You may not remember the Sweater Wars.
It was long ago, when our country still had some civility; when someone sitting on television and comparing feeding poor children to feeding stray animals would have been greeted with horror, rather than chuckles.
But President Carter addressed the Nation during the first fuel crisis, saying that one thing America could do to help out was turn the thermostat down. (It was winter.) Lower the heat to 68. (Most people kept it at 78 in those days.) Put on a sweater, he asked. It would save, I forget what exactly he said, but a ton of fuel oil that winter. He also recommended other changes, mind you -- carpooling, combining trips, shutting off extra lights. He put solar panels on the White House.
Most people in America responded positively to this speech. Despite what you might hear, Carter's approval ratings were high. Conservatives, though, are still mad about this speech. You still hear echoes of how bug-nuts it drove them in their rhetoric -- "I'm turning my heat up to 90!" "I'm turning every light in my house on!" "Why don't YOU put a sweater on?"
Even if you don't remember the Sweater Wars, I know you remember the Great Light-Bulb Wars.
Despite what Conservatives fondly believe, it was the Bush Administration who introduced the federal standards for more efficient light bulbs, and with good reason, since the incandescent sort are mad inefficient, wasting 90% of their energy in heat that we then have to (in summer) cool away again.
The new bulbs are more expensive to buy on the front end, as those of us who have bought them know; but they're cheaper in the long run, since they last much longer and use much less energy.
If every American home replaced just one standard incandescent light bulb with a long-lasting CFL, the resultant energy savings would eliminate greenhouse gases equal to the emissions of 800,000 cars, according to the
Conservatives hate them because...
Well, why do Conservatives hate them? The reasons they give are all transparently ridiculous -- the bulbs don't light the room as well! They're toxic! FREEDOM!!!1!!
In fact, they take about 30 seconds to warm up, and then they do light the room perfectly well; they aren't toxic if handled responsibly; and freedom? Seriously? You have a Civil Right to a specific sort of light bulb? Who knew. But you don't have a Civil Right to heroin, though? Or to drive down the Interstate at 210 miles per hour with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and an M-16 in the other? Can you clear this up for me?
Then there are the Great Recycling Wars. If you aren't in a city that has curb-side recycling, you may not be aware of these. But Conservatives also hate recycling. The reasons they give, in their essays and blog posts, for hating it range from (1) no one has proved it works to (2) if it worked you would be paying us to do it to (3) it's my right as a free citizen not to do it and you can't make me to (4) isn't it great that this is such a wealthy country that we don't have to recycle if we don't want to to? But the venom with which Conservatives address recycling suggests rational objections are not at the root of their argument.
Now we are in the midst of the Great Bicycle Wars.
A number of cities (sadly, mine is not one of them) have been making an effort to reduce the use of cars and other motorized vehicles within their city limits. This is, obviously, a great idea. It will reduce congestion, it will cut down on pollution, it will reduce the need for parking, it will reduce noise pollution. They are doing it through the relatively low-cost means of creating more bike paths and (in some cases) by providing low-cost bike rentals or even (in some cities) free bike use.
Who would possibly object?
Right, you guessed it. Conservatives.
They have a number of ludicrous reasons for objecting -- people who ride bikes don't pay road tax (except of course we do); people who ride bikes don't obey traffic laws (yes, because people who drive cars do -- oh wait); people who ride bikes "threaten our personal freedom." (What?)
But the real objection is the same reason they objected to turning down their heat in 1977; the same reason they don't want to buy energy-efficient light bulbs; the same reason they don't recycle or buy a more energy efficient car when that is obviously the more sensible thing to do.
They're not Conservative. They're Contrarian.