I could have also titled this editorial regarding the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) hearing/workshop on the proposed 12 SEER standard, “Going From Worst to Worse.” But that has nothing to do with the proceedings.

After the events of September 11 caused the cancellation of the originally scheduled DOE event which was to occur on the 13th, and which saw many of the participants already in Washington, DC, living through that unbelievable day and the horrendous attack on the Pentagon, it appeared that the rescheduled October 2 session would have to be more subdued and relatively mild in comparison. I assumed I had lived through the worst imaginable and could sit down now, relax, and get ready for the speakers to begin.

Then the lights went out.

Trapped in DC, in a federal building, in the middle of the first floor, in a windowless room, it got rather dark rather fast. If I thought the worst was over, maybe it wasn’t. And, at first, of course, I did not know what had happened here in our nation’s capital.


A quick announcement helped calm the nervous attendees. There had been a power outage. The DOE had run out of energy. Isn’t it ironic? Yes. But not funny.

We were all instructed to evacuate the building, which we did in an orderly manner. Again, not a fun thing since I just sat down for a couple minutes. I was the walking man again, but it was a short walk this time.

We milled around outside for awhile, watching and waiting, and waiting some more.

Were we going to be cancelled again, this time by a power outage? What’s next on this long-running agenda?

We patiently stood outside. I saw a friend and talked to a couple of the other attendees. We were called back in to start about a half-hour later.

Please, this time let’s do it. Let’s go for it.

Unexpected Results

After two surprises like this, I thought I wouldn’t experience another surprise. But I was surprised. A relatively large crowd showed up for this meeting — larger than what I expected so soon after our national tragedy. And although comments were almost always briefer than the allotted time, and were undoubtedly more congenial and less heated than they might otherwise have been before the attacks on our country, there was yet more of the unexpected for me.

The vast majority of the speakers came out in favor of 13 SEER, including two former contractors.

Both sides on this issue expressed their views and explained the advantages and drawbacks of both 12 SEER and 13 SEER. But as one observer noted, “The 13 SEER people were out in force.”

Was this a collective effort by those in support of 13 SEER? I found out later that it was. A coalition including Goodman Global Holding Co., state government agencies, environmental groups, low-income advocacy organizations, and a major utility (Pacific Gas & Electric) was present.

“This coalition has come together to urge the administration to let stand the SEER 13 standard,” stated Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

There were, of course, experts from the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), representatives from The Trane Company and Rheem, and DOE professionals as well. So the 12 SEER viewpoint was well represented, but their personnel were outnumbered.

Everyone there sounded genuine; sometimes their comments were eloquent and moving. Both sides supported higher efficiency. It was a question of how high do we go.

It was a debate of ideas, with only minor flashes of slings and arrows directed toward the opposition in this common drive for a new standard.

Another step was taken.

Mazurkiewicz is news and legislation editor. He can be reached at 810-296-9580; 810-296-9581 (fax); mazurkiewiczg@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 10/08/2001