The zero emissions endgame

I’m not one to bash ideals like zero emissions or zero waste–if the price was right, who wouldn’t want a net zero energy home? It’s when that key piece of information–price–is left out of the equation that enthusiasm for holistic systems thinking and energy efficiency innovations crosses over into scary “cult of zero” territory. For example, a statement like this:

“You can have more efficient cars and houses, but until we get to a point where people don’t have to drive to do anything, from buying a loaf of bread to going to work, we won’t be truly addressing climate change.” –Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, Chair, California Energy Commission, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle

The Chronicle elaborates: “Speaking at a climate change conference in Santa Barbara in March, Pfannenstiel declared that the state needed a cultural revolution when it came to land-use planning.” Pfannenstiel is an educated economist, so we can give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that these quotes are taken out of context. Policy that badly out of context is another issue…

Skaidra Smith-Heisters is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.