Yesterday in the mail I received a letter in the mail from my local natural gas utility asking me to help the environment by adding carbon offsets to my plan.

wg_logo_02The letter reminded me that while natural gas is one of the cleanest sources of energy, it still creates some greenhouse gas emissions.  So to help celebrate Earth Day, the utility encouraged me to counterbalance the environmental impact of my use of natural gas and to sign up for the WGES Carbon Offsets Plus program.

Now while I have no problem is trying to do my part to save the environment- I recycle for example, this feel good program isn’t free.

Just as with just about every “save the environment” program or scheme- I pay about $200 for the privilege of mandatory recycling, there is a cost.  Washington Gas wants me to cough up 15 cents per therm, which they estimate would cost less than $1 a day to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  If they were a responsible business shouldn’t they be doing that already instead of trying to guilt their customers into coughing up more money?

How about telling me, how I reduce my energy use?  Oh, wait that would mean reduced revenues and profits for the utility, which they don’t want, while trying to be environmental do-gooders.

While Washington Gas has been able to con enough customers into buying more than 70,000 carbon offsets to date,  they won’t be getting any additional money out of me for this charade.

Read the letter here: WGES

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Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL)  are going to become the defacto lighting standard across America starting next year when the first stage of the incandescent bulb phaseout begins.

But despite environemtalists claims that the bulbs are also goo for the environment that isn’t necessarily the case according Jason Cochran of Walletpop.com on his appearnce on The Early Show.

Watch the video here.

Cochran gave a balanced presentation about the benefits and drawbacks of the various types of bulbs and to his credit when the interviewer claimed that CFL”s were more environmnetally friendly pointed out that they contain a small amount of  mercury which oresents a potential hazad should the bulb break.

In addition to the mercury problem the bulbs are not manufactured uniformly.  According to a 2009 report by the United States Agency for International Development a survey of 300 plus Chinese manufacturers of CFL bulbs only 40 %  meet the national standards.  There is also no regulation of bulb exports and 70% of the Chinese bulbs are exported creating an uneven playing field for the consumer.

I have use these bulbs in my home and the initial promise of  a 10 year life turned out to be an outright lie.  Now manufactures claim an average life of 6.3 years but that must be under optimal conditions like that of how car manufacturers determine gas mileage because I haven’t seen anywhere near that for most of my bulbs.  They also conveniently forget to inform the consumer that they are worthless when lights are constantly being tunred on and off. That action reduces the life to less than two years based on my experience.

LED’s are probably the way to go in the long run. They remain cool to the touch, bright and energy efficient.  The only problem as Cochran points out is that they cost a lot more than either a incandescent  or CFL. 

But why do we need the government interfering with our choices when it comes to lighting our homes and making a mockery of the free market system this country relies on?

We don’t but like many other things reality doesn’t matter much in the environmentalist

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that homeowners in Austin, TX are now facing the additional burden of a mandatory energy audit on their homes before they can sell.

The audits which are targeted at less energy efficient (read older) homes can include checks on a home’s air-conditioning and heating systems and insulation and air-tightness and normally costs $200 to $300 on top of the repair cost which can run into the thousands.

With home sales in Austin down as they are in much of the country- April’s figures show an 18% slide compared to last year at the same point in time the law has homeowners and real estate professionals howling about the potential effect on future sales.

To top it off sellers who refuse the audit can be charged with a misdemeanor which one city councilman said was to show that the city was serious about the measure.

The city for its part says the audits are necessary to help keep Austin from having to build a new power plant by 2020 and that out of more than 300 audits conducted so far the average home was found to have leaking in their duct systems that was double what was recommended and attic insulation that was six inches thinner than ideal.

There is little doubt that power plants are expensive to build and operate and that saving energy is a worthwhile goal.  And I’m sure there are homebuyers who desire a more energy efficient or airtight home but generally make their purchase decisions based on other factors such as location, schools, shopping etc… Although I have read stories about people buying energy efficient or green homes I personally don’t know anyone who has made that a priority when looking for a home. Just look at Al Gore.

At this level home sales don’t have much further to go before they come to a grinding halt and adding this law at a time of economic distress seems dumb to say the least.  In their zeal to go green the city council has discounted the potential effect on sales which directly affects tax revenues which I doubt the city can afford to see shrink more than they already have.  Oh, wait a minute they are in line for stimulus money for doing so and that makes it revenue neutral even though the stimulus money comes from- the taxpayers!

Austin may call this an energy audit but it is really nothing more than a stealth energy that should be repealed before it spreads across the country and wrecks local economies.