Separation of Earth and State

Amy Oliver
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Posted: Sep 04, 2011 12:01 AM

“Job killers” is the justifiable defense du jour against eco-evangelicals who advocate for overreaching legislation and regulations that cost American consumers billions of dollars. After all, reducing consumers’ purchasing power is no way to stimulate the economy. Yet the prevailing eco-paradigm reflects an attitude of “if it only saved one ounce of carbon, wouldn’t it be worth it.”

At Colorado’s only free market energy blog (http://energy.i2i.org), we expose the high cost of consumer-unfriendly energy policy such as renewable energy standards, excessive regulations on power plants, and mandated fuel switching.

The green-at-any-cost crowd also advances regulations that are meant to micro-manage our lives, yet we have little time or space to cover them. Most are just topics of an occasional news story, blog post or anecdotal social media thread, but collectively these regulations are as insidious as the much larger “job killers.” They are a reflection of a government that is far too big, far too invasive.

Predictably, these regulations also have unintended consequences such as job loss, civil disobedience, hoarding and possible criminal behavior. Three immediately come to mind:

CFLs

In 2007, Congress passed legislation essentially banning incandescent light bulbs to reduce energy usage and our collective carbon footprint. Within a few short months, a shelf in the utility room in my basement was filled with incandescent light bulbs of all shapes and wattage.  Like some of New York City’s top lighting designers, I never want to be without Thomas Edison’s great invention. My dislike for CFLs stems from more than just their unpleasant light or the HAZMAT suit that must be donned in case of breakage or their ugly curly q shape, I just have a visceral reaction to government dictating what kind of light bulb can hang over my bed.  Also, they are more expensive.

So every trip to the grocery store, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes or anywhere else incandescents still are sold, means more boxes in my basement.  Pre-planning insures that my house will never be without the reliable soothing light of an incandescent bulb, and when the black market for them develops, my family will be well positioned. The thrill of civil disobedience is an added benefit.

Unfortunately, my hoarding still wasn’t enough to keep open the last incandescent light bulb factory in the United States, which closed about this time last year. Gone are nearly 200 $30-an-hour jobs. Eco-evangelicals swore that the newly mandated CFL market would “create” lots of new green manufacturing jobs.  Those jobs did materialize but not in the U.S.

Cascade without Phosphates

Last summer, 16 states instituted bans on phosphates in dishwasher detergent because they are linked to oxygen deprivation in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Apparently that causes “algae bloom,” which can kill fish.  Not wanting to provide different products for different states, dishwasher detergent manufacturers took phosphates out of all products for home use.

The problem is dishwasher detergent without phosphates doesn’t clean dishes. Ask women whether they are satisfied with how their dishes come out of their dishwasher. Certainly some will say yes because the righteous feelings of eco-moral superiority far outweigh the inconvenience of less than sparkling dishes. But others will complain of running their dishwashers twice, putting bleach into the water, or blame their dishwashers to a point of purchasing a new one. In the name of Mother Earth, why must American households suffer the additional expense, water and electricity usage just to have clean dishes? Restaurants don’t.

A friend tipped me off to a commercial supply company that sells Cascade with Phosphates by the caseload. For $54.99 plus tax, 35 pounds of effective dishwasher detergent can be delivered to your door. Time to make more space in the utility room.

Lead-based Paint

The EPA issued new lead-based paint regulations that took effect in April 2010. According to an EPA press release, “no paid job can disturb painted surfaces in pre-1978 homes or child care facilities unless (1) the firm is certified by the EPA or a state and (2) the renovator has completed training and is a certified renovator.”

"The requirements under the rule apply to maintenance, renovation or repair activities where six square feet (about the size of a poster) or more of a painted surface is disturbed inside, or where 20 square feet or more of painted surface (about the size of a door) is disturbed on the exterior. Window replacement is also covered by the rule. The only exceptions are where paint is proven lead free or the job is smaller than six square feet.”

Contractors that don’t comply with the letter of the law can face huge fines such as Colin Wentworth of Maine.  The EPA slapped him with a $150,000 fine because, even though he was EPA trained and certified, two employees working a job for him were not.  Apparently six children, one under the age of 6, lived near the building that was being renovated.

I discovered the impact of the new lead-based paint regulations this summer when I needed an estimate to paint a small part of the exterior of my pre-1978 home.  Notice the rules say “no paid job.” So if I do the work myself, apparently there is no risk from lead-based paint?  At a time when contractors are in desperate need of work, I won’t hire them until after I scrape and sand the side of my house.

The eco-evangelicals are 21st Century busy bodies that want to tell us all how to live in the name of Mother Earth.  Frankly, it seems like a lot or work. Perhaps it’s time to consider a separation of earth and state.

If you have an EPA or state regulation that impacts you, please share it with me at amy@i2i.org.

Amy Oliver Cooke is the founder of Mothers Against Debt (www. Mothersagainstdebt.com). She is also the director of the Colorado Transparency Project for the Independence Institute and writes on energy policy.  She can be reached at amy@i2i.org.