Keith Johnson over at Environmental Capital has uncovered some of the critical details within the Waxman-Markey draft climate legislation. Commenting about some of the minutia addressed in the draft bill, he says:
Reflecting perhaps California’s disproportionate influence in Congress these days — Henry Waxman is the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — one sub-section is dedicated to something called “portable electric spas.” Yes, that’s just what it sounds like.
Sensing that middle America’s populist rage is secretly directed at the energy consumption of hot tubs, the bill lays down the law—in its own way: “Effective January 1, 2012, portable electric spas shall not have a normalized standby power greater than 5(V2⁄3 ) Watts where V=the fill volume in gallons.”
As a hot-tub owning California resident working on climate change, I have been living with guilt about my “portable electric spa” for some time. This past fall, my husband and I decided to drain and unplug it. Since then I’ve had my moments of regret for sure, but at least the assurance that I’m doing my part for the climate.
But now, while reading the suggested efficiency requirements, I found myself wondering if perhaps our tub fits under the limit? What if, in fact, I have a hot tub that is as efficient as federal legislation would call for? Does that give me license to fill it back up? Have I overshot my efforts to be green?
I’ve thought a lot about why its so hard to change green behavior. Part of it, I believe, is because we have yet to establish a new social norm. How many of our peers bring their own shopping bags to the store? Buy local? Drive with gas efficiency in mind? Have turned off their hot tubs? While I think I’m doing a pretty good job, I don’t really have anything to measure it against because so many of these behaviors are hidden from view.
This is what was so ingenious about the Prius — Toyota made a way for people to be visibly green (vs. the Honda Civic, where you have to squint to see the “hybrid” mark on the back).
Not that measuring up to the Jones’s should be all that motivates me. But what if climate legislation puts a more visible line in the sand for what is “acceptable” green behavior? What if it tells me “it’s ok to have a portable electric spa, as long as the normalized standby power is…. “?
I don’t know, but I can say that on cool spring evening like this one with the stars all out, it would be awfully tempting to fire it back up.