Occupy Wall Street

This Is What a Weatherized Economy Looks Like

|

This time, I REALLY MEAN IT: Never forget!

Remember how Joe Biden and the Obama administration were going to lead us to a "Recovery Through Retrofit"? (Yes, that's really what these people called it.) We were skeptical then, and we were right. From Newsweek's Daniel Stone:

This summer, federal inspectors made a routine visit to 11 homes in St. Louis to see what taxpayers got for the $5 billion that President Obama spent to help Americans weatherize their homes to save energy.

What they found was quite a surprise. Some of the energy-efficient furnaces installed at taxpayer expense spewed carbon monoxide that could poison occupants. New water heaters lacked required pressure valves, putting them in jeopardy of exploding. And a handful of contractors—unfamiliar with the nuances of specialized weatherization work—had used air blowers in homes with asbestos, potentially dispersing the cancer-causing agent, according to several Energy Department inspector-general reports.

As it closes in on retrofitting 600,000 homes, the government's weatherization program—a key element of President Obama's green-energy initiative—has had its share of happy, energy-saving customers. But it has also been riddled with problems. In one review, Energy Department investigators found that 14 percent of weatherization projects surveyed, from Tennessee to West Virginia, failed to meet safety or quality standards. Many customers were poor or elderly, with few resources to pursue wayward contractors.

Who could have foreseen that alt-energy schemes would be wasteful and inefficient?

It turned out that as so much money was being spent so quickly, a lot of state and local governments, as well as contractors, simply weren't ready for the job at hand. "You don't have trained people to do those jobs in places like Arizona or Florida," says Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Board and Obama's handpicked watchdog to oversee stimulus spending. "It turned into a cottage industry." A senior Energy Department official agreed: "We were clearly not ready to take all this money, especially at the state level."

Whole thing, including some plaudits for the administration, here.

Back when the cool kids were taking stock of liberal-hawk overreach in the aftermath of the Iraq War, Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias coined a useful phrase as a way of looking at the debate: "The incompetence dodge." The idea was that Iraq War supporters who blamed the post-invasion mess on the Bush administration's execution were not taking full responsibility for what was a flawed notion in the first place. In a similar spirit, I submit that it's incumbent that every Joe, Nancy, and Van who blew smoke up the nation's arse about "five million green jobs" step away from Zuccotti Park for just one moment, remember all that highfalutin' talk about how the other guys were waging a "war on science," and then acknowledge that a cherished plank in the Democratic Party's agenda has been, from the get-go, the domestic policy equivalent of assuming that Iraqis would greet us with flowers and chocolates in a Velvet Revolution-style celebration.

The man does dress sharp, I'll give him that

Like math, clean-energy policy is actually pretty hard work. Read Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey's cover package from the June 2009 issue for what should have been the beginning of a rational conversation.

Reason on weatherization follies from 2009, 2010, and 2011.

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.

38 responses to “This Is What a Weatherized Economy Looks Like

  1. Some of the energy-efficient furnaces installed at taxpayer expense spewed carbon monoxide that could poison occupants. New water heaters lacked required pressure valves, putting them in jeopardy of exploding. And a handful of contractors?unfamiliar with the nuances of specialized weatherization work?had used air blowers in homes with asbestos, potentially dispersing the cancer-causing agent, according to several Energy Department inspector-general reports.

    Hey, undertakers need work, too.

  2. Why is the retracted foreskin on that penis all gray?

    1. Your mind is a terrible thing.

    2. Seriously, what is cancer wrong with you?

      1. My comment was a compliment.

  3. First of all, economics is not a science. It is the ultimate faith based initiative.

    Secondly, being a leftist means never having to say you’re sorry when you accidentally all the money, Ukranians, etc.

    1. Bad spoof, but correct in that liberals view [Keynesian] economics as an act of faith, thus throwing their “we’re all about Teh Scienz” talking-points out the window.

      1. A single comment is always a spoof. The real Tony doesn’t stop until the thread is dripping with shit.

  4. We were clearly not ready to take all this money…

    “…which is why we heartily accepted it.”

    or

    “…but any more you’d like to send would be greatly appreciated.”

    1. Every time I read one of those, I thnk “Poor bastards! I can’t imagine what I would do if someone handed me a big pile of money I wasn’t expecting. That would be a tragedy.”

  5. I for one am amazed that workers who will suffer no financial backlash for doing poor work because they are getting free government money will cut corners–amazed I tell you.

  6. I’m not opposed to cleaner everything, but is that what we need to focus on right now? I don’t think the government should be leading any charges, but, in general, useful scientific and technological advances could really kick our economy into high gear. The resulting affluence would make spending more to develop and acquire greener technologies far more appealing. And, as it is, there is quite a bit of consumer-driven technology and processes that are cleaner already.

    Happier Gaia through technology.

    1. The weatherization subsidies were about as close as Big Government gets to doing things purely out of good intentions. (“Cash for Clunkers” was probably the closest.) But even the things Big Government does with next to no malice aforethought goes wrong, and we libertarians told you so. (Well, not you personally, PL, since you’re one of us.)

      Stories like this need to be repeated to show people how Big Government gets everything wrong.

  7. Well, sounds like it stimulated business for shady contractors.

  8. CLAP, you bastards!

    Tinkerbell is losing altitude.

    1. I’m thinking more the Guarantee Fairy from Tommy Boy.

      1. And the medic gets out and says, “Oh my God”. New guy’s around the corner puking his guts out

    2. Crash and burn, bitch. Let the pirate have his due.

  9. See… see… It wasn’t the policy that failed, it was the greedy corporate, fat cat capitalists, who put profits over people, that caused the program to fail. If we had a federal Department of Weatherization, run by experts who just happen to be close friends of the President and congressional leadership, then the program would have worked perfectly.

  10. “There’s always a risk when you fund innovation”

    And that is why you take the risk with your own fucking owner, Sen Boxer.

    1. “own fucking money”

      Gah.

      No matter how bad I screw up today, I cant top John.

    2. If only there were some sort of mechanism outside of government for driving innovation! Can’t our insanely brilliant leaders create something like that?

      1. I would deem such a mechanism the Agorarama.

        1. Who owns Senator Boxer? Good question.

          1. There is an agorarama of politicians in place already.

      2. Probably need a super-committee for innovation. That’d solve it. Because then the solution would be all bi-partisian and stuff.

  11. “Like math, clean-energy policy is actually pretty hard work”
    This is actually the most incorrect part of the post. Clean-energy policy is not difficult at all. Get the government out of the energy business, let real energy costs rise without subsidy, and you’ll have all the green energy you could ever hope for.

  12. But energy is too important to leave to the markets. It’s like, oh I don’t know….health care decisions. Those aren’t for individuals, those decisions need to be made by leaders with plans.

  13. In one review, Energy Department investigators found that 14 percent of weatherization projects surveyed, from Tennessee to West Virginia, failed to meet safety or quality standards. Many customers were poor or elderly, with few resources to pursue wayward contractors.

    What’s the big deal? Those are just icky flyover state, unintelligent, gun owning rednecks anyways.

  14. Mainer,
    Energy, healthcare, sure. Don’t forget sugar, salt, transfats, non-transfats, hydrogenated oils, and tobacco. For-profit pot fits in there someplace.

  15. “You don’t have trained people to do those jobs in places like Arizona or Florida,” says Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Board and Obama’s handpicked watchdog to oversee stimulus spending. “It turned into a cottage industry.”

    I guess “Earl Devaney” is an alias for Ric Romero.

  16. The problem with the modern left is that it believes that historical social norms such as innovation, spontaneous order, and markets are pixie dust, whereas social engineering and the regulatory state are what keeps society functioning. As if a million Elizabeth Warrens breathing down the necks of capitalist make the important decisions on investment and allocation while the mere entrepreneurs chase after shiny baubles to sell to consumers of whom don’t really need his products but are lured by deceit into purchasing. Being Hobbesian rationalist at heart, they can’t fathom a dynamic society. There is just no way that order can come into being without a leader at top with the power of the law in his hands directing it.

    1. Don’t forget to add that the left views the private sector only as a necessary evil, in that it is the only way to generate revenue for more government.

      Team Red behaves this way, too, to some extent.

  17. Chris,
    You just described all of the ‘science’ behind Socialism.

  18. Obama’s handpicked watchdog to oversee stimulus spending.

    “It’s dangerous difficult work, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

  19. “We were clearly not ready to take all this money”

    Well, it never stopped you before, so why start complaining now?

  20. Seems like no matter what the Obama administration tries to do, it suffers from the familiar and seemingly inevitable problem of Government Failure. When will they learn?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.