is positioned to allow for maximum absorption of the sun\'s heat in winter. Thanks to the geothermal system, the home operates on a mere 25% of the electricity it might otherwise require. The geothermal system even heats the home\'s outdoor pool--so efficiently, in fact, that original plans for additional solar paneling were cancelled.

Various gardens and grounds on the property are irrigated by a greywater system that channels shower, sink, toilet water and rainwater into enormous underground purifying tanks. And as icing on the cake, the walls of the home were built from cheap Luders limestone scrap material, quarried locally, that other homebuilders had thrown away.

And while conservation was kept in mind, these were also practical and financially-advantageous choices, for a hot and relatively-isolated region where water is scarce. Construction of the home started in 1999 and completed in 2001. It was financed privately -- no taxpayer dollars were spent in its construction.

You\'d be hard-presed to find a more illustrative model for market-driven sustainability. The home is a green utopia, and is so thoroughly off the grid that the green celebrity blog Ecorazzi and the renewable energy website Off-Grid both recently devoted in-depth profiles to it.

The first property is a mansion in an upscale neighborhood. It consumes over twenty times the amount of energy as the average US household. Clearly, this is someone who does not wish to reduce consumption, or to save energy. It must be owned by an oil executive, or an energy-company tycoon. Or a media mogul. Perhaps the CEO of Halliburton - they\'re all supposed to be evil, right?

The second property, on the other hand, is an example of green building and sustainability. It definitely must be owned by a great environmental leader. A rich scientist, perhaps. Or the chairman of the National Resources Defense Council. Or of the EPA. Greenpeace, maybe.

Who\'d you pick? You\'d be surprised.

The first mansion, guzzling electricity and paying carbon-credit \"indulgences\" for it, is in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, Tennessee. It belongs to Mr. Al Gore.

The second home, an example of green building and reduced energy consumption, is the western White House in Crawford, Texas. It belongs to President George W Bush

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