Editors Blog

A Political Waste of Energy?

February 15, 2012
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In his most recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said the word energy 23 times.

While Obama was big on energy, energy efficiency received but a glimmer of the limelight.

Obama boasted that “of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here's another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.”

Hey Mr. President, the writing is already on the wall.

Over the past several months, Congress has floated numerous bipartisan, energy-saving initiatives. Now the question is: Can Congress agree that any of these initiatives are worthy of Mr. Obama’s autograph?

Senate Bill S.1000, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness act, is a bill introduced last May 16 by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Through the bill, the Department of Energy (DOE) would collaborate with state, Indian tribes, local governments, and codes/standards developers to support aggregate energy savings targets for model codes for specific years to help achieve those goals. The targets would be set near the maximum level of energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and life-cycle cost effective, taking into account economic considerations and promoting the achievement of high-performance buildings through high-performance energy efficiency. Proponents of the bipartisan bill believe the measure would reduce energy costs through improved standards, thus creating thousands of jobs.

The Save Act, S.1737, introduced Oct. 19, 2011, was cosponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet D-Colo., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. The bill provides lower mortgage financing in exchange for home efficiency measures, creating construction jobs and providing homeowner savings. If approved, the Save Act is predicted to spur energy-saving upgrades to existing homes and construction of new, energy-efficient homes. The measure is predicted to save U.S. homeowners an estimated $1.1 billion in energy costs by 2020, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT).

S. 398, introduced Feb. 17, 2011, is an update to the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreements Act of 2011. The bill would establish a revised set of appliance standards negotiated by industry leaders and advocates. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would support manufacturing and energy reduction through the installation of consensus appliance efficiency standards. Proponents believe INCAAA’s net economic savings could reach $43 billion by 2030.

While the president has expressed vocal support for giving “businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings,” the coming months will reveal whether he and Congress truly support these or similar incentive-laden energy proposals.

Will our elected leaders pledge support behind measures such as these — fulfilling Obama’s verbal desire to make efficiency a solid cornerstone of the energy equation? Or, will they follow the familiar party-driven political pathway? Only time will tell. 

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