Put It in Neutral

Posted February 5, 2007 at 6:55pm

Sometimes the jokes are just too easy: How much gas does a Congressional office produce? How much waste? What exactly does a House office “emit,” anyway?

Freshman Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is taking all those questions very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he has pledged to make his offices in Vermont and here in Washington, D.C., “carbon neutral.” [IMGCAP(1)]

For those of us who took ceramics in high school instead of chemistry, what does “carbon neutral” mean? According to a Welch release, it means that the lawmaker “will offset the greenhouse gas emissions related to his office activities so they will not contribute to global warming.”

Welch very much wants Congress to pass comprehensive global warming legislation and has signed on to Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) Safe Climate Act. But while that bill is moving through the legislative hopper, Welch decided to do something himself and perhaps even start a trend among his 534 Congressional colleagues who are totally not carbon neutral. (Are they “carbon positive”? HOH is struggling with the terminology here.)

Here’s how Welch’s plan works: He has teamed up with NativeEnergy — a Vermont-based, American Indian-owned energy company — to figure out the “carbon footprint” for the lawmaker’s offices in D.C. and Burlington, Vt. Based on the square footage of the two offices, the estimated electricity and heating energy used in them and the average car and air travel for Welch and his staff, NativeEnergy figures the two offices use 56 short tons of carbon dioxide a year — roughly equal to the emissions of 10 cars.

(A fun fact: Welch’s D.C. office uses a lot more carbon than the Burlington office does. Why? Because, as most Capitol Hill denizens know, the Capitol Power Plant still runs on coal. In a related story, several lawmakers from coal-producing states serve on the House and Senate Appropriations committees. We now return to our confusing science stuff.)

So how does Welch plan to neutralize those 56 tons? By paying NativeEnergy $672 out of his own pocket to invest in carbon offset projects back in Vermont. One such venture is the “biomass pellet fuel project,” or, if you prefer, a “biomass pellet-fired boiler.”

Another NativeEnergy effort — HOH’s personal favorite — is the “dairy farm manure digester project.” In lieu of an obvious follow-up joke, it’s worth mentioning at this point that other NativeEnergy “partners,” include Ben & Jerry’s and the Dave Matthews Band, putting Welch in cool, hippie-ish company.

And to encourage his colleagues and federal agencies to follow his lead, Welch has introduced legislation to authorize Congressional and other government offices to spend official money offsetting their own energy use like he did. HOH wishes him luck in canceling out all the Capitol’s hot air.

Bush’s Pick. Now, the truth can be told: Why did the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday? Was it because the Colts’ defense was so stingy? No! Was it because Rex Grossman is a terrible quarterback? No! Well, yes, but that’s not the only reason.

HOH suspects that the Colts actually got a special boost of good luck from President Bush and, of course, the three children of Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.).

It seems that back on Jan. 26, at the House GOP retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Pence found a way to elicit some pro-Colts comments from the Decider himself.

As Pence reported on his blog, in an item titled “The President, the Pences and the Indianapolis Colts,” there was a luncheon with Bush and Members’ families that day, and while the event had a dress code, Mrs. Pence snuck some Colts jerseys into the room for their kids to put on.

When Bush spied the Pence clan in their home-team colors, he said, “OK Pence, alright, the Colts … it might be their year!”

Fast-forward to this past Sunday, and you know what happened. HOH plans to enlist Bush and the Pence children before he makes his pre-Super Bowl trip to Las Vegas next year.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.