One Cheer for Singletary


Like you, I dislike Singletary’s hectoring tone but I think that she inadvertently makes a pretty good point: Market prices can provide a good signal about the value of conservation measures.

Certain activities labeled as “conservation” measures (e.g. recycling office paper, implementing Kyoto) do not actually save money. In other words, doing them expends more resources than it saves and, thus, we can safely say that they are not conservation measures at all but, rather, efforts to accomplish other goals in the name of environmentalism.

On the other hand, “good” conservation measures actually do conserve resources and thus save money. Installing compact florescent light bulbs, recycling aluminum, and replanting trees after a timber harvest all pay for themselves in time. Doing these things may have certain disadvantages and risks that could outweigh the money saved. For example, the woman in Singeltary’s column who uses solar cookers on her roof is likely risking enormous medical bills (or even death) from a fall for the sake of shaving a few bucks off of her electrical bill. Still, provided she avoids injury, she does manage to save resources.

If we applied the “does it save money?” test to all supposed “conservation” measures, we would have avoided tons of harmful environmental regulations and would likely have a cleaner environment too. So, for her semi-making this point, I’d give Singletary at least one cheer.