When you heard that the Department of Energy would be providing $3.2 billion for Energy-Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants to states, what kind of programs did you have in mind?
I imagined weatherization of the leaky, old buildings in Washington, D.C. I imagined an incentive program to build green in D.C. I am imagined solar panels on every row house. The last one is out there, but you get the point. It appears that D.C. will use its Department of Energy funds for some solar panel development and for an advertising campaign that includes distribution of reusable canvas bags:
"In D.C., environmental leaders have split the District’s pot between $4.8 million for solar panels on 20 schools and curriculum additions to help those students be watchdogs for energy waste in their schools, as well as a $3.5 million advertising campaign that includes distributing canvas bags and compact fluorescent lighting to residents in exchange for plastic bags and incandescent bulbs."
Funding solar panels on schools is a great idea. Even better, the District plans to tie the program into school curriculum. By getting the kids involved, D.C. will now have hundreds of eyes on school energy use and the students themselves can work to reduce their energy usage. Makes sense to me.
In order to make sense out of D.C.’s use of stimulus funds for canvas bags, you have to understand broader political issues in the City. The Washington Post recently reported "a majority of the D.C. Council supports legislation that could tax not only plastic bags, but paper ones" at $.05 a pop. Opponents are now gearing up to oppose the plastic bag tax. By using stimulus funds to provide reusable bags to residents, the D.C. Council likely faces less opposition from its constituents.
I have no desire to debate the merits of the plastic bag tax, although you can discuss the issue further in the comments section. Instead, my question is whether the purchase of reusable bags is an appropriate use of Energy Efficiency and Block Grant stimulus funds. Thoughts