Stupid: Aerosol, Bulbs, and Panels Version

January 3, 2016

There are people in my orbit who tell me I don’t deal well with stupid. They’re right, although I don’t think I’m unusual in this regard. Really!

Why stupid now? The immediate prompt? Donald Trump Laments Loss of Aerosol Sprays to Frame His Hair, written by Alan Rappeport for First Draft at the New York Times on December 30. Mr. Trump wants to spray his hair using an aerosol spray can. In fact, aerosol delivery systems were banned in a treaty dating back to the late 1980s, which President George H.W. Bush signed. Mr. Trump’s answer? He doesn’t think any of the stuff would get out, for he uses hairspray in his penthouse apartment.

Mr. Trump may be kidding, for he’s running the most unseriously stupid presidential campaign I can ever recall. That said, no one in the scientific community disputes the aerosol / ozone connection. And it’s a pander of the worst order to suggest in the context of a race for POTUS that minor inconveniences support tossing smart in favor of stupid.

If all I had to write about was hairspray, I would not have bothered you all with this post. I’m on to lightbulbs now. In 2007 Congress set new standards for light bulb efficiency. President George W. Bush signed the law. It required light bulb manufacturers and importers to meet certain standards for energy efficiency. Enter CFLs, LEDs, and Halogen incandescent bulbs.

Congress and federal agencies routinely set efficiency and pollution standards for consumer and industrial products and factories. It’s a part of our system, and it’s why you can breathe every day in New York City, and not as often in Beijing. Alas, in the stupid world of “ain’t no one gonna tell me sh*t,” the U.S. House of Representatives tried to end the ban in 2014. It failed. In the meantime, however, and this is the really stupid part, when the Congress changed hands in the 2010 election, House Rs defunded programs to change the lightbulbs and install solar in the Capitol and other Capitol Hill buildings. Details are here, but the point is, When people are lining up to change their bulbs and install solar, and the law provides tax credits for installing solar, why would Congress pull back?

And then there is solar, early. Katie Valentine details the history of solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Obama Administration Becomes the Third to Install Solar Panels on White House Grounds, written for Climate Progress in 2013. Short version:

President Jimmy Carter had rooftop panels installed. President Ronald Reagan had them removed. Subsequently, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have had panels installed on the White House grounds and roof, respectively.

It’s not fair to compare the 1980s and the last 10 years, for we know much more about solar now, and our climate and energy situations are very different. That said, solar is passive, so once the panels are installed they exist, and require almost nothing. So why, but for stupid, would the Reagan Administration spend money to remove them? (Reportedly, President Reagan thought they were “just a joke.”)

Some of the dumb comes from people who associate themselves with using more energy. Lovely Sunday morning television ads aside, Exxon makes more money when we use more gasoline. The rest, I think, reflects the “team” mentality which rules supreme in our politics. The Ds have conservation and climate change, which means the Rs are opposed. Stupid, for sure, but it’s the way of our world.

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