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Be a Patriot: Expand Your Carbon Footprint Today

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.


I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford. I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra ten billion dollars over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense, I tell you it is an act of patriotism. – President Jimmy Carter, 1977

Ever since Jimmy Carter took to the airwaves to urge us all to conserve energy in one of the most demoralizing speeches given by an American president, Americans have been ignoring the radical Left’s call for “energy efficiency” in favor of a more pragmatic approach.

Instead, Americans have adopted a policy that allows consumers to pick and choose where to conserve and where to expend. That’s why despite higher gas prices, Americans still make trucks the number-one selling domestic auto even though they are less “fuel efficient.”     

But over the last ten years, the left has gotten slicker in their rhetoric, more sophisticated in their packaging, and have sold American policy-makers the great swindle of energy efficiency as a matter of economics. And like all swindles, it takes money from the unsuspecting and puts money into the pockets of the liars and the cheats, leaving its victims worse off and often not knowing why.          

In late September of last year, one of the liars, the American Council of Energy Efficiency (ACEEE), released their 5th annual report on energy efficient states at the National Press Club in Washington, DC in another futile and laughable attempt to bolster the liberals’ “new energy economy” with hot air rather than actual energy or money.

The ACEEE report showed that for the first time Massachusetts knocked California off the top of the list as the most energy efficient state. Also making the top ten were New York, Oregon, Vermont, District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Connecticut and Maryland.   

The states that ranked worst in energy efficiency were South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming.

But don’t ask ACEEE to demonstrate the economic- that is, monetary- benefits of being energy efficient, because they can’t. Instead, using less energy is counted by ACEEE as a benefit in and of itself with invaluable social rewards much higher than money. That’s why the report conveniently ignores the fact that the most energy efficient states have higher unemployment numbers than less efficient states.

When you look at the average unemployment numbers of the most efficient and least efficient states, as of September 2011, the stats show that the more energy efficient states lagged their lesser efficient brethren by 1.1 percentage points in unemployment.

The least efficient states enjoyed an average unemployment rate of 7.48 percent while the most energy efficient states had an average rate at 9 percent joblessness, right around the US average. That’s a 12 percent advantage in jobs for the big energy users; and more than just statistical noise.

You see, liberal energy efficiency advocates don’t want efficient energy production. Instead, they want energy rationing, just like liberals want healthcare rationing, wealth rationing and resource rationing. As a result, energy efficiency programs don’t deliver the economic benefits that its boosters claim, but rather just the opposite. They promise nebulous or outright fabricated economic benefits that distress the economy and job creation as a whole.  

Take, for example, another report issued by ACEEE called Emerging Hot Water Technologies and Practices for Energy Efficiency as of 2011.  The Council claims that changing to more efficient ways of heating hot water can save consumers $18 billion in their one-pager on the report; but later, in the body of the report, they admit that “In some cases, the technologies do not promise high returns on investment (fast payback), but the technologies offer new or improved amenity that consumers value (shorter waits for hot water, continuous hot water, etc.).  These technologies are likely to be chosen for these tangible benefits, and will also save energy.”

Quicker hot water is not a tangible benefit, unless of course, someone is making the mathematical argument that all the time spent during the life of a person waiting for hot water can be used for some other productive purpose. In either event ACEEE doesn’t make that argument. In fact, consumers would likely pay more for a device that delivers hot water on demand. 

Instead, ACEEE undercuts the great consumer benefits of “continuous hot water” by pointing out that the entire market for energy efficiency has been artificially created by the Energy Star program, another legislative mandate foisted on the economy by the federal government. In other words, consumers found the benefits of energy efficiency so unattractive that the federal government had to create a market for it by telling manufacturers: “Thou shall comply with Energy Star 4.0.”

Energy Star is supposed to a “voluntary” program, but in fact, as we found out with incandescent light-bulbs, voluntary inevitably becomes mandatory because the math doesn’t add up. The cost to make a new home Energy Star compliant is estimated by the EPA to be around $4,000-$5,000, while the savings for consumers for all Energy Star-rated appliances only amounted to around $18 million in reduced energy bills for 2010, also according to the EPA. That means that after the first 4500 Energy Star-compliant homes, the program is costing money. But the agency is quick to point out that carbon reduction under Energy Star equals 33 million vehicles. And if you can tell me what that’s worth, you can have a Nobel Prize. And if you can tell me what the Nobel Prize is worth…well never mind.         

That industries are finding creative ways of complying with the Energy Star mandates is a credit to what is left of free markets in the United States, rather than an affirmation of a federal policy unsustainable by the cost-benefit analysis of its energy efficiency mandates. Energy Star guidelines only measure energy savings, not total cost in relation to energy savings. An appliance can have half of the life and twice the cost while still being rated as Energy Star efficient because it uses 20 percent less energy than a competing device.

The only way the liberal economic charade of energy efficiency makes sense is if you start from the proposition that all energy consumption is bad and must be reduced no matter the cost. I would argue the inverse. I would argue that energy consumption is good; that the United States should do what it can to enlarge its carbon footprint, not shrink it. It’s the misbegotten idea that energy costs our economy rather than fuels it that is one of the prime weaknesses of any economic policy enacted by liberals.

That belief does doesn’t just cost us jobs, it costs liberals elections, too.

And that is more than just common sense, I tell you; it is an act of patriotism.

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