Today a post at Treehugger was making the rounds on Twitter which blames House Republicans for canceling a biodegradable packaging program in the House cafeterias out of sheer partisan spite:
Congress switched to biodegradable packaging, along with a number of other green initiatives like composting, as part of its Green the Capital program. But the program was lead by Nancy Pelosi, whom, you may have heard, is unliked in certain conservative circles. So John Boehner — the new Speaker of the House — and company dismantled her program, largely as a political jab.
Unfortunately, this accusation appears to be based on nothing more than lefty gossip blog Wonkette–and unsurprisingly, a little investigation turns up the fact that this storyline is completely false. It turns out the supposedly green biodegradable packaging program was completely inefficient when it came to energy use–to the point of net savings which hardly justify the half a million dollar cost.
First, this doesn’t have anything to do with a rollback of the overall Green the Capital program — it was under review because the composting contract in question was set to expire in January. The Committee on House Administration conducted a full review of the program, with the cooperation of the House Inspector General and administrative officials. They found the program had failed to achieve any of its goals. Here’s the statement they released back in January:
According to information provided by the House IG and the CAO, the composting program has increased the House’s overall operating costs by an estimated $475,000 annually. The program has also increased the House’s energy consumption through the use of additional electricity for the pulping process and the increased hauling distance to the composting facility. Furthermore, information provided by both entities revealed that the program achieved nominal reductions in carbon emissions when compared to the Architect of the Capitol’s alternate waste management system, which utilized incinerators to capture heat and create energy without generating methane.
According to the Committee office, the program resulted in increased energy consumption thanks to the hauling distance to the necessary facility, failed to produce any meaningful reductions in carbon–as the Inspector General noted, it amounted to a net savings of seven metric tons, which is roughly equivalent to taking one car off the road–all for a cost of $475,000 each year.
The committee has a several other green initatives underway–including a pilot program in Rayburn testing the deployment of reusable dishware (bowls, mugs, silverware, etc.), and working with the Architect to change the waste removal contract (two out of the three facilities currently used are waste energy facilities, but they’re exploring the option of making it mandatory). But for a half million dollar savings each year and a miniscule carbon reduction benefit, there’s little question why this program was laid to the side–and it has nothing to do with partisan politics.
Of course, a five minute phone call by either Treehugger, Wonkette, or anyone else who repeated this story would’ve discovered the truth. But that would presume the interest here was in accuracy, not in scoring a political hit.