Archive for July 30th, 2010

Best Buy, Worst Thinking

July 30, 2010

By Steve Milloy
July 30, 2010, Worthington Daily Globe (Minnesota)

When it comes to energy policy, no one can accuse Best Buy’s management of best thinking.

As Sen. Harry Reid scrambles to pull together some sort of energy bill before time runs out in this Congress, the cap-and-trade advocacy group Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) is lobbying Reid to include in the bill an “energy efficiency resource standard” (EERS) that would reduce electricity use by one percent in 2012 and more by 2020.

Although EERS is a dubious proposition for all BICEP’s members — including the Aspen Skiing Company, eBay, Levi Strauss, Nike and Target — Best Buy’s support makes one wonder what’s in the air at corporate headquarters.

As a retailer of electronics and appliances, every Best Buy product depends on the use of electricity. While electronics and appliances are continually becoming more energy efficient, that doesn’t mean they (or those who use them) use less electricity.

When television sets were upgraded from old tube technology to larger LCD and plasma models, for example, TV energy use increased by anywhere from 100 to 500 percent. Even if newer LCD and plasma models meet government Energy Star standards of using 30 percent less energy than standard units, they still will use substantially more electricity than the older technology.

Similarly, a new refrigerator may be more efficient than an older model, but if it’s larger and has more bells and whistles, then it’s more probably using more energy. Moreover, the American lifestyle is becoming more, not less, dependent on electricity. Past the proliferation and increased use of all sorts of devices from cell phones to personal computers to electronic games, Americans are now turning to electronic book readers like the Kindle and iPad.

Add into the mix the push for electric vehicles, and the notion that there’ll be less need for electricity becomes even more absurd. The only way to use less electricity is to buy and use fewer and smaller gadgets, appliances and other consumer goods. It’s hard to see how these trends will bring any benefits to Best Buy’s bottom line.

Additionally, the question must be asked: Why should Americans want to use less electricity? What would be the economic impact of reduced electricity use?

As the National Academy of Sciences pointed out in its landmark report, “Electricity in Economic Growth (1986), “Electricity use and gross national product have been, and will probably continue to be, strongly correlated.” This truth of this relationship continues to exist — the economy is struggling and electricity use is down. More generally, there probably never has been a time in human history when social and economic advancement has occurred without increased use of energy.

In other words — and for the benefit of Best Buy’s management — if the goal is to have consumers that can continually afford to indulge in the latest electronic gadgetry, two things must happen — increased economic growth and available and affordable electricity.

Best Buy and the BICEP coalition, however, seem to be in favor of neither scenario — not so surprising given BICEP’s provenance. BICEP is the brainchild of Ceres, a environmental activist organization dedicated to co-opting business to the political left’s fight against capitalism and free enterprise. BICEP’s mission is to provide Congress and the public with the impression that U.S. business is demanding cap-and-trade and its corollary, renewable energy welfare programs.

For a company like Best Buy, BICEP is the old morally superior public relations ploy. Unlike, in their estimation, those they preach to, the BICEP companies care about the planet. In the end, BICEP’s precepts are simply bone-headed. Poor people can’t afford plasmas or (pay attention NIKE) $140 LeBron VIIs.

Steve Milloy publishes and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).