WASHINGTON, D.C. - The green cloud hovering over Washington, D.C. is keeping activist groups, lobbyists, and associations on their toes as legislators endeavor to define green, legislate efficiency, and reduce the environmental crisis scientists are reporting as inevitable. It was in the midst of this atmosphere that the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) held its first Public Policy Symposium.
Although the symposium was held for many years by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), this is the first time for the event since ARI merged with the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in January.
The main theme was climate change policy and its effect on the HVACR industry. Consulting several legislators and diverse experts, AHRI provided the manufacturers in attendance with information to help them understand the green haze emanating from Capitol Hill.
COUNTING THE COSTRobert Wilkins, president of Danfoss Inc. and AHRI immediate past chairman, kicked off the meeting with instructions concerning the approach constituents should take toward members of Congress. “These people work for us; we elected them,” he said. “Those that work in Congress want to know what they can do for you.”
Wilkins also briefly introduced attendees to S.2191, America’s Climate Security Act (ACSA). Introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the Lieberman-Warner Climate Change bill essentially establishes a cap-and-trade program that would gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2012 and 2050 with the purpose of averting the impact of global warming.
Andrew Wheeler, staff director of the Minority Office of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the bill is currently in the initial mark-up stages and that he wasn’t greatly concerned that it would pass this year. He was concerned, however, that this bill would cost not only the manufacturers, but also the HVACR industry and the American public a lot of money, while yielding rather minimal energy conservation gain.
Wheeler reported to attendees that although the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, had good goals and appeared to be a solid solution, currently only two European Union (EU) countries were on track to successfully meet those goals this year.
Later he warned voters to examine what each analysis and claim are based on, and what requirements are mandated to achieve the desired results. The no-cost-to-consumers solution that has been touted by some senators supporting the bill relies on an economic analysis that requires 130 nuclear power plants to be built by the year 2030, according to Wheeler.
“This is not a possibility,” he said. “That would be over double the number of nuclear reactors the United States has right now. Perception is important.”
He advised attendees to make appointments to see Congress members when they got back to their home states. “What is obvious to you or your industry is not always obvious to others.”
W. David Montgomery, vice president of CRA International, an economic consulting firm with multiple locations across the globe, addressed the financial ramifications of the Lieberman-Warner bill. According to Montgomery, who has supervised the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) energy forecasting and economic analysis activities for a number of years, “Lieberman-Warner is not representative of the middle ground. The caps contained within this bill are tighter than any other bill currently in the Senate.”
He forecasted that based on today’s income, the Lieberman-Warner bill would cost between $4 and $6 trillion to consumers alone. “That translates to approximately $1,300 to $1,700 extra out of the yearly household income by 2015, and an extra $1,200 to $2,000 by the year 2025,” said Montgomery. “The bill’s targets are rapid and way ahead of technology.”
A vote to proceed on the Lieberman-Warner bill is expected sometime in June.
SPEAKING AND HEARINGThe keynote speaker during the evening reception, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Energy and Air Quality and Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittees. She discussed both environmental and energy policy issues that are currently being addressed in the U.S. Congress.
Three senators addressed attendees at an early breakfast on Capitol Hill the next morning. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, discussed his work on the energy bill passed late last year and upcoming energy debates that will be heard in his committee.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, discussed the committee’s progress on legislation to make the United States more energy secure. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., also a member of the Senate Energy Committee, discussed the effect that climate change has had on energy policy.
Following the formal program, attendees fanned out across Capitol Hill to talk with their representatives. Despite the uncertainties, “Green is still the rage in town,” said Steve Yurek, president of AHRI. “People talk a good game about energy, but it all comes down to saving money and ensuring comfort.”