'Going Green' Costing US Greenbacks for Little Reward

Stephen DeMaura

11/10/2013 12:01:00 AM - Stephen DeMaura

President Barack Obama has shown that he is willing to ignore reason and logic time and time again in order to further to his philosophical agenda. This has been evident in the predictably failed rollout of healthcare reform, but it is also seen in the president’s inexplicable and constant support of so-called “green energy” – at the expense of consumers and without any evidence of success.

The Washington Examiner conducted an analysis of the tangible impact of LEED standards in New York City, asking the one question that matters: do LEED certified buildings use less energy on a relative basis than non-LEED certified buildings? The answer: No. The Examiner analysis found that buildings with LEED certifications use more energy per square foot than buildings without the certification.

LEED certification was developed and championed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – which is not a government entity, but a private group – which profits from this faux certification boom and describes themselves as being "committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings."

In fact, I would have no problem with LEED standards if they were completely voluntary within the private sector – that is, if those builders that wanted LEED certifications were able to get them and those that didn't were not forced to comply.

But the USGBC managed a coup - somehow convincing (or bullying) the federal government, as well as more than 400 state and local communities that LEED standards were in the public's interest. Such is not the case. First, the National Research Council estimates that this green building mandate adds 8 percent to design and construction costs.

But, beyond strict costs, LEED standards have two main flaws: they are impractical and ineffective.

On the impractical front, LEED standards prevent buildings from using certain safety materials, including bulletproof glass, in courthouses, prisons and other government buildings. LEED standards don't account for the fact that government buildings are high-profile targets, and safety measures should be determined by public safety professionals not by environmental profiteers like those at the USGBC.

The USGBC also arbitrarily mandates that the wood used in LEED buildings be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a favorite standard of fringe environmental groups, including Greenpeace. Most American forests are certified using two other standards – the American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. May seem like semantics, but it is not. As a result of this deliberate decision, 90 percent of timber used is from foreign sources. In effect, LEED standards are shipping jobs overseas.

But these standards are also less effective. Some environmentalists are critical of the FSC - noting that the FSC is biased towards large conglomerates and that shipping timber from afar increases consumption of gasoline and emits more greenhouse gasses.

Fewer jobs alongside dubious results - these are not outcomes federal, state and local governments should mandate. Reversing strict adherence to LEED standards, in addition to other arbitrary “green energy” initiatives, will help leaders realize these programs are impractical and ineffective in their goal of reducing energy consumption, while the regulations also negatively impact thousands of workers and families in their area.