Green Policies, Bad Results

We at the NCPA have for a number of years written about how public policies and private actions intended to protect the environment often end up causing environmental harm.  Such unintended consequences continue to this day.

We first warned of the misguided policies that harmed the natural environment in our national parks and national forests in 1986.  We followed up on those themes a number of times, most recently in 2007 in a study which, among other things, documented how failed federal forest management has resulted in the huge forest fires that have become so frequent in recent years.

The same study also showed how federal policies have encouraged overharvesting of ocean fish stocks lead to the near collapse of the ocean fisheries.

Another study examined how federal policies have resulted in environmental destruction on the nation’s coasts and farmlands and have encouraged the destruction of wetlands.

In addition, the NCPA has written extensively on how subsidies and mandates for green energy, including wind power and solar power result in a variety of environmental ills.

Now comes an odd story of how building energy efficiency upgrades – like the ones touted by President Obama during his recent State of the Union Address – can result in expensive unintended consequences.  It is fairly widely recognized that indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.  And the more efficient the home, the worse the problem since efficient homes don’t let air flow from outside but rather recycle the same polluted air over and over.  Now a new problem, specifically with energy efficient windows has come to light.  In California journalists have confirmed and the National Association of Homebuilders is investigating the case of a Prius owner who have found parts of her car melted by the sunbeams reflected off of a neighboring condo’s energy efficient windows.  I’ve experience the ability of reflective windows to blind drivers on the highway, but I never worried about them melting my car.  Does insurance cover that?

Comments (3)

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  1. Is the Prius made of plastic? How quaint.
    I wonder if the fibreglass body of a Corvette would melt from reflected sunlight? This makes me glad that the body of my SUV is made of steel.

  2. Marvin says:

    Well said. The road to Hades is paved with good intentions and nowhere is this more apparent than with our environmental policies.

  3. Chris F says:

    I wanted to thank you, Dr. Burnett, for your February 29, 2012 editorial in the Austin American Statesman “Austin would be ill-advised to ban plastic bags”.

    This is definitely a “green” program which will have bad environmental results.

    I’m trying to figure out how to get the word out that the ban applies to retailer distribution, but that citizens can purchase a case of the 0.5 mil plastic reusable shopping bags cheaply to take for shopping and reuse as trash liners, pet waste bags, etc. Of all the bag alternatives, the humble sturdy 0.5 mil reusable, recyclable shopping bag seems the least environmentally offensive.

    Thank you again, for your article. Unfortunately City Council turned a deaf ear to common sense, and passed the ban.

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