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Vail Daily column: Icing on the Styrofoam cake

Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.

There is little more annoying to me than tax dollars being used to teach us idiots how to live.

Granted, government-enforced legislation such as mandatory seat-belt laws saves thousands of lives each year, yet more than 12,000 still die in accidents where the majority probably would have lived if their seat belt had been properly used.

Common sense can simply not be legislated.

So with the town of Avon contemplating a ban on expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam, a Dow Chemical product), the debate is over much more than a simple environmental issue.

Yes, if Columbus had dropped a Styrofoam cup in the Bahamas during a morning beach stroll in 1492, then it would still not be completely decomposed, yet even now, using a ceramic cup and washing it in piping hot water after each cup uses more total energy.

While some might say this is a case of apples versus oranges, they are missing the point of long-term effects and this is proof of the truth being far more complicated than short-term hysteria.

If Avon tax-paying residents are demanding a law, then of course the council should at the very least discuss the issue and reach a general consensus before taking further steps.

Feel-good legislation is exactly that — toothless laws that exist to make a few folks feel better about an issue, but rarely do they influence market-driven problems, and that's exactly where the Styrofoam issue belongs.

Styrofoam, and indeed most, if not all, polymers, is nasty for the environment and needs to go the way of asbestos and Bill O'Reilly talk shows, but like conservative nutcases, consumers and their pocketbooks should be the impetus for societal change, not government.

Providing customers a quality product at a reasonable price will always be the goal, and if a local company is more successful than a competitor selling a product because it does not use Styrofoam and the competition does, then that's the way a market-driven economy is supposed to work.

Yes, if "ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas," but the main point here is government intrusion into our daily lives.

Like eating raw chicken, taking a bath with your toaster or skiing off-piste after three days of heavy snow, common sense and personal responsibility should always trump government intervention.

And speaking of unneeded government, but not to sound too hypocritical, the town of Vail recently reported that it has never issued anything other than a warning to car owners who have "iced" electric vehicle owners by parking in one of the town's 12 power-port parking spots.

Chargepoint, the power-port company that makes a profit whenever an electric vehicle customer charges a car using one of its ports, is growing by leaps and bounds and the town of Vail does not need to provide the service for "free," as this is an infinitesimally small marketing tool.

Electric vehicle owners are more than willing (the ones I know) to pay for the convenience, and with the average Colorado kilowatt-per-hour charge of less than a dime, it costs me less than two bucks to fill my electric vehicle with electrons.

I don't need the government to pay for electrons that I use, but I would love for tickets to be issued instead of warnings to the jackasses who park in one of the spots with a non-electric vehicle car.

Those are the really annoying ones.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.