Environmentalists seeking more government control like to paint themselves as constantly battling against industry, and the mainstream media typically go along, ignoring half the story.
For instance, see this AP story on the defeat of the bag tax in Virginia. The headline is "Industry helps defeat Va. plastic-bag tax bill," which is half-true. Plastic-bag makers don't like a tax on plastic bags. But the headline also could have read "Industry fails to pass Va. plastic-bag tax bill," because the grocery-store industry supports these bills. (It won't surprise any of my readers to learn that the liberal Center for American Progress also presents plastic-bag-tax opposition as the "pro-industry" position.)
This environmentalist website, to its credit, gets the story right regarding Seattle's plastic bag tax:
The law, which takes effect July 1, was supported not only by environmentalists wanting to protect Puget Sound marine life, but also by the Northwest Grocery Association, which represents Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC and Albertsons.
The Portland Mercury drills deeper:
NWGA President Joe Gilliam explains that the idea that shoppers are handed a free bag in the checkout line is a myth.
"They're a cost of business that shows up in the price of milk and eggs," says Gilliam.
Gilliam's group has worked with politicians and environmentalists for three years to craft Portland's ban. Seattle learned the hard way what happens when cities try to ban the bag without strong business support: Seattle voters repealed their city's 20-cent bag tax in 2009.
"We're better off when more people bring in reusable bags, because we're able to lower our costs," says Gilliam, adding that paper bags cost groceries six to eight cents each. "We're aware that we're asking Oregonians to make a big behavioral change."
So good for grocery stores if they can profit while saving the environment. But why should government have to be involved. I understand why a store wouldn't unilaterally impose a bag tax, but if grocers really benefit from reducing bag use, why not share that benefit with consumers? If you bring your own bags, we give you a free candy bar.
Grocers would rather have government protect their cost-savings, though. Maybe most of the media will catch on.