Aren’t en­ergy con­sumers self­ish enough al­ready?

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics -

While the folks in fly­over coun­try of­ten view Washington as a power-crazed den of self-serv­ing money grub­bers, the view from Washington is quite dif­fer­ent. Here, our lead­ers worry that the folks in the hin­ter­lands aren’t nearly ve­nal and self-serv­ing enough.

Not to worry. Law­mak­ers and bu­reau­crats have a ready so­lu­tion to this per­ceived prob­lem: sim­ply adopt poli­cies that force con­sumers to save. This is par­tic­u­larly true in en­ergy pol­icy.

Take the Cor­po­rate Av­er­age Fuel Econ­omy Stan­dard, for ex­am­ple. It re­quires man­u­fac­tur­ers to sell (thereby forc­ing con­sumers to buy) a mix of ve­hi­cles whose weighted av­er­age econ­omy meets a min­i­mum miles-per-gal­lon stan­dard. In­vari­ably, it’s pro­moted as a ben­e­fit to con­sumers be­cause it will re­duce their fuel ex­penses.

Here, Washington as­sumes the smaller, less safe and fre­quently more ex­pen­sive cars are just what you would want if only you thought about it. Af­ter all, doesn’t ev­ery­one know it’s more im­por­tant to save gas money than to haul the kids and their friends to soc­cer games and Scout trips? Say, “Thank you, Congress.”

Washington’s de­sire to make us line our pock­ets reaches into our kitchens and laun­dry rooms, too. Here, ap­pli­ance ef­fi­ciency stan­dards cut our en­ergy bills. It’s also why your old $300 dish­washer that cleaned in 75 min­utes is re­placed by one that costs $500 and takes two to three hours.

But think of the sav­ings! With­out the ef­fi­ciency man­dates, you’d spend an ad­di­tional 8 cents on hot water for each load. What a great trade-off that is: Hun­dreds of dol­lars up­front, ad­di­tional re­pair bills, wait­ing an ex­tra hour or more for ev­ery load — and you save 8 cents. Get with the pro­gram, Homer; those pen­nies add up.

Reps. David B. Mckin­ley, West Virginia Re­pub­li­can, and Peter Welch, Ver­mont Demo­crat, re­cently pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that falls into a slightly dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory. Their bill would pro­vide a tax credit to peo­ple who save money on their home en­ergy bills. The ap­par­ent logic is that peo­ple aren’t will­ing to lower their bills un­less the gov­ern­ment pays them to do so.

It is at about this point in the dis­cus­sion when, ex­as­per­ated by ob­jec­tions from freemar­ket types like my­self, the Washington Prob­lem Solvers say, “OK, Mr. No, what’s your pol­icy pre­scrip­tion for pro­mot­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency?”

A free-mar­ket so­lu­tion as­sumes that con­sumers — not bu­reau­crats — are best sit­u­ated to choose the tech­nolo­gies that make the most sense for them. In short, that they are just as clever — and maybe even as self-serv­ing — as the peo­ple they send to Washington.

But there’s a cer­tain pro­to­col you must fol­low in propos­ing pol­icy in Washington. Its name needs to have an ap­peal­ing acro­nym based on poorly fit­ted words or cringe-in­duc­ing syn­tax.

So here, in its en­tirety, is our en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill:

The Mo­men­tous Act to Re­duce Kon­sumers’ En­ergy Tabs (Mar­ket) Act.

Pream­ble: Fed­eral en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency pro­grams typ­i­cally tie the re­bate/sub­sidy to the amount spent on ef­fi­ciency or to meet­ing cer­tain ef­fi­ciency thresh­olds. They do not tie the re­ward to ac­tual dol­lars saved. To rem­edy this weak­ness, The Mar­ket Act pro­vides dol­lar­for-dol­lar ben­e­fits tied di­rectly to ac­tual sav­ings.

Sec­tion 1. Re­bate for equip­ment up­grades, weather­iza­tion projects, ther­mo­stat ad­just­ments and any other pur­chase or be­hav­ioral change.

Any equip­ment up­grade, weather­iza­tion project, ther­mo­stat ad­just­ment, hy­brid-car pur­chase or other pur­chase or be­hav­ioral change that demon­strates ac­tual sav­ings will be re­warded un­der the Mar­ket.

(a) For ev­ery dol­lar a house­hold or busi­ness saves on any of its en­ergy bills (in­clud­ing, but not limited to, trans­porta­tion fuel and electricity) it will save a dol­lar on that en­ergy bill.

i. For ex­am­ple, if a home­owner puts a timer on the shower and gets the fam­ily to take shorter show­ers and re­duce the monthly hot­wa­ter bill by $20, the fam­ily will save $20 on its monthly hot-water bill. There will be no pa­per­work to fill out; home­own­ers will re­ceive the sav­ings di­rectly and im­me­di­ately from their en­ergy sup­pli­ers in the form of a lower bill.

The end.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.