Christie Whitman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, discusses the Energy Star program. (All photos courtesy of Johnson Controls.)
WASHINGTON — Insecurity has been felt throughout the nation since Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues today in a still shaky economy and an unstable world. Thus it is no surprise that the theme of the 14th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum, held recently at the National Press Club, was “The Path to Economic and National Security.”

The forum is co-sponsored by the United States Energy Association (USEA) and Johnson Controls Inc., and this year’s keynote speaker was the outgoing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman.

Whitman noted that she wanted to touch base on what has been accomplished by the EPA in the Bush administration to date, emphasizing what’s been achieved by entities that don’t usually work together.

In her two-and-one-half-year tenure, Whitman has espoused public-private partnerships — including Energy Star and Climate Leaders — that provide economic as well as environmental benefit, including energy efficiency.

With the Energy Star program, she explained, “We benchmark products. We benchmark facilities.”

Thomas M. Gannon (left), vice president and general manager, System & Services Americas, Johnson Controls Inc., talks with Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) at the congressional reception preceding the 14th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum.
Building managers needed models regarding energy-efficient operation to achieve results that were better than the usual, she said. “We needed to provide incentives in what is becoming the best-known label for good environmental stewardship and practices.”

More than 1,200 buildings so far have earned the Energy Star label, she said, saving an average of 40 percent in energy costs. These include offices, schools, supermarkets, hospitals, and hotels. A different benchmark has been established for each of these building uses.

Whitman said that 21 percent of the supermarket industry is in the process of benchmarking their facilities. She singled out Food Lion as a leader in this arena. Its Energy Star-rated stores save as much as 43,000 kWh of electricity annually. Each store eliminates the release of as much as 63,000 pounds of CO2 emissions to the environment, she said.

The partnership aspect of Energy Star is what makes it work, she said. “The American people will do the right thing if they know how to do it without reducing their quality of life,” she said, noting that education is the key.

Rep. Zach Wamp notes, “Energy security is as critical as national security.”

Energy Security Is Critical

Rep. Zach Wamp (R.-Tenn.), now in his ninth year in the House of Representatives, had several points he wanted to stress. First, “Energy security is as critical as national security.” As we move away from wartime conflict, he said, it’s very important that we do some big things to engage global problems, such as energy and the environment.

“I do believe the Kyoto Protocol is not fair,” he asserted, but added we must exert leadership in this area.

Second, “United States leadership in energy will balance the budget again.” We have the know-how in energy technology, he commented, to become more efficient. We need to promote more renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, he said.

It’s time to make a big play and “throw the ball deep,” said Wamp. “We have pushed the physical scientists to the back burner.” We need to bring them forward, he remarked.

“A great gift to the next generation would be clean energy and a robust economy.”

Sen. Byron Dorgan says, “We can be held hostage to foreign sources of oil.”

Hostage To Foreign Oil?

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) reminded attendees that much of the oil used in the United States still comes from troubled parts of the world, and that our country should aspire to enact policies to become less dependent on that oil. “We can be held hostage to foreign sources of oil,” he noted.

He said that congressional members hope to finalize and pass an energy bill by mid- to late July. “Digging and drilling are important to increase the supply of fossil fuels,” he related. However, this is a policy of “yesterday forever.”

In addition to just trying to dig our way out of energy dependency, Dorgan said, “We need aggressive conservation.” We also need to pursue energy efficiency more aggressively, he emphasized, such as promoting more efficient air conditioners and appliances.

“Energy efficiency is an incredibly important part of any energy bill,” he said.

We must also apply renewable sources of energy, he said, such as biodiesel, wind, and solar power.

Finally, he discussed the issue of hydrogen and fuel cells. He noted that an old Cherokee Indian chief once observed, “The success of a rain dance depends a lot on the timing.” The timing is right for a hydrogen economy, Dorgan declared. It is a much more efficient energy source, he noted.

The Bush administration’s proposal regarding hydrogen is timid in terms of money, he said, but the idea is big. The Senate has been able to increase the amount of money assigned to hydrogen and fuel cells, he pointed out.

Green Buildings

A panel of business leaders discussed “The Business Case for Energy Security.” The moderator was Michael L. Italiano, chief executive officer of Sustainable Products Corporation, co-founder of the U.S. Green Building Council, and founder of the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability. Panelists included Timothy J. Lankford, president, SAM USA Inc.; Gerard Heiber, project executive, Sigal Construction; and Denis P. Darragh, chief executive officer, Forbo Linoleum.

Italiano said that green buildings are mainstream now. A lot of premier building owners now have certified green buildings. With the green building process, you can measure and quantify all of the savings attainable.

Lankford remarked that sustainability is about managing risk, applying new products, and “doing things the right way.” He continued, “It’s not about tree hugging. It’s about good, practical business sense.”

With respect to green building construction costs, Heiber acknowledged that most owners look at first cost. However, “We’re starting to see a shift of building owners looking at operating cost.”

There is a perceived value in having a green building, Darragh said. They hold up better; they perform better, he assured.

Kyle McSlarrow of the DOE reviews the administration’s national energy policy.

National Energy Policy

Kyle McSlarrow, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), talked about the administration’s vision of a national energy policy, specifically energy efficiency and diversity.

Energy efficiency has improved significantly in the last 30 years, he said. The DOE’s forecasts to 2025 assume a doubling in the need for energy, but there will be a reduction in energy intensity, he affirmed. Instead of requiring 200 quads of energy, as we would at the current rate of consumption, we’ll only need 139 quads, he said.

The DOE forecast shows that by 2025 the U.S. would need to import 70 percent of its oil. By moving to a hydrogen economy, it will help us to achieve energy security, said McSlarrow. Hydrogen is also important to energy efficiency.

Fuel cells offer substantial efficiency gains, he proclaimed. The problem is the cost. At the present time, the cost is too high by a factor of 10.

The administration wants to leapfrog over the conservation vs. production argument, he said. “We have to do things to allow people to supply energy at an affordable rate of return.”

Publication date: 07/07/2003