Tuesday, September 16, 2008


In a recent blog, we noted how it seems like nearly every Tom, Dick and Harry, Inc. has been jumping on the “green”, “eco-friendly” bandwagon.
Now, the fact is that so much of this “eco-friendliness” in the private sector is,

· Merely wallpaper dressing that has virtually no effect on (and certainly won’t solve)
whatever environmental problems we have,
· Is often economically counterproductive, and
· In some cases, is actually environmentally counterproductive.,

is bad enough. One case in point – due to the additional ‘energy’ costs (i.e the amount of energy used) to manufacture and ship the supposedly “eco-friendly” Prius, when taken in total, a Prius is less “eco-friendly” than the supposedly “very eco-unfriendly” Hummer. And, when expected longevity (i.e. the total number of miles an owner can expect to drive the vehicle) is taken into effect, on a dollar cost per mile basis, the Hummer is much less expensive then the Prius.

However, at least this type of politically correct driven eco-friendliness is in the private sector, where consumers have a choice how to spend (and possibly waste) their money. More and more, however, such politically correct eco-friendliness is infecting the public sector, where we (consumers/taxpayers) don’t have a choice.

Two, local, cases in point. Beacon Street is a well-known major thoroughfare that stretches from Tremont Street in Boston all the way out to Route 128 in Wellesley Hills. For years, the portion of Beacon Street that runs between Park Drive, Boston, and Coolidge Corner in Brookline has mainly been a three-lane road (at least, in the westerly direction). And, every number of years, this portion of Beacon Street would be dug up and re-paved, as needed. Fair enough.

However, in the last reincarnation of this process, this portion of Beacon Street was not only repaved, it was also completely reconfigured. And, one of the major portions of this reconfiguration was the addition of a bikes only lane. What’s wrong with a bikes only lane? Well, in addition to the greatly increased cost (as opposed to just repaving the road and leaving the configuration as it was), what was mainly a three lane road was turned into a two lane road. Which (especially at Harvard Street, directly at the center of Coolidge Corner) took what had already been an area of often heavy traffic congestion, and made the problem much worse. The result: larger and longer traffic jams, translating into more vehicles stuck idling in traffic wasting $4.00 per gallon gasoline while spewing greater amounts of pollution into the atmosphere, then before the reconfiguration of the road. A big negative, from an environmental standpoint? Probably not. But certainly, the direct opposite of what the environmentalists supposedly are aiming for. And, despite what some environmentalists would try and argue, it appears extremely doubtful that there will be any ‘offset’ by some sudden increase in the number of people who leave their cars and trucks at home and now choose to ride their bikes up Beacon Street, simply because a bikes only lane is added to an approx. 1-mile stretch of the road (westerly direction only).

[Of course, this raises other questions – such as, what of the bikers who ride in an easterly direction, or those who ride beyond the approx. 1-mile westerly section of the road that has a bike path. They don’t matter… they’re on their own (sort of like a “’bikes only’” lane to nowhere”?) The point is, they – bicycle riders – appeared to be doing just fine on Beacon Street for decades without a bikes only lane. But, because political correctness now calls for at least the appearance of eco-friendliness, we (the taxpayers) had to spend untold thousands of extra dollars so that Brookline could have and (we’re going to take a wild guess here) feel good about the fact that they now have a bikes only lane along a patch of Beacon Street. (BTW: Not to get far a-field – But, if bicycle riders have a lane of their own on the road, shouldn’t they also have to obey the traffic rules of the road? Like, waiting for the green light to go across an intersection? Or does their ‘eco-friendliness’ make them immune?)

The second local case is even better (or, worse, depending how you look at it). As was reported in a Boston Herald story – “Bad spin for City Hall turbine”, on 9/10/08:

The [Mayor Thomas] Menino administration is turning red over efforts to go green as the bungled installation of a wind turbine on City Hall’s roof is running up a bill for taxpayers…

The turbine, the Herald reported, cost $13,000 to install – yet the electricity created by the turbine only creates “…enough electricity to power just 19 light bulbs.”

[Making matters worse, the City, in installing the turbine, apparently ran afoul of competitive bidding wars for projects costing above $10,000 – although, in fairness, it should be mentioned, the violation of the bidding law appeared to be more a mistake, than intentional.]

Trying to put a good face on the boondoggle, Mayor Menino’s Environment and Energy chief James Hunt (another aside – why does a city need an Environment and Energy chief?), stated, as the Herald reported, that:

“[T]he windmill project is definitely worth doing.

The energy saving may be small, but to showcase the potential of renewable energy in the city of Boston is far more significant.”

Frankly, with all due respect to Mr. Hunt, such waste of taxpayer dollars only serves to further showcase how politically correct eco-friendliness, well, wastes taxpayers’ dollars. (Indeed, in the future, if the city of Boston wishes to save electricity equaling 19 light bulbs, we have a very easy, low-cost, low-tech suggestion – find 19 lights in City Hall which really aren’t necessary (we’re willing to bet at least 19 can be found) – and simply, turn them off.)