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Let Congress Sweat It Out

Op-Eds & Articles


Let Congress Sweat It Out


Many of the so-called solutions the green movement proposes consist of turning back the clock and relying on technology we left behind decades, even centuries ago: They want us to use windmills and railroads, use more land for crops (and thereby less for forests), and burn plants to make energy. Now, there has come along a fellow who thinks air conditioning is a bane rather than a boon and hankers for the offices of the 1940s.

In a world without air conditioning, a warmer, more flexible, more relaxed workplace helps make summer a time to slow down again. Three-digit temperatures prompt siestas. Code-orange days mean offices are closed. Shorter summer business hours and month-long closings — common in pre-air-conditioned America — return.

Business suits are out, for both sexes. And with the right to open a window, office employees no longer have to carry sweaters or space heaters to work in the summer. After a long absence, ceiling fans, window fans and desk fans (and, for that matter, paperweights) take back the American office.

But why stop there? In British India they used to have natives called punkah wallahs, who would pull on ropes that swung a large ceiling fan. Adopting the punkah would massively increase employment!

However, he might have a case when he makes this argument:

Best of all, Washington's biggest business — government — is transformed. In 1978, 50 years after air conditioning was installed in Congress, New York Times columnist Russell Baker noted that, pre-A.C., Congress was forced to adjourn to avoid Washington's torturous summers, and "the nation enjoyed a respite from the promulgation of more laws, the depredations of lobbyists, the hatching of new schemes for Federal expansion and, of course, the cost of maintaining a government running at full blast."

Post-A.C., Congress again adjourns for the summer, giving "tea partiers" the smaller government they seek. During unseasonably warm spring and fall days, hearings are held under canopies on the Capitol lawn. What better way to foster open government and prompt politicians to focus on climate change?

I suggest Congress and government agencies lead by example and adopt this rule of no air conditioning immediately. In fact, I'm sure it must be somewhere in Speaker Pelosi's Greening the Capitol initiative. Questions should be asked on the floor as to why they're running the AC this week.