How Green is that Eco-Celebrity?

A number of American film and television stars have expressed their disdain for big, gas-guzzling SUVs. Brad Pitt, for instance, made a heartfelt (if somewhat bumbling) pitch for a California proposition that sought to tax oil companies in the state to pay for alternative fuel research recently. The proposition failed at the ballot box, but to his credit Pitt puts his money where his mouth is on environmental issues by driving a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle, which turns in the best fuel economy of any car available from a major manufacturer in America.

But now Pitt’s “green” credentials and those of other celebrities have been called into question by London’s The Sunday Times and the U.S.-based gossip Web site TMZ. While Pitt does drive a Prius, when he traveled to Namibia recently to meet girlfriend Angelina Jolie, he took a charter jet that, according to TMZ, burned 11,000 gallons of jet fuel.

Pitt is certainly not the only “environmentalist” celebrity to have a penchant for private planes either. Julia Roberts is reported to be an owner of a Toyota Prius as well, and she has spoken out for environmentalist causes, but on a recent trip between Los Angeles and Chicago the private jet she traveled on consumed an estimated 2,100 gallons of fuel.

According to the New York Post, another Prius driver -- Leonardo DiCaprio -- put his girlfriend, mother and grandmother on a private jet from Paris to Rome so they could attend the Italian premiere of his latest movie, “The Departed.” There was no report on the amount of fuel consumed by that excursion, but you can bet it was more than would have been burned had the three lovely ladies traveled by full-size SUV. Or in three of them, for that matter.

George Clooney goes his Prius-driving friends one better by owning an all-electric vehicle called the Tango, which is really more motorcycle than car, but one has to wonder how much he actually drives it. Resembling nothing so much as an oversized high-top gym shoe, it seats two in a fore-and-aft rather than side-by-side configuration -- not the greatest for courting starlets. One also must wonder why he decided to make the 5,500 mile trip from Hollywood to Tokyo recently in a private jet that guzzled 7,000 gallons of fossil fuel that might otherwise have gone to disadvantaged families in Third World countries.  We’re not suggesting he should have traveled by electric car or even electric airplane, but taking a commercial flight would have saved thousands of gallons of fuel and significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Talking the talk while failing to walk the walk is not confined simply to Hollywood stars either. When former Vice President Al Gore promoted his movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” a film about global warming, he traveled around the country by private jet. We are compelled to wonder how many glaciers melted.


Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley writes about the auto industry and la condition humaine from his home in Villeperce, France.