Green AND Market Oriented

To me, the best green invention in the world is the compact fluorescent light bulb: these bulbs cost more up front but they last about ten years, give good light, and cut energy bills in a big way. Since they don’t give off heat of their own, they even reduce summer AC bills. My own home electricity bill has declined about 25 percent since I finished swapping out all of my frequently used incandescent bulbs. They paid for themselves within a year. And, as greenie-pinkos rightly point out, we could reduce our need for new power plants a lot if more Americans used them. As conservatives and libertarians, we like power plants (particularly those that pollute a lot) but we should favor efforts like this because they would leave us with more energy to power seal-clubbing machines, build evil robots to steal candy from children, and blow up levees near poor neighborhoods. Perhaps because of the hefty up-front cost, however, compact fluorescent bulbs haven’t caught on: most stores only carry a few types of these bulbs and I tend to think that selection has declined. Somebody could market these things better.

In their quest to force the purchase of things almost that nobody wants to buy like (as Iain puts it) indulgences carbon credits and wind power, the greenies have forgotten a lot of the useful innovations that are sitting right under their noses. Enron had a division that would come into commercial buildings, make them more energy efficient and then pay itself out of the savings. My condo complex has a plumbing service that fixes leaks without up front cost and takes a cut of the water bill reduction that accompanies this. Why not do this for home electrical bills?

A company could buy people more efficent bulbs and get paid out of energy bill savings. Doing this for even a few hundred thousand homes would probably do more to reduce emissions and save energy than all of the wind-power credits purchased to date everywhere. Both homeowners and companies would get real cold, hard, cash in return.

To do it, we need somebody who thinks about markets and money to dream up a business model for doing this in a way that produces a lot of profits.

I’m sure it’s possible. It”s worth noting that what I would guess is the biggest explicitly green business in the country–Whole Foods Markets–was started and is still run by a couple of smash-the-state libertarians.