NR Digital

Zamboni Baloney

by Mark Steyn

Zamboni makes the ice-resurfacing carts that are a familiar sight at any hockey game, and also at any number of Winter Olympics — Turin, Salt Lake, Nagano, and way back into the past. But the company has been frosted out at Vancouver. Instead, the ice resurfacing is being done by what are called “electric Zambonis.” “Zamboni” is a bit like “Hoover” and “Aspirin” — it’s become a generic term — and it turns out the “electric Zambonis” are not Zambonis at all, but are manufactured by a company called Resurfice that landed the contract because the Vancouver organizers were determined that 2010 should be the “Green Olympics.”

In the men’s 500-meter speed skating at Richmond, all three of Resurfice’s “electric Zambonis” brought on to smooth out the ice failed. If anything, they made the ruts and bumps worse. It looked like one of those Obama-stimulus scarified repaving jobs out there. Those of us who do a little backwoods skating on North Country ponds and lakes know the damage you can do to yourself hitting a ridge even at low speed. So you don’t want to run into one at 40 miles per hour. The cameras and microphones caught furious coaches from everywhere from the Netherlands to China expressing their disgust to officials at the amateurishness of the Vancouver organizers. The event was delayed, and the American skater Shani Davis eventually withdrew, not wanting to jeopardize his chances of a gold in the 1,000 meters by taking a spill on the 500 meters’ scarified ice. You train for years, you build your entire life to this one moment, and then the politically correct eco-gimmick screws you over. Officials attempted to reassure coaches and skaters that a non-electric Zamboni would be flown in from Calgary to prevent further delays.

Still, at least nobody’s dead. In Australia, the Labor government, eager to flaunt its green credentials, instituted a nationwide environmentally friendly roof-insulation program using energy-efficient foil insulation. It certainly reduces the carbon footprint of many Aussies’ homes: At the time of writing, 172 of them have burned down. It reduces your personal carbon footprint, too: Four installers of the foil have been fatally electrocuted. As the Sydney Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair noted, the foil-insulation program has a higher fatality rate than Oz forces in Afghanistan. And, if the electrician survives long enough to get the installation completed, the good news is that, unlike the electric Zamboni, the electric attic always has plenty of juice: Colin Brierley had the foil insulation put into his Gold Coast home and was electrocuted a week later. The environmentally friendly electric shock entered through his knees, exited from his head, and led to a nice stay in hospital in an induced coma.

Australians are not happy to discover their ceilings double as the Bride of Frankenstein’s recharge slab. Having belatedly canceled the program, Peter Garrett, the environment minister, is nevertheless insistent that he bears no responsibility for the burnt-out rubble and charred citizenry.

He is a celebrity politician, formerly the lead singer of the rock band Midnight Oil, but he has no intention of getting burned by what they’re calling “Midnight Foil.” As Australia’s deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, breezily told a TV interviewer, “Peter Garrett can’t be in every roof in this country as insulation is being installed.”

They never are, are they? Likewise, the European Union grandees and eco-poseurs of the U.S. Congress who mandated sudden, transformative increases in “biofuel” production and at a stroke turned the food supply into part of the energy industry and made grain more lucrative as fuel than as sustenance weren’t there in Haiti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Mexico, and even Italy when the food riots broke out. Nor was Al Gore able to be up there on every one of California’s 14,000 abandoned wind turbines. They’re not entirely useless, not if you’re an ornithosadist who enjoys seeing our feathered friends sliced and diced by the Condor Cuisinarts.

These are the “green jobs” that Barack Obama says will both save the planet and revitalize the economy: electric Zambonis, foil insulation, wind turbines, corn-powered cars. They will put America back on the cutting edge. In reality, like the spiked cutting edges of the electric ice resurfacer, they’ll leave the economy full of artificial speed bumps that, when not actually sending you crashing to the ground, will make it harder and harder ever to get going. The Germans subsidize “green jobs” in the wind-power industry to just shy of a quarter million dollars per worker per year. The Spanish government pays $800,000 for every “green job” on a solar-panel assembly line. This money is taken from real workers with real jobs at real businesses whose growth is being squashed to divert funds to endeavors that have no rationale other than their government subsidies. As the Spanish are discovering, this model is not (le mot juste) sustainable. In the meantime, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, piles up his lucrative corporate-consulting contracts, and Al Gore is on course to become the world’s first carbon-credit billionaire.

At Copenhagen, Europe attempted to do to the developed world’s entire economy what Peter Garrett’s foil insulation did to poor old Colin Brierley of Windaroo in the Gold Coast. They were stopped only by Brazil, China, and India, three countries with more conventional (i.e., non-suicidal) concepts of national interest. It took the Chinese Politburo to prevent the Western world’s hurling itself into the blades of a Condor Cuisinart. It’s hard not to conclude that many of our ruling elites are in the grip of a mass psychosis — and at this stage, even Aussie-style electroshock therapy may not work.