Free Markets, Free People

Cap-and-Trade Bill: The Home Invasion

One of the single most important reasons we’ve been railing against the push for universal health care around here is because, at bottom, it will result in a massive loss of individual freedom. Aside from the physicians who will be treated like slaves (the only possibility if their services are considered a “right”), government will have every reason to control how we live our lives since, after all, if its paying for our health care then it has a vested interest in how we live our lives. Too much sugar, Tylenol or cigarettes? Well you’ll just have to quit or pay heavy fines or even go without health care altogether. Indeed, this is how virtually all bureaucracy works — i.e. once the state has responsibility for some part of your life, it starts taking over greater and greater portions thereof. As it turns out, cap-and-trade will be no different:

Let me introduce you to a little section of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill called the “Building Energy Performance Labeling Program”. It’s section 304 [ed. - It's actually Section 204] of the bill and it says, basically, that your house belongs to the state. See, the Federal Government really wants a country full of energy-efficient homes, so much so that the bill mandates that new homes be 30 percent more energy efficient than the current building code on the very day the law is signed. That efficiency goes up to 50 percent by 2014 and only goes higher from there, all the way to 2030. That, by the way, is not merely a target but a requirement of the law. New homes must reach those efficiency targets no matter what.

But what does that have to do with current homeowners like you? Well, I’m glad you asked. You’re certainly not off the hook, no way, no how. Here’s what the Democrats have planned for you. The program requires that states label their buildings so that we can all know how efficient every building (that includes residential and non-residential buildings) is and it requires that the information be made public.

First, a couple of corrections: (1) The “Building Energy Performance Labeling Program” is in Section 204 of the bill; (2) Section 304 of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (42 U.S.C. 6833) is amended by Section 201 of this bill to mandate the efficiency standards set forth above.

Taking these in order, the labeling program essentially coerces the states into adopting the federal standards set forth in the bill for identifying and reporting the energy efficiency of each structure, whether residential or commercial. Essentially this means that Uncle Sam will get all the information it wants about your energy use in the home by strong-arming the states into gathering it for them.

That’s bad enough, but it’s the amendment to Section 304 of the Energy Conservation and Production Act that really inserts the feds into your life. That’s where the efficiency mandates are laid out in Congress’ attempt to create a national building code:

(c) State Adoption of Energy Efficiency Building Codes-

‘(1) REQUIREMENT- Not later than 1 year after a national energy efficiency building code for residential or commercial buildings is established or revised under subsection (b), each State–

‘(A) shall–

‘(i) review and update the provisions of its building code regarding energy efficiency to meet or exceed the target met in the new national code, to achieve equivalent or greater energy savings;

‘(ii) document, where local governments establish building codes, that local governments representing not less than 80 percent of the State’s urban population have adopted the new national code, or have adopted local codes that meet or exceed the target met in the new national code to achieve equivalent or greater energy savings; or

‘(iii) adopt the new national code; and

‘(B) shall provide a certification to the Secretary demonstrating that energy efficiency building code provisions that apply throughout the State meet or exceed the target met by the new national code, to achieve equivalent or greater energy savings.

If states or localities fail to adopt measures implementing or exceeding the efficiency standards promulgated under this bill, then the federal standards simply become the law of that land:

(d) Application of National Code to State and Local Jurisdictions-

‘(1) IN GENERAL- Upon the expiration of 1 year after a national energy efficiency building code is established under subsection (b), in any jurisdiction where the State has not had a certification relating to that code accepted by the Secretary under subsection (c)(2)(B), and the local government has not had a certification relating to that code accepted by the Secretary under subsection (e)(6)(B), the national code shall become the applicable energy efficiency building code for such jurisdiction.

This is a massive arrogation of power to the federal government, and an intolerable invasion of individual property rights. In order to avoid a fairly blatant exercise of unconstitutional authority, the bill essentially denies federal funds to states that do not comply. However, it also leaves wide open just how compliance will be enforced:

‘(f) Federal Enforcement- Where a State fails and local governments in that State also fail to enforce the applicable State or national energy efficiency building codes, the Secretary shall enforce such codes, as follows:

‘(1) The Secretary shall establish, by rule, within 2 years after the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, an energy efficiency building code enforcement capability.

‘(2) Such enforcement capability shall be designed to achieve 90 percent compliance with such code in any State within 1 year after the date of the Secretary’s determination that such State is out of compliance with this section.

‘(3) The Secretary may set and collect reasonable inspection fees to cover the costs of inspections required for such enforcement. Revenue from fees collected shall be available to the Secretary to carry out the requirements of this section upon appropriation.

‘(g) Enforcement Procedures- (1) The Secretary shall assess a civil penalty for violations of this section, pursuant to subsection (d)(3), in accordance with the procedures described in section 333(d) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6303). The United States district courts shall also have jurisdiction to restrain any violation of this section or rules adopted thereunder, in accordance with the procedures described in section 334 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6304).‘(2) Each day of unlawful occupancy shall be considered a separate violation.‘(3) In the event a building constructed out of compliance with the applicable code has been conveyed by a knowing builder or knowing seller to an unknowing purchaser, the builder or seller shall be the violator. The Secretary shall propose and, not later than three years after the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, shall determine and adopt by rule what shall constitute violations of the energy efficiency building codes to be enforced pursuant to this section, and the penalties that shall apply to violators. To the extent that the Secretary determines that the authority to adopt and impose such violations and penalties by rule requires further statutory authority, the Secretary shall report such determination to Congress as soon as such determination is made, but not later than one year after the enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

Subsection g above appears to empower the Secretary to assess civil penalties against individuals for noncompliance. I say “appears” because the italicized portion does not actually show up when you view the bill, only when you cut and paste it as I’ve done here (I never considered the idea that “transparency” in law-making meant “making the law transparent”). Of course, even without that italicized section, it’s pretty easy to see where this is going. If your home isn’t as efficient as the federal government wants it to be, then you will probably be facing some sort of civil penalty. How that could possibly be constitutional I have no idea.

In addition to the outrageous invasion of our homes represented by this bill, the mandates set forth are sure to drive up the costs of new homes in ways that will probably make them unaffordable for a great many people. For example, I would guess that if homes are to be 30% more efficient in just a few years, then they will likely be roughly 30% more expensive. It may be less, it may be more, but either way those prices are going up. That’s not exactly the best prescription for an ailing home market.

The bottom line of all this is that you had better be sure to tidy up your home because the federal government is coming to stay awhile and it’s bringing an awful lot of demands with it. It’s going to make having your mother-in-law over for a spell seem like a Bahamian resort vacation.

14 Responses to Cap-and-Trade Bill: The Home Invasion

  • This sh*t has been coming down the pike a long time. It’s a natural extension of the already intrusive building codes and munincipal laws regulating what homeowners can do with their own property.   I say bring it on.  The faster everyone hurts, the faster everyone revolts and we clear the progressives off the playing field for a few decades.

  • Erb, you dumbsh*t, this is what you voted for.

  • interesting. we can’t possibly do anything about the 20 million or so illegal aliens here, because “that’s, like, waaaay too many for us to be able to do anything about”. but now we’re somehow going to be able to magically find the manpower to inspect each and every home and business in the country. i’ll betcha that’s *more* than 20 million buildings. hmmm: sure SEEMS like a double standard.  ever see the dilbert cartoon where dilbert realizes to his horror that the pointy-haired boss isn’t “even bothering to pretend he’s on our side anymore!”?
    it’s like that. get ready…here it comes….

  • The problem is the last time the Republicans got swept into office because of this crap, they actually reversed very little of the nonsense.  And the bigger the backlash the more the Repubicans feel comfortable doing nothing.
    So forgive me if I still wish the Democrats aren’t successful in this crap even if it does reduce the backlash.

  • 1.  How does one determine how energy efficient a home is?  My guess is that the inspectors (ACORN, anyone?) will simply look at power / oil bills: if your bill(s) is higher than the average for homes similar to yours, then BINGO!  you’re judged out of compliance and have to DO SOMETHING! (TM) about it.  On the other hand, perhaps you can fake “energy compliance” by adjusting the thermostat, doing laundry at the laundomat instead of at home, not running the dishwasher, reading by candlelight, etc.

    2.  What will Uncle Sugar do if a homeowner simply can’t afford to bring his home into compliance with the new code?  I smell a new entitlement program…

    3.  What do the governments of the several states have to say about this blatant abrogation of their powers?  And where will the states, many of which are already following California into bankruptcy, going to get the money?

    4.  Will this apply to Algore, SanFran Nan, Waxoff, and the rest of the c*cksuckers who are foisting this on us?

  • With any home for sale in the US to be granted an FHA or VA loan, certain minimum standards have to be met. I see where the Feds will make these these energy standards applicable to any VA, FHA, FreddyMac, or FannyMae loan. I can also see where the Federal, State and local governments will further pile on by fixing greivance fines (taxes) against those who fail to comply – sale of home or not.

    Where will it end? I know where I am going to set up my barricade, do you?

  • What are the odds states that have passed those “Get the hell out of our business, Feds” resolutions are going to tell them to go pound sand if this piece of sh*t passes?  I’m guessing slim to none.

    • The Feds largely (entirely?) backed down on RealI.
      Enough states tell them to STFU, and they’ll STFU.
      Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

    • RealI. /= RealID.  TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

  • Sweet, it no longer matters how you want to live – the government will determine what’s an acceptable price for you to pay for your energy use even if you CAN pay for it.
    The ANTI SUV lobby finally has control – Before it was bad enough we had to hear  “It offends me that you drive a car that only gets 10 miles the gallon, I don’t CARE if you’re willing to pay for it!  You must be like me.  You’re ruining the planet!  What about the squirrels and fuzzy bunnies!  They have rights too you know!”
    Now they’ve moved into your living room too (and they sound a lot like your mom & dad when you were 14….)
    “Too many lights on in here!  You don’t need to dry those clothes!  You forgot to turn off the oven! , do you think we’re made of money!  We’re not paying to heat the outdoors you know!, what!  Do you own stock in Edison?!”
    Only now they have the long sword of government grasped firmly in their mitts.
    I look forward to the court cases that will utterly destroy this overreaching act and the states (my own I pray) that will tell the Democrats (in the guise of the Federal government) to F* off.

  • docjim50,
    I was certified as a home energy rater in 2001. The HERS program is currently a voluntary one where homeowners could pay a rater to come in, measure certain things in the house, and help him save some money on his utilities; it is also used to determine whether a new house qualifies to be an Energy Star home.
    Raters can use the blower door test to see how leaky the house is. The rater can then use a smoke gun while the house is pressurized to figure out where some leaks are. The duct blaster test is used to see how leaky ductwork is. Raters can also use IR cameras to determine which exterior surfaces might need more insulation. They can also do an inspection of the typical weak areas of homes and can indirectly figure out where their loads are coming from using utility bills, floor plans and energy modeling software. Also, in the past few years, some really cool equipment has been made where you can get the actual loads from things plugged in at the socket.
    Training was an intensive weeklong course with written and practical tests at the end. I had previous experience with commercial buildings, so I didn’t have any problems with the tests. The people who took it with me from BGE had a devil of a time and only passed because I stayed with them until midnight every night helping them digest the material.
    I would have enjoyed doing this (couldn’t because of family issues), especially doing existing homes and trying to save the homeowners some money, while finding some creative contracting. I do not however like the idea of this program being mandatory is. First, home inspections back in 2001 in MD cost $800+. Second, there are some homes out there, particularly the really old ones, that could never meet this code. Third, many existing homes would need thousands of dollars in renovations before they would meet the standard. My family lives in a 24yo townhouse with 5 windows and 2 sliding doors. Having those replaced alone would cost $6000. If we had to rip out walls or floors to fix leaky ducks, that would be about $1000/40 lf. Not to mention all the other problems with this idea mentioned in the thread!

    • Thanks for the info. Your remarks on costs of “fixing” non-compliant homes is about what I thought. Where will the money come from???

  • As with the cash required for most of the recent plans – it will be delivered on the back of the happiness farting unicorns.
    These are expected at any moment, and would have been here sooner except the Bush Administration screwed up the paper work and it could take several months (more) to correct the problems.  The Obama administration might have slightly underestimated the cost and time required for the Unicorns to arrive, but they’re confident another Stimulate the Unicorns bill will fix the situation.