Helen Whalen Cohen

Remember Nancy Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative? Well, it's gone. House Republicans have moved it into an already existing energy saving program:

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's four-year effort to "Green the Capitol" is officially no-more, having been dumped into an existing energy-savings program on the Hill in a move that Republicans say will save more money, eliminate redundancy and promote collaboration.

In response, some Democrats are crying foul, saying the move reflects the low priority that energy savings is for Republicans.

The House Chief Administrative Office announced Thursday that the Architect of the Capitol's Office will take over the functions of the program that expanded House recycling and led to thousands of energy-efficient light bulbs being installed on the Hill.

"Saving energy saves money and consolidating our sustainability programs helps save taxpayer dollars by improving efficiencies and allows us to make smart and sound investments throughout the Capitol complex," Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers said in a statement.

It turns out that the program wasn't as energy efficient as Democrats may have hoped. The LA Times reported that not only did the program cost the House $475,000 per year, but it also increased energy consumption while reducing carbon emissions at the equivalent rate of removing one car from the road per year.

 

But on Jan. 25, Dan Lungren, the GOP congressman from the Sacramento area who now heads the House Administration Committee, directed the House chief administrative officer to trash — so to speak — the composting program, which converts the dining service's cornstarch tableware, along with its biodegradable plates, trays, cups and drinking straws, into garden mulch.

It turns out that the composting program not only cost the House an estimated $475,000 a year (according to the House inspector general) but actually increased energy consumption in the form of "additional energy for the pulping process and the increased hauling distance to the composting facility," according to a news release from Lungren.

As far as carbon emissions were concerned, Lungren concluded that the reduction was the "nominal ... equivalent to removing one car from the road each year." He plans to switch the House to an alternate waste-management system recommended by the Architect of the Capitol, in which dining-service trash would be incinerated and the heat energy captured.

"Composting releases methane," said Lungren's spokesman, Brian Kaveney, and methane gas, as even the most warming-conscious among us have to admit, traps atmospheric heat far more efficiently than carbon dioxide, the usual bugaboo of the climate-change crowd.

Lungren's stick-a-biodegradable-fork-in-it (if you can) stance toward a linchpin of Pelosi's grand green plan marks the latest skirmish in a lifestyle war that may on its surface seem purely partisan: GOP global-warming skeptics versus a Gaia-worshipping Democratic Party. But I'd say the battle lines are really between an elite determined to impose upon a captive populace its notions of what is good for it — cost be damned — and the populace itself, which would rather not be coerced.


Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.