Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saving the Planet, One Squiggly Light Bulb at a Time

Last week the Chronicle reported that Mayor White offered some advice to the city's voters (HT: blogHouston):
White, who has shied away from endorsing or even offering tacit support to those vying to replace him, weighed in last week with surprising advice for voters: Beware of any promises of new spending in 2010 and 2011.

This is certainly sound advice. But White certainly hasn't been following it. Undercover journalist Wayne Dolcefino looked into White's green energy projects and found that the city spent more than $1,400 to caulk, insulate, and weather strip weather strip the home of Aaron Zenon. In addition, the city installed 32 "save-the-planet" light bulbs at a cost of $9 a pop. As Dolcefino reports, those bulbs can be purchased for $2 each at Home Depot.

You may wonder why the city is paying so much. I think that that is a reasonable question. The answer however, isn't so reasonable. The city is paying a contractor to install the light bulbs and dispose of the old ones. Apparently the city is concerned that if they just supply the bulbs, the parasites on the receiving end won't actually install them. The city won't say if this is because it believes the recipients don't know how to install a light bulb or because it thinks that they are too lazy to do so.

Regardless, while White is lecturing voters on taking a prudent look at the spending proposed by mayoral candidates, he has been busy wasting taxpayer money. And his profligacy hasn't been limited to light bulbs. As blogHouston reports, White has spent about $17 million on hybrid vehicles for a fuel savings of about $1.5 million per year. Given this inane "investment", it seems rather odd that White would be lecturing anyone about financial matters.

The city is claiming that its program is reducing electric bills by 12% to 20%. But one of the beneficiaries of the program claims no energy savings:
"There is none. No difference," said Joyce. "None. Zero. Nada."

The total cost for weatherizing Joyce's home was $4,920. The good news is that taxpayers didn't pay for all of that. The bad news is that CenterPoint Energy customers got to pay for ceiling fans, solar screens, and a refrigerator. And why was a private company forced to provide such things for free? As a penalty for "over-charging" its customers. If all of this seems too bizarre to be true, let me assure you that you are not dreaming.

So, if the city's green energy program is not saving anyone money, why is it continuing the program? A city worker explains:
"We have a responsibility to reduce the pollution that we put out on the Earth," explained Issa Dadoush with the City of Houston. "That's our responsibility. Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint."

This "responsibility" is being thrust upon taxpayers whether they accept it or not. According to Mayor White, the ends--saving the Earth--justify the means--robbing taxpayers. But nothing good can ever come from such means.

Mayor White is correct when he warns us to be very leery of any candidate who makes ridiculous promises (well, he didn't actually put it that way). We should also be leery of current officials who make ridiculous proposals. In fact, we should be leery of ridiculous ideas, no matter who advocates them. The city's green energy program is ridiculous. It violates the rights of taxpayers; it does not achieve its stated ends. The reason is quite simple: the immoral is never practical.

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