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Why Did the Media, All at Once, Proclaim the Evils of Air Conditioning?

In the last two weeks, national news outlets have published no fewer than five articles about the evils of air conditioning.

First, the Washington Post described how Europeans can’t understand our national addiction to A/C. Then the article described how, with so many rising cities in tropical climes such as India and the Amazon adopting American standards of comfort, the whole concept clearly poses a threat to the planet. (For the record, they also don’t seem to understand why we like ice in our drinks.)

The logic here was easily refuted: Europeans live on a continent where almost every major city is north of New York. Put Europeans in Alabama for a couple of weeks in July, and they’ll be begging for both refrigerated air and refrigerated drinks.

But then, the media took a sinister turn. Air conditioning, it seems, is less an American affliction than a masculine infliction upon women. At first it was just the Washington Post; now the New York Times and Sky News are getting into the act.

Watch. Within another week, every big-city newspaper will have a story about this, with intrepid city desk reporters visiting three office buildings and a major downtown department store to check the A/C levels, and with calls to at least one HR department and building management company to find out how they set the thermostats.

(As I write this, someone just pointed me to the Denver Post’s reprint of the Post story.)

Local TV news will pick up the thread, some as a serious news report, others with the guy who does "man about town" stories walking through the newsroom in August with a heavy winter jacket on. Some producer will add in a special effect of the reporter's breath freezing on the camera lens.

At that point, it will have entered the public consciousness as "something that everyone knows." Not even a punchline for the late-night comics, but more as fodder for analogies and similes: "I was out at this club, one that's made out of ice. Yeah, you know the one, almost as cold as the offices here at NBC."

There's no way on God's green Earth anyone is going to persuade me this wasn't planned. Journolist may be dead, but its spirit lives on. So why now?

Probably in coordination with the EPA's coal-killed, energy price-spiking, "You didn’t really need that electricity, anyway, did you?" regulations.

Indeed, the study that launched a thousand stories even appeared in Nature’s spin-off, Nature Climate Change. Not only are we addicted to cool, that addiction is making things worse!

Not only is this setting the stage for the immediate EPA regulations, it’s telling people that 1) they’re not efficient; 2) central control by the public utilities, under government regulation, is more efficient, and; 3) they won’t even notice, or if they do, they’ll actually thank the power company for setting the temperatures for them.

The comfort puritans aren’t even going after the fattest target. According to the Energy Information Adminstration, only 6.2% of home energy use is devoted to A/C; we’ve already cut heating down to 41% from 53% since 2009.

Commercial numbers (where people work during the day) are a little harder to come by, but the National Academy of Sciences reports that 57% of commercial energy use was devoted to heating and lighting, with the remainder split among A/C, water heating, and refrigeration. Of that, only 17% is for office buildings, with the rest going to plants, schools, hospitals, and so on.

Of course, without regulatory overkill and artificial scarcity, none of this would be necessary. We’d be able to afford all the chill we wanted. Instead, the regulators would rather try to convince us that worse is better, less is more, and hotter is cooler. And while Europeans may be easy for Americans to dismiss, the men vs. women angle is part of what they think is the natural Left coalition: anyone who's pro-A/C must be waging a [Cold] War on Women.

One article starts off with a woman in Omaha, upset because her office is too cold. I've been in Omaha in August. It's every bit as bad as D.C. in August, and I spent 25 Augusts in D.C. You walk out of the building, and it's like you're hit with a wall of water. I can think of many cities that need A/C less than D.C. does, but few that need it more than Omaha.

Don’t let them tell you otherwise.