Waste Not, Want Not

A few years ago, my wife and I began seeing refrigerators and air conditioners lining the ditches on roads outside of Tulsa. It was strange; in the middle of the night people would come along and push old air conditioners off trucks into the ditches and fields.

Sure, there will always be those who litter instead of taking such items to the dump. But what made us wonder was the sheer number of them and the ones kept being added once we became aware of the problem. Why were so many people littering the outskirts of our lovely town?

(Libertarians and true conservatives already know why this particular thing takes place, right?)

The Cool Cruel Answer

It was a mystery to us. The answer was revealed a few months later. I was tempted to become one of those scofflaws myself. I was ready to rent the truck and get my friend to stand back there in the dark of night and do the same thing.

I owned some rental properties and one unit was small enough to require a window air conditioner. My tenant complained that it wasn't cooling properly. I'd had this air conditioner for a few years and knew it was probably on its last leg. Unlike the only landlords that Hollywood knows how to portray, I cared about my tenants and wanted to keep them happy. They were my customers.

So I bought a brand new air conditioner for them, replaced it with the old one, and took the old one to the dump.

Nein! Verboten!

When I got to the dump expecting to pay the usual $4 or so to drop off the A/C, the man at the dump asked to see my permit.

I told him that I didn't work for the city; I just had this old air conditioner that no longer worked.

He asked again to see my permit.

I told him that I guess I didn't know what he was talking about.

He explained to me how I must pay a licensed coolant specialist a bunch of money to remove the Freon from the air conditioner and get a statement that permits me to get rid of the air conditioner. Only with that permit would any dump take my air conditioner. So I went back home shell-shocked and not really understanding the whole thing.

When I found an air conditioner service man, he said he'd be glad to remove the Freon and give me the proper permit for $60. He said it would only take about 4 minutes so I could be on my way quickly. (Hmmm, I thought, that averages to $900 an hour.) (Actually, I probably calculated it incorrectly at the time because I'm a public school graduate.)

So I could pay this guy $60 for 4 minutes of his time or tonight at 2 AM me and a friend…

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The Freon law that requires the certified removal of CFCs has no confirmed basis in scientific fact. There seem to be just as many (or more) anti-global warming promoters as there are pundits. A petition with 17,000 scientists who declared that global warming is a lie was refused a place at the Kyoto Accord. When it comes to environmentalist jobs and power, detractors need not apply.

Let me ask you a question. The environmentalists who got this CFC/Freon regulation passed would say they want to protect the environment by the CFC ban. They don't want you to toss your air conditioner in a dump when the Freon will be released as soon as the dump compacts the waste. My question to you is: do you think they care at all about the air conditioners and refrigerators that now line back streets across America?

The answer is axiomatic. They do not care. They are happy that you must pay from $40 to $75 to get a certificate of Freon removal from a unit that is worth absolutely nothing. They are happy that you can no longer cool your cars, homes, and food as efficiently as you used to be able to do. They are happy in spite of the fact that a street lined with air conditioners along its ditches (all still with Freon!) is far more of an environmental problem from the garbage alone than the Freon would ever create.

Freon is the best and most efficient coolant we know of today for general use. Our air conditioners and refrigerators do not cool as well as they did before they banned Freon. Every summer day that I get in my car and try to cool the interior I realize that an acquaintance of mine said it best: "Give me Freon or give me death."

February 21, 2004