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Posts Tagged ‘environmentalism’

I don’t like it when politicians pass laws that undermine the freedom and prosperity of the American people. But I really hate it when politicians pass those laws and exempt themselves.

Years ago, as a lowly Senate staffer, I recall watching a debate about whether politicians were going to increase fuel economy regulations and thus force people into cars that were smaller, less convenient, and less safe. One good Senator, I think perhaps Don Nickles of Oklahoma, offered an amendment that basically would have forced bigwigs on Capitol Hill to live by the same rules by requiring limousines for congressional leaders to meet the same onerous restrictions. Needless to say, the arrogant political class thought this was absurd and to this day they get driven in luxury gas guzzlers (paid for by you and me).

We now have another version of this laws-for-thee-but-not-for-me mentality from the Obama Administration. No, I’m not talking about Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary who is in charge of the Internal Revenue Service but got a free pass after illegally hiding $80,000 of income from the IRS. I’m talking about the President and his personal fleet of limousines.

He wants us to abide by rules that will be expensive and lower the quality of cars, but those rules won’t apply to him. Here’s what the Detroit News reported.

The U.S. Secret Service said today that some federal vehicles for law enforcement and security purposes will be exempt from President Barack Obama’s directive that all federal vehicles purchased starting 2015 be advanced technology models. Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy said the directive wouldn’t apply to vehicles used for some law enforcement or security reasons by various federal agencies. …That would include the GM-built Cadillac presidential limousine and other vehicles in the motorcade. It also expected to include many law enforcement vehicles.

Not surprisingly, this is completely contrary to what the President said he would do, as noted elsewhere in the article. Unless, of course, you think “100 percent” means something other than “100 percent.”

Obama announced the plan this week to “green” the federal fleet. “I’m directing our departments and our agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015.Not 50 percent, not 75 percent — 100 percent of our vehicles,” Obama said today at an appearance in Landover, Md., at UPS facility to urge private companies to green their vehicle fleets.

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Regular readers of this blog already know (see here, here, and here) that I’m not a big fan of the new “CFL” light bulbs that we will be forced to use in a couple of years.

In a more entertaining fashion, here’s a video from a few years ago, featuring a Republican Congressman railing against the new bulbs.

Repealing the idiotic mandate for these inferior bulbs should be a gimme for the new Republican majority. Somehow, though, I predict they’ll screw up and leave the requirement in place.

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I’ve already commented here and here on the government forcing us to use inferior lightbulbs.

The bad news is becoming worse news. Here’s a story from England that was linked on Instapundit, showing how big business (which conspired with the politicians to get rid of high-quality incandescent bulbs) will now reap a windfall selling the new CFL bulbs at much higher prices. Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Mail.

The price of energy-saving light bulbs will treble as the final supplies of traditional bulbs dry up, industry experts have warned. The Government has ordered energy companies to scrap the subsidies that have kept the price of eco-bulbs artificially low for the last few years. At the same time, manufacturers are increasing wholesale prices to take advantage of the European ban on ‘energy guzzling’ old-style bulbs. Retailers also claim bulbs that currently cost only 33p are expected to sell for more than £1 within three months. Some will cost £3 or more. The move comes as Britain is gearing up to phase out the last incandescent light bulbs in an effort to meet climate change targets. The EU has already banned shops from buying stocks of 100watt bulbs and stopped them stocking up on any type of frosted incandescent bulbs.

The only silver lining to this dark cloud is that (at least I don’t think) CFLs are not subsidized in the United States. So while it is likely that prices will increase once there no longer is competition from incandescent bulbs, hopefully American consumers will not face the same big price hikes as their British cousins.

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Last year, I commented on a handful of crazed environmentalists who were sterilizing themselves because children boost carbon emissions. I thought this was a wonderful form of natural selection since it meant at least some statists weren’t passing on their…um…peculiar genes.

We have a related story, which also comes from the United Kingdom. Some nutjobs have launched an anti-bathing campaign because it is bad (so we are told) to use water and emit carbon. Having traveled extensively in Europe, I can say from painful experience that there already are lots of people who are on board with this effort, though I doubt it’s because they are environmentally sensitive.

Since I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’m looking at the bright side of this development. I suspect that dirty, smelly, and greasy people are less attractive to the opposite sex. This probably means they are less likely to reproduce, so we should look at this as an indirect form of natural selection. It’s not a sure-fire approach, like the story mentioned above, but one hopes that it will reduce the birth rates of oddball leftists. Here’s a blurb from the The Guardian.

In a bid to reduce his carbon footprint to the absolute minimum, environmentalist Donnachadh McCarthy, 51, limits his showers to about twice a week. “The rest of the time I have a sink wash,” he says. “I believe that I’m as clean as everyone else.” It has helped him to get his water consumption down to around 20 litres a day – well below the 100 to 150 average in the UK.

As McCarthy points out, it’s only recently that we have expected people to bathe or shower every day. “When I was a kid,” he says, “the normal thing was to bathe once a week.” Head much further back into history, and we find Elizabeth I bathing once a month, and James I apparently only ever washing his fingers. In 1951, almost two-fifths of UK homes were without a bath, and in 1965, only half of British women wore deodorant.

Now we have begun to fetishise extreme cleanliness, to create the kind of culture where, as McCarthy says, it’s not entirely unusual for people staying in hotels to churn through 1,000 litres of water a day – showering in the morning, after a sauna, after the swimming pool, before dinner, before bed. The international market for soaps of all kinds is now $24bn a year. And some dermatologists fear that this intense, regular washing is stripping our skin of germs that could actually be beneficial to us, that help our skin stay healthy, balanced and fresh.

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Jeff Jacoby analyzes the absurd tendency of local governments to coerce residents into costly – and inefficient – recycling programs. As a resident of Fairfascist…oops, I mean Fairfax…County in Virginia, I already am painfully aware of this bureaucratic impulse.

…[R]ecyclables will all go into 64-gallon “toters,’’ which will be emptied at curbside on trash day.

…Then I start reading the fine print. It turns out that when the town says it is “eliminating sorting,’’ what it means is that glass bottles and jars can be recycled, but not drinking glasses or window glass. It means plastic tubs are OK to toss in the toter, but plastic bags aren’t. It means that while cardboard boxes must be flattened, milk and juice cartons must not be flattened. Reams of office paper are fine, but not the wrappers they came in. Tinfoil should be crushed into balls of 2 inches or larger; tin cans shouldn’t be crushed at all. I don’t think the green police will haul me off in handcuffs if I try to recycle an ice cream carton or a pizza box, but the town has warned that “there will be fines’’ for residents whose “recycling protocols’’ don’t measure up to “basic community standards.’’

…To be fair, things could be worse. Clevelanders will soon have to use recycling carts equipped with radio-frequency ID chips, the Plain Dealer reported last month. These will enable the city to remotely monitor residents’ compliance with recycling regulations. “If a chip shows a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables. Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine.’’ In Britain, where a similar system is already in place, fines can reach as high as $1,500.

…Does any of this make sense? It certainly isn’t economically rational. Unlike commercial and industrial recycling — a thriving voluntary market that annually salvages tens of millions of tons of metal, paper, glass, and plastic — mandatory household recycling is a money loser. Cost studies show that curbside recycling can cost, on average, 60 percent more per ton than conventional garbage disposal. In 2004, an analysis by New York’s Independent Budget Office concluded, according to the New York Times, that “it cost anywhere from $34 to $48 a ton more to recycle material, than to send it off to landfills or incinerators.’’

“There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’

But if recycling household trash makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, why does it have to be compulsory? Mandatory recycling programs “force people to squander valuable resources in a quixotic quest to save what they would sensibly discard,’’ writes Clemson University economist Daniel K. Benjamin. “On balance, recycling programs lower our wealth.” Now whose idea of exciting is that?

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National Review has a column reviewing a new book, 3 Billion and Counting, that dissects the harsh human cost of banning DDT. There are things that should be banned, of course, but such decisions should be based on sound science and cost-benefit analysis. Sadly, that’s not what happened with the politically-motivated decision to ban this particular pesticide.

3 Billion and Counting, which premieres this Friday in Manhattan, was produced by Dr. Rutledge Taylor, a California physician who specializes in preventive medicine. His film will both shock and anger you.

DDT was first synthesized in 1877, but it was not until 1940 that a Swiss chemist demonstrated that it could kill insects without any harm to humans. It was introduced into widespread use during World War II and became the single most important pesticide in maintaining human health for the next two decades. The scientist who discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT, Dr. Paul Müller, was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on DDT. (In the 1940s and 1950s the chemical was the “secret” ingredient in a popular new cocktail, the Mickey Slim: gin, with a pinch of DDT.)

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s lyrical but scientifically flawed book, Silent Spring, argued eloquently, but erroneously, that pesticides, especially DDT, were poisoning both wildlife and the environment – and also endangering human health.

…In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), DDT spraying had reduced malaria cases from 2.8 million in 1948 to 17 in 1963. After spraying stopped, malaria cases rose sharply, reaching 2.5 million over the next decade. Scientists have never found an effective substitute for DDT — and so the malaria death rate has kept on soaring.

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Like other forms of so-called stimulus spending, the money devoted to supposed ”green” energy programs has been a net drain on the economy. This is hardly a surprise, particular since the much-trumpeted Spanish experiment turned out to be a flop, destroying two jobs elsewhere in the economy for every green job created. But what is surprising is that the political crowd in Washington seems to be getting the message. The Washington Times reports that even the left if backing away from flushing more money down this hole.

Noticeably absent from President Obama’s latest economic-stimulus package are any further attempts to create jobs through “green” energy projects, reflecting a year in which the administration’s original, loudly trumpeted efforts proved largely unfruitful.

The long delays typical with environmentally friendly projects – combined with reports of green stimulus funds being used to create jobs in China and other countries, rather than in the U.S. – appear to have killed the administration’s appetite for pushing green projects as an economic cure.

…Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, said much of the green stimulus funding was “squandered.”

“Large grants to build green buildings don’t generate many new jobs, except for a few architects,” he said. “Subsidies for windmills and solar panels created lots of jobs in China,” but few at home.

…Despite the massive infusion of government funding in recent years, renewable technologies have captured only a tiny share of the energy market and remain heavily dependent on government funding to be viable. Because of the need to constantly renew government funding, private investors remain skittish about committing to new projects.

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