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We have two stories. First, from my campus, where we are spending money, apparently, to put up pictures to remind people to shut off the lights. I love the title of that piece. EVERY green project shows promise, doesn’t it. Here is a short excerpt:

However, before any real conclusions can be drawn, a more extensive study should be conducted. Dr. Martin and her team hope that the results of this study will provide the impetus to receive a larger grant in order to fund the study for longer, at more dormitories, and maybe even at other universities. A larger study would likely use many of the same visual materials and would be conducted over a longer time period, perhaps over a few years as opposed to a few months.

You see, we just always need a little more money for a little more research. You know what’s funny? Don’t the “E”nvironmentalists just absolutely fillet the “fossil fuel industry” for their dark reliance on tax subsidies and for their supposed grant giving to all kinds of people? I know they think I am on Exxon’s payroll. But in the name of Green-i-ism, no grant is corruptive. They are just being the paragons of pure science. And hey, when tuition is going up at twice the rate of inflation, why not conduct extensive studies of how paintings make people flip off the lights.

Here’s more, and it is germane to that last sentence:

The study of behavioral change via visual persuasion is the primary focus. As said by Dr. Martin, “In summary, I think the data at RIT was promising and maybe we learned that the visuals might need to be tailored to the university and the type of student. I think for the time period we had to work with and the resources we had, the results were about what we could expect. At least it continues to get students thinking about energy usage.

We, here, in Economics have a solution for that. It’s called the price system. And it is automatically tailored for every university and student. But why would our “E”nviro-planners ever consider relying on policy that is freedom enhancing, resource conserving and not intrusive? Could it be that they’d be out of a job? No conflict of interest there.

And in other “E”nvironmental news this week, your co-blogger e-mails me:

2009 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that modern incinerators produce more energy and release less greenhouse gases than do landfills.

Still, many environmentalists remain opposed to energy-from-waste plants, arguing they produce harmful dioxins and remove incentives to divert waste because they demand a never-ending supply of garbage to keep the power on.

“When you make that capital investment, you need to keep giving material to that facility in order to justify that investment. You never build those facilities to shut them down,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario.

The most environmentally progressive approach is zero waste through reduce, reuse and recycle, she says.

“When you build an EFW facility, you are saying we will never get to zero waste, we are giving up that goal and we might even be retracting on our diversion goals . . . since we need to keep coming up with materials to feed it. So the incentive to recycle more goes down as a municipality.”

… and here is Alex’s commentary: 

It’s from a newspaper article about what to do when Toronto’s current landfill fills up in the next 20 years. So, never mind that Denmark and Sweden have impeccable track records on W2E incinerators…come on people it’s frickin’ Denmark! Wind Utopia! Stop making them look like the more reasonable energy/environment polity! [aarmlovi edit: I’ve obviously argued elsewhere that the northern Europe as a whole has been more politically reasonable; I was specifically referring to Denmark’s idea of engineering such heavy wind dependence in a pre-grid storage, pre-mass demand response era]

You know, because what we *really* need to do is get to zero waste. These people nonchalantly shoot a gift horse in the mouth and demand a unicorn instead. A questionably desirable unicorn at that! (Why zero waste as the ideal? Is that even aesthetically valuable? Count me as “anti-waste”, pro-economically viable recycling, but seriously, what is wrong with these people?) I totally see the desirability of recycling metal, most glass, and the economically recyclable plastics. But who cares about burning the hard-to-recycle plastics and organic waste in a manner so well-scrubbed that even the EPA and the Nordic countries think it’s a good idea? Isn’t it better to get electricity out of our garbage to the extent it’s socially efficient? 

That Wonkblog article you sent me about the “conservative environmentalist” from AEI is really telling–all the policies [including carbon taxation] the AEI guy mentioned weren’t “conservative”; they were just environmental best practices. Why is correctness an ideological indicator? Are you only liberal if you want the least efficient, most disruptive command/control environmental policies? How do you even begin a conversation with someone who thinks “zero waste” is an ideal? I’d totally understand if it was a 3rd grade student thinking that, but I don’t know what to say when that comes out of an adult’s mouth.

Edited to include italicized comments and the Wonkblog link.

9 Responses to “In This Week’s Episode of the Adventures in Green-i-ism”

  1. Trapper_John says:

    That second bit reminds me of conservatives wanting to teach abstinence rather than contraception. People are going to have sex; to think otherwise is blinding yourself with your own aspirations and desire to foist your preferences on the rest of us.

    Likewise, people are going to produce waste. If we could simply burn that waste it would hamper her ability to make us all feel guilty about producing it. This sort of intractability is the hallmark of this movement. Anything short of zero emissions solutions (wind, sun, etc.) is completely unacceptable (see also: fracking). Ignoring birth control in favor of abstinence yields more teen pregnancy and STDs; eschewing incinerators in favor of reduce, reuse, recycle yields more ugly landfills. Pure religious zealotry…

    • Michael says:

      I think you’re confusing who is doing the foisting; I don’t particularly want the government to teach my kids abstinence or contraception, I’ll teach my own kids in a manner consistent with our beliefs.

      • ZT says:

        What would you say if a greenie told you “I’ll teach my own kids in a manner consistent with our beliefs”?

        As long as we’re having public schools, they should keep their science classes reality-based and teach about birth control in health class.

        • Michael says:

          I wouldn’t say anything; it’s none of my business. But when someone is teaching my kids, it is my business. Schools currently have enough fairy-tale science as it, and are lacking in the ethics department, too. It would be nice to have them focus on reading, writing, and math for a change.

        • Michael says:

          Let me be more illustrative; the country is tearing itself unnecessarily because one group of people are forcing on another group their own views of what should be. The current marriage cases in the Supreme Court is a good example. Instead of debating the definition of marriage, why should we have unequal treatment between married and unmarried folk anyhow? You state “As long as we’re having public schools…”, but isn’t this topic a good reason why we shouldn’t have public schools (or at least not ones that upset the morality of a very large group of people)? If we accept the principle of federalism, it would allow these topics to be discussed at a local level where groups of people can determine the course they choose to take, rather than trying to make the values of Texas the values of San Francisco or vice versa.

  2. RIT_Rich says:

    How much energy is consumed in production of those posters vs. the amount of energy they will “save” by convincing students to “turn off the lights”? My bet is, net positive energy consumption.

    BUT, it makes for great research work, grants and publications for RIT’s Sustainability school :p

    • sherlock says:

      Not to mention at BEST they admit they’re going to have to have someone at every Universtiy design posters and stickers (stickers!) that are “tailored to the university and the type of student”. I’m sure that salary and opportunity cost factors into their calculations…

      Eh, just increase tution by 4% next year and call it a win-win. Energy reduction AND the second lowest increase in over a decade!

  3. Harry says:

    So WC and Rich have collaborated on a crusade?

    If they were really concerned about conserving energy, they would install meters in every dorm room and faculty office, and bill accordingly. Send the electric bill to Daddy, and deduct from professors’ pay checks. (Maybe there could be an allowance of x kilowatt hours per inhabitant per square foot, to be fair. Or, have an annual deductible of, say, $1000 per person, after which the university would pay the excess.)

    The problem with campus waste of electricity is the problem of the commons. Make something free, and no one cares. Only the truly committed greenies will surf the Internet at the solar picnic table, unless it is a warm Spring day in Rochester, assuming good looking girls show up.

    The truly committed and frugal person would find a lit carrel in the library and read real books. To Ted Kaczynski’s credit, he would do this without his parka and union suit underwear. He would have the heat turned off and the lights out in his dorm room, and would not have to be prompted by stupid posters.

    This gets back to WC’s musing about getting off the grid. Conservation, not Luddism, appeals to us all. Today I wrote a check for $765 for heating oil, which motivates me to evaluate my habits. If somebody else paid for it (universal heating insurance as a right?) I’d leave the door wide open all year.

  4. Harry says:

    Reading what I just wrote, I was referring to the joint project between the U of R and RIT, implying that WC and RIT_Rich were conspirators, putting up posters on campus. It would be politically incorrect to refer to them as crusaders, all of whom were dead white men in the days of King Arthur, who is also dead. They evidently are alive and well.

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