Climate Change and Politicians: “Do As I Say and Not As I Do”

Politicians worldwide seem not to be familiar with qualitymanagement principles, as they are simply not "walking the walk."  In fact, they are doing just theopposite where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. Rather than conservingenergy through less usage, more efficient vehicles, mass transit andcarpooling, they are flying in private jets, driving gas guzzlers, and being chauffeuredin limousines. All of these activities emit more greenhouse emissions than thealternatives: using commercial jets and carpooling in alternative fuelvehicles.

The Climate Summit

Copenhagen is awash with delegates from countries around theworld for the climate summit. Not only are they awash with delegates, but theyhave hired over 1,200 limos and expect 140 private planes.[i]Not only are there insufficient limos in Denmark to meet the demand, but they haveto hire additional limos from Germany and Sweden, hundreds of miles away. And,only five of these cars are fueled by alternate sources of fuel. Denmark, forexample, has no hybrids because of taxes on those vehicles.

Since Denmark’s international airport cannot handle the 140private jets that are expected to carry the VIPs, the planes will have to flyto regional airports or to Sweden to park and later pick up their passengers,when they are ready to depart. Further, these VIPs evidently do not realizethat there is a recession, since rooms are going for 650 pounds per night andrestaurants are gearing up their menus with scallops, foie gras, and caviarwedges.

According to the organizers, the eleven day conference willcreate 41,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, equal to the amount that asmall city would emit during that time frame.

Other Cases of Interest

Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Michele Obama, and Arnold Schwarzeneggerare other political figures who think they are immune to what they tell thegeneral public. They seem to believe that the public is OK with making theseelite people exceptions to the rules they make for the rest of us. However, thegeneral public may not understand just how high the amount of greenhouse gas emissionsthese politicians essentially flaunt as they go about their daily lives.  

Last week, the Los Angeles Auto Show had a guest visitor;California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger drove up in a gas-guzzling, 500-hp,19-mpg Porsche Turbo Cabriolet.[ii] And, he hadthe audacity to park illegally, flanked by a fleet of alternate-fuel vehiclesthat his policies have mandated. Schwarzenegger believes that California is atthe forefront of setting policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions thatthe nation should follow, including Assembly Bill 32 to monitor and limitgreenhouse gas emissions and low sulfur fuel standards to limit emissions fromvehicles.

For Schwarzenegger, this is only icing on the cake. Arnoldcommutes to work in Sacramento by private jet from his Brentwood mansion insouthern California. According to figures compiled by the Helium report, thegovernor’s jet does almost as much damage to the environment in one hour as asmall car does in a year. To ease his conscience, he buys credits to offset theenvironmental damages. However, the credits cost $43 per hour compared to$10,000 an hour to operate his jet.[iii] Obviously,for someone as wealthy as Arnold, it is a no brainer to tell his constituents "doas I say and not as I do." Obviously, the average Californian could not affordArnold’s lifestyle.

Nancy Pelosi also commutes to California, but in her casethe commute is longer than Arnold’s. She travels 3,000 miles across the country from her office in WashingtonD.C. But, she needs to make it in a plane that does not need to be refueled. Priorto the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Speaker of House flew commercial, justlike everybody else in Congress. But, those attacks provided a reason for theSpeaker, seconds removed from the Presidency, to have a military-stylepassenger plane equipped with beds, galleys, and business-class seating thatcan make the flight in any weather and be in contact with the White House if sowarranted.[iv]Again, it is an issue of "do as I say and not as I do."

Al Gore can worry about greenhouse gas emissions in "An InconvenientTruth," the film that brought him an Oscar, a shared Nobel Prize, and lots ofmoney, but facts are that his home uses more than 20 times the energy of theaverage U.S. home. According to the Nashville Electric Service, Gore’s mansion,located in a posh area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month thanthe average American household uses in an entire year. In 2006, Gore paidnearly $30,000 in electricity and natural gas bills for his estate.[v]Apparently, if you are wealthy enough to pay bills of this size, it doesn’tmatter that you contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

When Michelle Obama was in France for D-Day commemorationswith her husband, the President, she used the opportunity to use taxpayers’money to make a surprise visit without the President to London.[vi]The private jet and the accompanying limousines to ensure that Michelle and herdaughters were safe emitted far more emissions than a commercial flight fromParis to London and back to the United States.  Those emissions grew even larger, as the first family andtheir secret service agents used limousines, rather than a hybrid or alternatefuel vehicles.


Politicians seem to believe that they are immune to thestandards they profess and the legislation that they pass because they areelitists tasked with running our country. However, management principles tellus that our leaders should "walk the walk." Why should the average citizen beasked to do what our leaders cannot do?


[i] Copenhagenclimate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges,

[ii] NationalReview Online, The ‘Green Governator’, December 2, 2009,  

[iii] LosAngeles Times, Governor’s private-jet commute comes under fire, March 6, 2008,

[iv] Los AngelesTimes, Pelosi gets nonstop abuse over air travel, February 8, 2007,

[v] Al Gore’sEnergy Use,

[vi] TheHuntington Post, Michelle Obama in London With Daughters For Surprise Visit,

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