Today’s Calamity: Micromanaging Tree Planting

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Not many people enjoy a micromanager – having their boss hover over them monitoring their every move. Well, if Congress passes a cap and trade bill, they will be micromanaging our economy and controlling our decisions. Just one example of many: tree planting.

Section 205 of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill creates a program to subsidize targeted tree-planting programs by retail power providers in “residential and small office settings.” To be clear, we are not against planting trees. They are aesthetically pleasing and good for the environment. But do we need the government funding our tree planting or telling us how and where to plant our trees?

Provisions are written in Waxman-Markey for the creation of “tree-siting guidelines” which regulate the minimum required distance to be maintained between trees and “building foundations, air conditioning units, driveways and walkways, property fences, preexisting utility infrastructure, septic systems, swimming pools, and other infrastructure as deemed appropriate” (Sec. 205, b4 & d4D).

To receive support, tree planting programs must utilize “targeted, strategic tree-siting guidelines to plant trees in relation to building location, sunlight, and prevailing wind direction” (Sec. 205, d3) The program also includes “free or discounted shade-providing or wind-reducing trees to residential and small office consumers.”

Sub-contracting tree-planting organizations must “sign agreements committing to voluntary stewardship and care of provided trees” and “monitor and report on the survival, growth, overall health, and estimated energy savings of provided trees.” (Sec. 205, e2F-G)

If there are no local nonprofits that wish to subcontract, tree-planting responsibilities may fall on “local municipal governments with jurisdiction over the urban or suburban forest” (Sec. 205, e3). The bill even creates a technical advisory committee to “ensure tree recipients are educated to care for and maintain their trees over the long term.” (sec. 205, f1)

If the tree planting provision seems like a small detail in an extremely economically devastating bill, it is. It covers about 15 pages of the 1,427 page bill. And surely you can think of a lot worse ways the government can spend your taxpayer dollars. But it’s another example of government intrusion and government planning for which the private sector can do, and do it better. Economist Friedrich Hayek put it best when he said, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

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