What Can Green Do For You?

Over at Reason magazine, Jacob Sullum has an interesting post on Home Depot’s efforts to promote environmentally friendly home improvement solutions. Home Depot asked suppliers to identify which products could be identified as “green”, and supplier responded by picking some 60,000 products. For instance:

A refrigerator, for example, might be considered environmentally superior because of its energy efficiency.

But Sullum asks,

But what about the energy and other resources used to make the refrigerator, the pollution generated by its production and transportation, or the waste generated by the packaging and the refrigerator itself when it’s thrown out? Should a green stamp of approval be based on a product’s entire life cycle, or just one or two easily measured features?

Sullum’s point calls to mind one of the issues raised by a forthcoming Reason Foundation study I am reviewing. Hydrogen is being hailed as a clean alternative to gasoline because, once put into vehicles in fuel cells, hydrogen converts more efficiently into the energy needed to power the car. Hydrogen boosters use that fact in extolling hydrogen’s virtues over gasoline.

But, as the Reason Foundation study explains, hydrogen is much more costly and “dirty” to manufacture. In that context, hydrogen is far less efficient than gasoline.