Environmentalism

Remember How Momma Warned You About Those Slick-Talking Men Who Promised to Repeal the Boom-Bust Cycle?

|

Well, momma was warning you about…Barack Obama! This is what the president said Tuesday at an Arlington Alexandria, Va. Home Depot: 

No, really

From the moment we took office, even as we took immediate steps to deal with the financial crisis, we began investing in newer, stronger foundations for lasting growth—one that would free us from the cycle of boom and bust that has been so painful; one that can create good jobs and opportunities for a growing middle class.  That's at the heart of our efforts, and clean energy can be a powerful engine for creating that kind of growth.

Freeing us from the boom-bust cycle and creating green jobs! Sounds like a China Tom Friedman win-win-win!

But the fact of the matter is energy efficiency is a perfect example of how this can be a win-win. 

Close enough. Anyway, what else in the speech sounded too good to be true? This part, about the never-ending economic wonders of retrofitting:

[M]ost of this stuff is going to pay for itself.  You put in the insulation, you weatherize your home now, you will make up that money in a year or two years or three years, and then everything after that is just gravy.

Question for the homeowners in the audience: Is that even remotely true? Seems to me that if a category of home-improvement investment was producing gravy by the third year max, it wouldn't, in Obama's verb-tense-challenged formulation, "require some imagination and some foresight, and it requires us to all work together."

Thankfully, the president pointed in his speech to a handy new document, prepared by Joe Biden himself, entitled "Recovery Through Retrofit" [PDF]. Surely in there we can learn how many years a good weatherization takes to pay off?

No such luck (at least according to my quick perusal). Instead, we are presented with power-point slides like this:

Real man of genius

Barriers to a National Retrofit Market

Despite the economic and environmental benefits of improving home energy efficiency, a series of barriers have prevented a self-sustaining retrofit market from forming, including:

1. Access to Information: Consumers do not have access to straightforward and reliable information on home energy retrofits that they need to make informed decisions.

2. Access to Financing: Homeowners face high upfront costs and many are concerned that they will be prevented from recouping the value of their investment if they choose to sell their home. The upfront costs of home retrofit projects are often beyond the average homeowner's budget.

3. Access to Skilled Workers: There are currently not enough skilled workers and green entrepreneurs to expand weatherization and efficiency retrofit programs on a national scale.

Wait, what? If the economic benefits were easily attainable by Year Three, doesn't that imply that the cost of retrofitting is no greater than (current monthly energy bill x 36)-(post-retrofit monthly energy bill x 36), and therefore probably not "beyond the average homeowner's budget" nor a cause for concern "that they will be prevented from recouping the value of their investment"? Sounds like the kind of question that "straightforward and reliable information on home energy retrofits" could provide! Let's see, how to achieve that one?

Currently, there are a variety of energy performance rating tools in the home retrofit market, each one supplying different information and performance predictions. The lack of a standard rating causes great confusion for consumers. Without some level of standardization combined with an effort to increase recognition and awareness, energy efficiency retrofits will likely remain a niche product, keeping consumer demand low and investors out of the market. […]

Energy star (alt-text graphic credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The new home performance label should be accompanied by a national marketing campaign to increase consumer awareness and expand the demand for home energy retrofits. This campaign should build on the marketing that Federal Government already does in conjunction with the ENERGY STAR® label on products and the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program for whole-home retrofits. The national marketing campaign will help homeowners find reliable sources of information on how to improve their homes and quality, skilled contractors to do the work.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other Agencies to design a standard energy performance measure and related tools to meet this need. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will work to link the new energy performance measure to its redesigned Energy Efficient Mortgage products. DOE will promote adoption of a national energy performance measure through its advisory role to States and will encourage the use of a common national standard.

By all means, read Biden's whole report for your year's supply of revolving weatherization loans, DOE-funded "model PACE projects," and–it almost goes without saying–"A uniform set of national standards to qualify energy efficiency and retrofit workers and industry training providers." Me, I'd prefer to know how many years it would take for the weatherization on, say, a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1,400 sq. ft house to "pay for itself." Only then can we ever really begin to assess how the national marketing campaign for our new industry standard of government-certified retrofitters will, if ever, begin creating gravy for anyone not currently riding the gravy train.

NEXT: No Political or Scientific Purity

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “I only pay $5 dollars extra a month for completely clean electricity.”

  2. [M]ost of this stuff is going to pay for itself. You put in the insulation, you weatherize your home now, you will make up that money in a year or two years or three years, and then everything after that is just gravy.

    SHUT THE FUCK UUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!

    Jumping retarded Haysooooos on a solid beryllium pogo stick.

  3. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will work to link the new energy performance measure to its redesigned Energy Efficient Mortgage products.

    Will the term of these mortgages be one hundred years, to coincide with the “payback” from your rooftop solar panel array?

  4. Do these ignorant fucks even believe for one second one twelfth of the inane shit that spews out of their cake-holes? Do they even listen to the noise coming from their festering gobs as they utter it? Do they even review or vet what the script says before they step up in front of the mic to mouth the pre-written statement provided for them by squadrons of trained monkeys?

    Goddam it, shit like this makes me spit.

  5. I have estimates for about $3K to better insulate my attic. That’s about what my heating/cooling bills are, in total, for 3 yrs. They’d have to save me 100% of my gas/power bill to pay for themselves in 3 yrs.

    1. I did it myself for a cost of about $1K and saved about $400/Yr, which is because before I added insulation, I had next to no insulation (about 1/2 inch from when it was built).

  6. [M]ost of this stuff is going to pay for itself. You put in the insulation, you weatherize your home now, you will make up that money in a year or two years or three years, and then everything after that is just gravy.

    It’s all good cuz. Know wut ahm sayin? What a goddamn imbecile.

  7. And what is it w/ Obama’s weatherization fetish?

    1. Ororo Munroe touched him when he was a child.

    2. It’s a requirement for a person that likes to keep his thermostat at 78 degrees.

  8. Considered this recently. Bought a new high efficiency washer and dryer on sale for $1300. It was a good price since the normal price is $1800 (MSRP, so I suppose it will still sell for less). Anyhow I read after I ordered it that high efficiency units save about $50 per year. The sales guy told me his saved him about $11 per month (that would be about $132/year, maybe the $50 is per machine). Anyhow I do a LOT of laundry so even taking the face value of what the saleman said I calculated a TEN YEAR payback. Then again I can include the tax credit, that’s an almost 7 year payback (6.8 years). I tried to justify it based on the fact that I might need new ones because mine are over 10 years old, but I can find newer ones (either washer or dryer, both won’t quit at the same time) on craigslist for $200. Including the offset of ‘have to buy one anyway’ at $200 it’s still over a 5 year payback and almost 4 years if I had to buy both washer and dryer. So end of the day I cancelled the order. And that was considering that I got it at an unheard of low price (black friday special) and with a 30% tax subsidy. No wonder people aren’t taking advantage of this stuff as fast as the government would like.

    1. This just in, the washer will pay for the dryer…..

    2. Jim,
      I kindly ask you to refrain from doing the math on any of my statements

    3. Jim, I bought the large load energy efficient washer and decided to be cheap and not replace my good dryer. The dryer had to run constantly to keep up with the load of clothes that came out of one wash. I would rather not eat than return to a standard size washer and dryer. I don’t know if you are married with children but if your wife does the laundry buy the machines!

    4. Sounds like the government needs to do a Cash for Washers program to get all those old polluting washers off the market, so you won’t have a choice.

      1. Done You’re welcom!

  9. Argument #3 that there aren’t enough skilled laborers is total BS as well. After a housing boom-bust cycle, there aren’t enough construction workers to weatherize homes? Give me a break. It doesn’t take a genius to install insulation or solar panels for that matter. As to the 3 years payback, no fucking way. Sure, there are a lot of ways to build houses in an efficient manner by maintaining an insulation envelope and whatnot, but if you have an inefficient house there is only so much you can do.

    1. skilled (likely) equals government trained and vetted workers who went to college and got a four year degree to become weatherization specialists.

      because, you know, you need a college degree these days if your going to be a success in America

  10. Matt, here is an example.

    This year I moved from a 25yr old house to a larger, 3yr old house. So far my energy bill this winter is about $100 a month lower in the new house.

    The main problem with the old house was the windows. It would have cost about $5k for new windows. Assuming 1)windows would make the old house as efficient as the new one, and 2)savings of $100 per month apply to the summer months too, it would take just over 4 years to break even.

    This is assuming two entirely implausible conditions. Nothing short of new windows, a new furnace, and replacing all the outside walls with thicker and better insulated ones, would make the old house as efficient.

    People who live and work in Washington may as well be from another planet. They are so out of touch with reality it’s sickening.

  11. Let a thousand Joe Wilsons bloom in audiences listening to these guys.

  12. Don’t thank me, thank the CAULK!

  13. I’m assuming the Secret Service grounded all forklift traffic in the vicinity while the Ascended One was at Home depot.

    Because, well, you know, If I was cruising around Home Depot on my forklift, playin’ the radio, ogling the chicks, with a pallet of cinderblocks way up there on the forks, and I happened upon the President of the United States….

  14. How far is Obama away from telling us to wear sweaters and installing solar panels on the roof of the white house?

    Over/under two, three months?

    1. There’s been recent historical revisionism about Carter’s ‘malaise’ speech, so I’d give it a couple of months.

    2. I don’t see what’s wrong with wearing sweaters. Do you enjoy spending more money than you need to on heat? The only reason central heating is necessary is so your pipes don’t freeze.
      I guess the president should not be giving it, but turning down the thermostat and putting on a sweater is sound advice. Efficiency is good. Misguided government programs are bad. Standard libertarian disclaimers apply.

      1. Sweaters are itchy. I live in a 700 sq ft. apartment that costs $40 to keep at 76 for the month, so fuck sweaters, yo.

        1. Well, you are in a place where heating is not too necessary, I take it. I live somewhere cold, so it costs $300/month to keep a 900 sf house at 65. Sweaters look a lot more appealing then. And only a fool or a masochist wears a wool sweater against bare skin.

          1. It was 22 degrees in Nashville last night. And $300/month for 900 sq ft? What do you live in, an igloo?

            1. I used to pay 500-600 per month to heat a 1300 sq feet home in the winter months… but that was a house built in the 1930s and was in Providence RI

              1. also when natural gas was through the roof at the time

          2. I think you need to move. I, too, live somewhere cold and my largest electric and gas bill combined was 305 last year for 1450 sq ft kept at 71 because we had a toddler who didn’t yet sleep with a blanket. And our house has the energy efficient windows, but still has plenty of draft from poor building materials/lack of quality work erecting this piece of shit.

  15. “one that would free us from the cycle of boom and bust that has been so painful”

    I have no doubt they can free us from the boom part. The bust part, not so much.

  16. Nitpick: The Home Depot was in Alexandria; there are no Home Depot’s in Arlington.

    1. There are likely no apostrophes in Home Depots either.

      1. They don’t have greengrocers at Home Depot, either?

        1. No, just at Whole Food’s.

    2. Thanks. Though in fairness, I hate *both* cities.

      1. Arlington’s my home town. But, FWIW, I myself, am not a big fan of SoCal. 🙂

        1. All is permitted in civic love/hate.

  17. I think that only with a huge, leaky home would a three year payback be possible. And how many of those are there? I suspect many older homes got improved during the ’70s energy crisis, and most homes built since were better constructed in the first place.

    On the other hand, there is low-hanging fruit out there. Back in the 2000/2001 California energy crisis I was renting in a large, older, very leaky house. E.g.: standing in the hallway you could see out underneath the front door. So I improved things with maybe $35 worth of weatherstripping and duct tape (to MacGyver the worn strip under the door). Afterwards the winter gas bill dropped by maybe $20/month.

    I suppose all this doesn’t hurt the administration with their younger supporters, but to many of us this whole push just makes them look even more like the Carter administration.

  18. Yeah, the math is a FAIL. I’m a heating, ventilation, and HVAC engineer. I do a lot of energy modeling, etc, and I can tell you that very few things the government will do for houses will pay back in 3 years.

    Most house energy rates are in the $1/sqft/year area (i.e. you have a 1,000 sqft house, it’ll cost you $1,000 to heat and cool for a year). Taking that as a baseline, say you shave 10% off your energy bill – which would be a pretty good shave just for some caulking or whatever they plan. That means you save $100 for three years = $300. What could you possibly do for $300? You might be able to drive to the site and think about what needs to be done. Not much more.

  19. Great Big Star reference and a great unknown band, but what does it have to do with the post?

    1. A) thanks
      B) not unknown
      C) was trying to illustrate “energy star” in a way involving rock music, but the Johnny Rotten “Anger is an Energy” poster was in an unsaveable format. Meanwhile I saw this nice blinking light from an almost great band.

  20. Lets see, my gas bill is about $13.00 more for the 4 months where we sparingly use the heater and I have no air conditioner because it rarely gets hot enough to use one. So I am looking at $52 in additional costs for heating and air conditioning per year. So if I spent $3000 weatherizing my house and assume a 25% drop in costs it would take over 230 years to pay off.

    1. Government financing is the key.

  21. The tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements is back in 2009. Obviously the solution is even more social engineering through the tax code.

  22. I can hear the resident lefties now: “Dammit stop doing that darn math! Only loony libertarians do math! Normal people just believe!”

  23. If we triple energy cost then a 3 year payback is plausible

  24. newer, stronger foundations for lasting growth — one that would free us from the cycle of boom and bust that has been so painful
    On another note, does anyone really believe that home retrofitting will create long term sustainable jobs? It would seem to me that there are a limited number of homes requiring retrofitting and once those are retrofitted the work would dry up. Unless the plan is to enact a new set of energy efficiency standards that would require those homes to be re-retrofitted.

  25. You’ll save gobs of money on this program… if you normally keep your house at 76 in the winter and 68 in the summer.

    I know too many assholes who do just that.

    1. One is in the White House right now.

    2. I have never understood why people seem to want it cooler in the summer than in the winter. Aren’t people wearing more clothes in the winter? Or is the problem that people want to wear the same clothes year round? It should be colder inside in the winter than in the summer.

  26. Maybe the government should just bulldoze all houses built before 1995.

    That would stimulate the construction industry.

    1. Not to mention all the new jobs for bulldozer operators, loader operators and truck drivers!

    2. Sorry, P Brooks, but those would be jobs for men – the evil ones; remember? – and President Obama’s administration has already come out against that. See the mid-night amendments to the Second Stimulus and the Cap and Trade bill. heh. Only government spending that increases jobs for wymen can be implemented at this time.

  27. Joe the dumber got hisself one a them newly created jobs at the Home Depot?

  28. I love something like solar panels. If I could meet all my electricity needs by roofing my house in solar panels, I’d be all over it if I could get a reasonable “pay for itself” rate.

    But the early adopter on tech like that gets fucked long and hard. People will just wait to make an investment that large in a developing tech field. It’s not like buying a TV with one HDMI input, you’re totally re-rigging your house.

  29. Joe Biden is King Obama’s Fool.

  30. [M]ost of this stuff is going to pay for itself. You put in the insulation, you weatherize your home now, you will make up that money in a year or two years or three years, and then everything after that is just gravy.

    Question for the homeowners in the audience: Is that even remotely true

    That’s a total lie. A total fucking lie. It’s so far from the truth, I can only compare it to other things which are very far from the truth.

    I have single-pane windows in my house. Very bad for insulation. However, to replace every window in my house with modern, doublepane windows (not even going with the character of the house and getting quality wood frame stuff) it would cost me around $15,000.

    To pay off in five years, my monthly heating bill would have to drop by $250 a month. My heating bill currently isn’t $250 a month. So the power company would have to pay me.

    Fucking lie lie lie lie. Did I mention it’s a total lie?

  31. None of this shit pays for itself.

    My mother-in-law needed a new car and was attempting to choose between a Honda and a Prius. The Prius was $5000 more expensive.

    I made her a nifty spreadsheet that showed, given her average annual miles driven and the rated mileage difference between the two cars, that it would take nearly 14 years to recoup the cost difference. Seeing as the car was unlikely to be in service that long, I argued (posited really, one shouldn’t argue with Mom) that there was no valid financial reason to pay the extra $5k.

    She went with the Prius because she wanted to be “green”. Oh, and yes, she is a died-in-the-wool, Kennedy/Obama/Kerry loving liberal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

    1. My man. How many arguments have I had with people who will shop for gas. Same principle. If you drive more than about a mile out of your way, you’re losing money.

  32. None of this shit pays for itself.

    The Big Lie does. It takes only a few vocal and well-placed individuals to make it all come true. Most people still think Cash For Clunkers was a huge success. The brain-dead are easily conquered.

  33. Let’s be clear. There are those who claim that a negative number times a negative number is positive. But I don’t think we should be listening to those mathematical folks, after the mess they created during the past eight years and we’re stuck cleaning up.

  34. I stand behind my theory that boom/bust cycles are good for the economy.

    1. For those of us who bought into the market last Spring instead of bailing, you are correct. 65% return is sweet, sweet. Folks who listened to the doom-sayers and locked in their losses by selling deserve what their ignorance wrought.

  35. Boom/bust cycles *are* good, if the imbeciles “in charge of” the economy actually allow the transfer of assets from low-return to high-return applications.

    The last year or so has been a frantic effort to prevent exactly that, unfortunately

  36. So they want to create a Boom and Bust program to help solve our Boom and Bust econonmy. At least they are consistent.

  37. This will surely help ; {

  38. If we triple energy cost then a 3 year payback is plausible

    Good thing there’s that whole cap’n’trade bulltwaddle pending.

  39. Would you take remodeling advice from this man?

  40. “The sales guy told me his saved him about $11 per month (that would be about $132/year, maybe the $50 is per machine). Anyhow I do a LOT of laundry so even taking the face value of what the saleman said I calculated a TEN YEAR payback. ”

    Yep, this washer/dryer thing is really pissing me off because there’s so much bull-twaddle being foisted off on people. First of all, most washers these days are very cheaply built; they simply won’t last 10 years. (On the other hand, there are a surprising number of ’60s-era Maytags still on the job.) And they aren’t designed to be serviced; many service jobs (such as replacing tub bearings, which is a common failure mode in today’s front-loaders) cost more than the replacement cost of the unit. So if the payback is more than 4-5 years, forget it. Second, think about it: what can a washer really do to save money? It’s not like a fridge, where you can make it more efficient by putting more insulation in. Do you know how today’s “energy star” washers save money? Mainly, they do it by only using a teacup of water to rinse the detergent out of your freakin’ clothes! When you put on clothes washed in one of these washers, you are in effect wearing a bottle of detergent. Hope you aren’t allergic. Oh, and how much of that energy efficiency is going to be offset by the necessity of running multiple “washer cleaning” cycles in order to clean out the detergent buildup and gunk? Just ask anyone who has had a major mold bloom in their late-model washer. (There are a few commercial washers around now that can be set to not actually rinse the clothes at all. Wash, spin, done.)

  41. Obama is going to wave his magic wand and end badness.

    This fuckbag really is this stupid.

  42. Alright you assmunches, here is something I actually know a little about, besides your ruinous economy. The efficiency horseshit is, well, polar bear shit. Now, there certainly is something to efficiency in construction. BUT, it really only goes so far. I won’t comment on your stellar historical efficiency record for the past 30 years – weak. When I was a young polar bear, well, younger, I learned (without the advantage of your bullshit college degree) that you can only make a home or building so energy efficient (hermetically sealed, air-tight, butthole tight, Gorified, etc) before you start to create those proverbial “unintended consequences.” Lesson for you Reasonoid “trolls” – a home or building needs to breathe just like you virtual queers (not a homo-hater – I just like the insult). Get outside and do something idiots: run, walk, skip, hulahoop, a little queer roller blading, maybe even a real sport like Nascar. Before you dolts go around and caulk your entire house, remember, your house needs to “breathe.” Just imagine, you agw fruitcakes, the amount of enery it will take when you seal up your home and cause mold spores to enter your fragile non-smoking lungs. Or, OR, the amount of energy it will take to come out to your fairy-world home and remove all of the mold-infested material Big Al instructed you to “green.”

    Alright, I’m a little drunk, but you get the gist of it, idiots. Drink, you freedom fighters. Drung!

    1. Ah, Megyn Kelly is back on. I know, that little dude Rachel Maddow is hot (vomiticious) and really informative ….. about Fox News, but ………. I sure like Megyn.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.