Promoting policies that punish Americans

Mike Carey Contributor
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As well-intentioned people gather to celebrate Earth Day, it is also important to recognize the unintended consequences of bad policy. From California’s imploding green economy to Europe’s staggering unemployment environmental regulations are having a devastating impact wherever they are implemented. Unfortunately, the real world facts never make their way into to rhetoric touted at Earth Day events in major cities, small towns and college campuses all across the nation. With no regard to their implications on the economy, consumers or the average American family, Earth Day rallies are filled with calls for far reaching regulations, job killing legislation and initiatives designed to punish hard working Americans.

Take light bulbs for example. In the name of saving the planet, regular incandescent light bulbs will be outlawed by 2012 and you will only be able to purchase compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Hopefully you don’t suffer migraine as CFLs have been known to cause migraines, but that is only one of their symptoms. They cost a lot more than regular light bulbs. Additionally, from a home design viewpoint, their light output is lower and they cannot be connected to dimmers or lamps with different light settings as can an old-fashioned light bulb.

But the biggest problem with compact fluorescent light bulbs is that they contain highly poisonous mercury. It’s rather ironic that after years of pushing to remove toxins from our houses, the environmental movement wants you to use a light bulb that contains a poisonous substance as a key ingredient.

Just to give you a thumbnail sketch of a few of the steps you need to go through should you break one of these CFLs. Before you begin, allow the room to air out by opening a window for 15 minutes so that the vapors dissipate and shut off the AC or heater so the mercury fumes don’t cycle throughout the house. If you break one of these bulbs on carpet, you would naturally think to get out your vacuum cleaner or broom. Resist. This will actually spread the mercury over a larger area and could potentially contaminate your vacuum. Carefully remove large pieces, using rubber gloves, and place them in glass container such as a canning jar. Collect the smaller pieces using index cards to scoop up glass and dust. Next, use duct tape to pat the area for finer particles and lastly, wipe the area down with a wet wipe. Place all of the above waste in the glass and label “universal waste – broken CFL.” Now you must find a waste facility that accepts universal waste.

It makes little sense to mandate that we switch to a light bulb that is deemed too dangerous for regular disposal. It seems to me, that switching to CFLs from regular incandescent light bulbs to save the Earth, has a high price for our environment. Perhaps this is the price of a headlong rush “into green” without fully examining the consequences. This isn’t the first time we have unintended consequences to green the planet, but we it may be the first time we have actually poisoned it in the process.

Earth Day will once again be a launching pad for the Cap and Trade scheme first cooked up in the now empty halls at Enron. Celebrities, politicians and activists will be touting a plan to cut carbon emissions by regulating every company in America, no matter how small. Despite warnings from economists about job losses, cost increases for practically every good and service and lessons learned from failures overseas there will once again be calls for cap and trade.

While still others will be calling for higher taxes on energy use. To make up for budget shortfalls the federal and state governments will be using tax increases to generate revenue with no regard on the impact it will have on jobs and the bottom line for working families. Like the ‘better’ light bulbs politicians use the façade of caring for the environment to help American citizens to be more green. Increasing burdens on consumers, especially in a times of economic recession is in no one’s best interest.

Mike Carey is President of The American Council for Affordable and Reliable Energy (ACARE) a coalition of businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals who support public policies that encourage the production and delivery of the energy required by a growing economy.