Sunday, March 29, 2009

The unintended consequences of 'green' laws

I'm cynically amused by a report from Washington State in the Houston Chronicle.

Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.

But it's not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green.

Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap.

As a result, there has been a quiet rush of Spokane-area shoppers heading east on Interstate 90 into Idaho in search of old-school suds.

Real estate agent Patti Marcotte of Spokane stocks up on detergent at a Costco in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and doesn't care who knows it.

"Yes, I am a smuggler," she said. "I'm taking my chances because dirty dishes I cannot live with."

(In truth, the ban applies to the sale of phosphate detergent — not its use or possession — so Marcotte is not in any legal trouble.)

Marcotte said she tried every green brand in her dishwasher and found none would remove grease and pieces of food. Everybody she knows buys dishwasher detergent in Idaho, she said.

Supporters of the ban acknowledge it is not very popular.

"I'm not hearing a lot of positive feedback," conceded Shannon Brattebo of the Washington Lake Protection Association, a prime mover of the ban. "I think people are driving to Idaho."

There's more at the link.

Yes, that's what happens when a well-intentioned few push through a law that's intended to achieve something good . . . but they fail to think of all its implications. If you don't have something equally effective to replace what you've just banned, of course people will disregard your cherished law!

I wonder what the greenies will try next? Inspection Confiscation stations on the roads coming in from out-of-state shopping centers?



Brian Dale said...

They might ban decent jerry cans...

Kevin T. Keith said...

I suspect they'll try to identify products that work with the local water supply and are also better for the environment, and then modify the law.

You know . . . adopt a good goal, and gradually find better and better ways of achieving it. As opposed to ignoring it entirely and deliberately doing the worst thing because your first attempt at a solution wasn't perfect.

There. That wasn't so hard.

PeterT said...

Hey Kieth, I've a shocking suggestion for you.... how about doing it right in the first place? Nah, much better to rush through another stupid law with no research and no attention to unintended consequences... then take years of piddling around to try and 'fix' it.



On a Wing and a Whim said...

Every law is a restriction on human freedom. If this motivates the dishwashers of the state to rise up and overturn it, all the better. Once you start overturning stupidly restrictive but fashionable laws with unintended consequences, it might get addictive.

Government exists to serve the people, not nanny them. If they want to take away our freedoms, it better be for a damned good reason, not because "it seems like a good idea" or "it raises awareness."

Anonymous said...

My bet is it'll get more interesting when someone determines how much more CO2 is being added to the air by all of these side trips to Idaho.

:-D Antibubba

DOuglas2 said...

Each place I've lived lately has had sewer service and a sewage treatment plant.
In each place I found the relevant report to see what happens to phosphate in the water that goes down my drains.
In each case, they have claimed to remove all of it, leaving only trace undetectable amounts.