We at the NCPA have for a number of years written about how public policies and private actions intended to protect the environment often end up causing environmental harm. Such unintended consequences continue to this day.
We first warned of the misguided policies that harmed the natural environment in our national parks and national forests in 1986. We followed up on those themes a number of times, most recently in 2007 in a study which, among other things, documented how failed federal forest management has resulted in the huge forest fires that have become so frequent in recent years.
The same study also showed how federal policies have encouraged overharvesting of ocean fish stocks lead to the near collapse of the ocean fisheries.
Another study examined how federal policies have resulted in environmental destruction on the nation’s coasts and farmlands and have encouraged the destruction of wetlands.
Now comes an odd story of how building energy efficiency upgrades – like the ones touted by President Obama during his recent State of the Union Address – can result in expensive unintended consequences. It is fairly widely recognized that indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. And the more efficient the home, the worse the problem since efficient homes don’t let air flow from outside but rather recycle the same polluted air over and over. Now a new problem, specifically with energy efficient windows has come to light. In California journalists have confirmed and the National Association of Homebuilders is investigating the case of a Prius owner who have found parts of her car melted by the sunbeams reflected off of a neighboring condo’s energy efficient windows. I’ve experience the ability of reflective windows to blind drivers on the highway, but I never worried about them melting my car. Does insurance cover that?