Thursday, May 22, 2008

Austin's Onerous "Point-of-Sale" Moves Forward

Chris Lehman wrote an fawning op-ed for onerous, costly mandates on homeowners today in the Statesman. Homeowners will be stuck paying the bill for an unwarranted intrusion on our rights as homeowners and the Sierra Club are cheerleaders for this idiocy. The other cheerleaders are the boneheads on City Council.
First, he talks about "how Austin can succeed in the challenge of climate protection." It needs to be pointed up front that nothing Austin does or doesn't do will add up to a hill of beans when it comes to climate change. Yes Austin could cut CO2 by shutting down La Grange and replacing that source with nuclear energy (oops, Council missed that opportunity). Even if we assume the dubious worst-case scenarios, Austin's impact on global CO2 increment, even if the City forces $100 million in in the next 10 years is so small it will not be noticed at all.

The total global temperature has gone up less than 0.6C in the last 60 years, and this represents the maximum of man's incluence on climate thus far (although some will argue credibly that some of this 0.6C is natural variation in climate). This what the entire globe's CO2 production since the dawn of the industrial revolution has wrought: 0.6C. And has not gone up at all in the past ten. What will Austin's contribution, if reduced by 10% in the next 10 years add up to? 0.19 x .1 x .0001, or 19 millionths of a degree. Will you notice a change in nineteen-millionths of a degree? Is it really worth it to force homeowners to spend tens of millions of dollars, for a few millionths of a degree?

Those who say yes to such a deal are more than welcome to make these costly additions to their own homes, to set an example if you wish. If they have an energy-hungry mansion like Gore has, they could put the kind of environmental friendly home features that President Bush put on his Crawford Ranch and pave the way for being eco-trend setters.

Lehman touts a "recommendation was that the state upgrade every building constructed before 1985 to meet modern energy efficiency standards." Well, it's just that - a recommendation. To turn a recommendation from another state into an excuse for regulation here is absurd. Commercial and residential homeowners have many other expenses and costs. Does it make sense to force homeowners to make energy upgrades when selling, when the buyer may have completely different ideas that rip out major parts of the house and undo those forced upgrades? I would think not. After all, many buyers want to refinish and redo the house they; those who bought our southwest Austin house in 2005 put in new windows. It's absurd to make seller pay thousands for wasteful upgrades that get turned away.

Regulation does dumb stuff like that. It forces people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do. And since most people are adults and have limited funds, what it invariabily forces people to do are things that don't make sense. If energy efficiency is cost-effective and sensible, people would do it. When it is too costly and not cost-effective (like solar panels), people stay away from it.

Austin Energy can and should consider it a community stakeholder activity to educate and encourage on energy efficiency. They already do that and that's why we voluntarily got an energy audit on our home 10 years ago. It helped us reduce our energy usage and do some sensible things.

Dictation regulations like this treat adults like children, and are further insulting us by telling us it will matter when, in the grand scheme of climate change and environment, it doesnt matter at all. They only difference really will be the dollars and cents. A simple rule - If it doesn't save you any dollars as a homeowner, it doesn't make any sense - not to you, not to the city, not to Planet Earth.

City Council: Educate and encourage, but don't dictate!

PS. An email that came our way on this topic - and reminds us there is a runoff where the #1 issue is the point-of-sale mandates:

Last night, Wed May 21, the task force voted to approve a recommendation that will require the upgrades if the city doesn't reach minimal goals. The goals are VERY HIGH, and unrealistic, essentially voting for MANDATORY ENFORCEMENT!

You will have to get a certificate or permit before you can sell your home. You will have to slash $thousands from your value before selling. The article below puts an interesting "spin" on how nice this will be. How affordable. What happens when the inspector finds out-of-code electrical wiring? What happens when ADA (Americans for Disabilities Act) upgrades are required as is being considered NOW? How much can we require young couples to pay for these upgrades to own a home of their own? Or the seller (probably you) to come off of value? Make up your own mind.

This will be decided by the Austin City Council probably in the Fall. Defend your home now. Cid Galindo is against this ordinance. Laura Morrison is for it. There is a runoff on June 14th.

No comments: