Saturday, April 11, 2009

Coming to a lightbulb near you

From the Wall Street Journal, on the Dems' latest anti-carbon bill:
Cap-and-trade theologians love to invoke markets: Merely put a price on carbon, they say, and the invisible hand will shoo us toward an eco-friendly future. Of course Congress has its own ideas.

Take the climate bill just offered by House powers Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The 648-page "discussion draft" ducks the most important policy questions about what Democrat Ben Cardin calls "the most significant revenue-generating proposal of our time" -- namely, how the tax will be levied and the proceeds spent. But it does find space to impose thousands of new environmental regulations on the entire economy, all separate from cap and trade.

Right off, the bill mandates that 25% of U.S. electricity come from wind, solar, geothermal or biomass by 2025. Sorry, nuclear doesn't count. This kind of renewable portfolio standard directly contradicts the putative flexibility of cap and trade, which is supposed to allow businesses to reduce CO2 how and where it is least expensive. But Democrats aren't about to let the details of their own policies stand in the way of magical thinking.

Despite political favoritism and billions in subsidies, wind still only accounts for about 1% of U.S. net electric generation, and solar all of one-hundredth of 1%. So now the liberal solution is simply to force people to buy them, a la the ethanol mandate. Yet it will be difficult for renewables to ever reach 25%, given their inherent limitations (intermittency) and, ironically, green opposition (no new power lines). That won't stop Congress from punishing utilities that fail to meet an impossible goal. [emphasis added]

But Messrs. Waxman and Markey have more pressing matters. Such as building codes. New homes "with slanted roofs," for instance, will be required to meet a "solar reflectance" standard if they use "fiberglass asphalt-shingle roofing." We're not sure what that means either, but we do know that everything in homes will also face new efficiency regulations -- including furnaces, laundry machines, dishwashers, "showerheads, faucets, water closets, and urinals," even (or especially?) jacuzzis. [emphasis added]

One of the more revealing sections focuses on products "intended for a general service or general illumination application" -- i.e., lights. This isn't surprising coming from the politicians who decided in 2007 that the public must be protected from the incandescent lightbulb, but it is excruciatingly detailed. By 2020, "the manufacture of any general service lamp that does not meet a minimum efficacy standard" will be prohibited. That includes fixtures "designed only to be mounted directly to an art work and for the purpose of illuminating that art work." But not "decorative lighting strings," so Christmas trees will escape the lamp police. For now. [emphasis added]

Hording and black markets in old-fashioned lightbulbs are starting to crop up, and obviously Congress can't risk the same for lamps. So the bill says the feds can bring legal charges in U.S. district courts against "any person . . . distributing in commerce any covered product which does not comply." Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson probably won't be conducting the raids personally, though we trust she'll enjoy hearing war stories about busting up the "high-intensity discharge lamp" ring back at HQ. ...

Read the rest here. No doubt the formation of the federal lightbulb police cannot be far behind. I'll bet they'll have a catchy logo. And so the American economy will take on a little more water, although perhaps that's just the rising sea level caused by the melting polar ice caps. Or not.

At any rate, if you thought appliances, furnaces, water heaters, washing machines and dryers, and the like -- you know, stuff that only "the rich" use -- are expensive now, just wait till Congress gets done "saving the planet."

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