For the second day in a row, Sen. John McCain wanted his morning cup of Joe.
So he gathered his staff, his drivers and his Secret Service agents. He alerted the media to stand by. The bomb sniffing dog was woken up. He put on his sunglasses and baseball cap and headed out.
The six-car caravan (two silver minivans, two tan SUVs and two white 15-passenger vans for the press) left his cabin retreat at just before eight in the morning. Eleven minutes later, the caravan pulled into the parking lot of a Safeway, where a sign proclaimed the presence of a Starbucks.
Cindy McCain, clad in a light pink shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops, paced in front of the Safeway, talking on her phone for a few minutes, her hair pulled into a pony tail. A bit later, she went inside the Safeway and emerged with a coffee cup in hand. A staffer was seen coming out of the Safeway with two cups of coffee and some drycleaning.
Clearly, somebody with a full presidential campaign staff — to say nothing of $273,000 in servant expenditures — could have sent one person in one vehicle to pick up coffee (and dry cleaning) for whoever wanted some rather than deploying a six-vehicle caravan. And the switch from the wasteful means of coffee acquisition to the efficient one would, in practice, have entailed very little welfare loss from McCain. But decades of public policy in the United States aimed at encouraging lavish energy consumption leave people not thinking about these kind of issues. Given sensible carbon pricing and smarter policy that aims at encouraging efficiency — or at least stops encouraging waste — and people (at least those who haven’t married heiresses) would pay a bit more attention to the energy use implications of these kind of choices.