A Home Near You
“Home is the nicest word there is.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
The allure of home ownership is deeply embedded in the cultural DNA of most Americans – a slice of the world to cradle your dreams and call your own. From squirreling away a down payment to eventually paying off a mortgage, the stages of the home ownership journey are often felt as milestones of one’s competence as an adult. Its importance to voters (for whom its value represents a disproportionate slice of their net worth) has made US policy design highly conducive to growth in the housing sector, allowing owners to deduct mortgage interest payments from their federal income taxes, waiving much of the capital gains taxes owed upon the sale of primary residences, and encouraging banks to lend freely to prospective buyers.
The concept of ownership and autonomy has come under increasing pressure in certain parts of the US, through the vilification of single-family home building, for example. Despite its generally bipartisan appreciation, if you own a home (and drive a car, and barbecue in your backyard) you – and the carbon emissions you represent – are firmly in the cross-hairs of environmental activists.
This pressure is set to rise as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is digested. For a sense of the quickening drumbeat, we turn to a recent article in The New Yorker authored by Bill McKibben, a man so revered by the climate consortium that he has been bestowed with no less than 20 honorary degrees from various institutions of higher learning (emphasis added throughout):
“There are about a hundred and forty million homes in the United States. Two-thirds, or about eighty-five million, of them are detached single-family houses; the rest are apartment units or trailer homes. That’s what American prosperity looks like: since the end of the Second World War, our extraordinary wealth has been devoted, above all, to the project of building bigger houses farther apart from one another. The great majority of them are heated with natural gas or oil, and parked in their garages and driveways or on nearby streets are some two hundred and ninety million vehicles, an estimated ninety-nine per cent of which, as of August, run on gasoline. It took centuries to build all those homes from wood and brick and steel and concrete, but, if we’re to seriously address the climate crisis, we have only a few years to remake them.”
Enter the newest obsession in the comings and goings of detached American homes: the heat pump. We suspect most readers have had little reason to care about heat pumps until very recently (if at all) but get ready to see them touted as integral to our planet’s salvation.
A heat pump is a slightly more sophisticated version of an air conditioning unit – it can alternate between cooling and heating an indoor environment. With tax credits and point-of-sale rebates now available through the IRA, they are primed to be the next object of environmental desire. Driven entirely by electricity, heat pumps are glisteningly suitable for a utopian future in which our grid somehow delivers cheap and reliable electricity from 100% carbon- and uranium-free sources. As is typical, California is leading the charge over the cliff:
“California regulators voted unanimously last week to develop new rules that would effectively ban the sale of natural gas-powered heating and hot water systems, a first-in-the-nation commitment. The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, an agency that oversees the state’s climate targets and regulates pollution, passed the measure on Thursday as part of a larger plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and comply with federal air quality targets.
Beginning in 2030, homeowners in California looking to replace their furnace or hot-water heater will only be able to purchase zero-emission appliances. Regulators expect this to primarily mean a switch to heat pumps — very efficient electric devices that can both heat and cool homes — as well as heat pump water heaters.”
While we could write a piece outlining the shortfalls of heat pump technology relative to the incumbent and detailing the ways this government-funded environmental make-work program is destined to waste copious amounts of taxpayer funds while doing nothing to meaningfully forestall the forecasted calamitous impacts of climate change, we have decided to start 2023 on a glass-half-full note. The switch is happening, and we instead focus on the likely beneficiaries of this upcoming mania. Every dollar pilfered from the public treasury in the name of saving ourselves from ourselves ends up in somebody’s pocket. Might as well get ahead of it and position our subscribers accordingly. Let’s dig in!