Really, there's no depths to which the GOP majority will not sink. In yet another act of thumbing his nose at Democrats, John Boehner has ended the Green Initiative program in the Congress cafeteria, replacing all the eco-tableware with regular petroleum-based plastic ware and styrofoam.
In the first move toward phasing out part of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) "Green the Capitol" program, polystyrene cups were reintroduced this week as an option for coffee drinkers in the Capitol Carry-Out, the building's mini-cafeteria.
The basement eatery had been part of Pelosi's "Greening" program since 2007, when Democrats took control of the House. The program brought climate-friendly vending machines and compact fluorescent lightbulbs to the Capitol; caused the Capitol Power Plant to switch from burning coal to natural gas; and reduced energy and water consumption in Capitol buildings by 23 percent and 32 percent, respectively, according to an April 2010 report.
But it was the $475,000 composting program in the House-side cafeterias that stirred the most controversy. Designed to cut down on waste, the program instituted the use of biodegradable utensils and trays made of cornstarch -- an idea that may have worked better in theory than in practice, as it led to take-away boxes that leaked, spoons that melted and forks that broke when stuck into so much as a chicken tender.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, announced last month that the program would be suspended indefinitely, contending that "it is neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient."
God forbid we inconvenience the lawmakers a little bit. Just a little extra effort can save thousands of pounds of non-biodegradable plastic and other petroleum products from going into a landfill. But no, not for these lawmakers. I actually am not a big fan of the cornstarch utensils because of the aforementioned breaking problems, but we have invested in some travel flatware that my kids and husband use for lunches and I can wash easily. The cornstarch trays and bowls feel like real plastic and actually work great in my experience, plus they're compostable. And styrofoam cups for coffee...c'mon, you pantywaists. Even Starbucks uses cardboard (and that's only if you don't bring your own cup, like I do, with a discount for doing so.) Just a little extra effort can save thousands of pounds of non-biodegradable plastic and other petroleum products from going into a landfill.
Still, you could look at this as simply a petty little act of a party who refuses to look at the damage we've done to the environment with an adult eye, but you haven't heard the punchline. Guess who got the contract for the new environmentally-unfriendly products?
Former Koch Industries executive George Wurtz owns WinCup, which supplies the styrofoam cups now littering the building following the House GOP's decision to phase out biodegradable cups from a Capitol lunchroom. House Republicans announced in January that they would end a program to place compostable cups, containers and utensils in the House-side mini-cafeteria, a direct shot at former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "Green the Capitol" initiative, which did away with styrofoam cups in 2007.
Suspending the program resulted in business for Wurtz, a former executive of Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia-Pacific LLC.
GOP leaders did not handpick Wurtz's company, however -- that decision rested with Restaurant Associates, which manages the cafeteria.
How convenient. Wurtz is also a former executive with Phillip Morris, so he's had a long history of adding pollution to people's lives.
But of course, all of this begs the question: where are the jobs, Speaker Boehner?