Callahan: Energy Efficiency Is Easy Call for Congress

Posted June 19, 2012 at 3:02pm

If there’s one thing that Members of Congress can say they agree on, it’s that they can’t. But don’t believe them.

From campaign speeches to Senate floor debates, Members from both sides of the aisle espouse the same goals and visions for America more often than they would probably care to admit.

• Help middle-class families save money? Check.

• Encourage private-sector job growth? Check.

• Make the government more efficient? Check.

• Increase U.S. economic competitiveness? Check.

• Strengthen our national energy security? Check.

• Reduce government spending? Check.

• Save taxpayer money? Check.

As it turns out, there’s a solution staring directly at Congress that can help accomplish all these goals, but both parties can’t seem to find it. (Hint: It’s right under the Senate’s nose.)

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, introduced a year ago by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would provide $20 billion in net energy savings to American households and businesses from 2012 to 2030 and support a net increase of 159,000 jobs by 2030, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, as well as save taxpayers millions of dollars in government spending.

And that’s just the beginning.

By tapping into the growing power of energy productive technologies, this legislation would reduce barriers to advancing energy efficiency throughout our economy. Additionally, it would drive adoption of technologies that will save businesses and consumers money, make America more energy independent and reduce emissions.

Ross Eisenberg, vice president for energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, has noted, “This bipartisan legislation would positively impact manufacturing and construction jobs and increase the energy security of the United States by reducing overall energy consumption.”

The bill appeals to common sense: If we can use less, we can save (and do) more.

The cheapest fuel “is the energy we don’t use,” as Shaheen put it so simply on the measure’s introduction.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill with a bipartisan 18-3 vote last July.

The bill is also widely supported outside Congress by a broad coalition of more than 150 small and large businesses, energy and environmental advocates, trade associations, think tanks and consumer and faith-based groups — organizations and businesses that often disagree on a variety of issues and policies but almost always agree on the value of energy efficiency.

“The business community strongly supports this bill,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stressed in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). That letter, from the group representing 3 million businesses and organizations, merely sought a Senate floor vote on the legislation.

Another reason the Shaheen-Portman bill is so appealing to Republicans and Democrats is because the measure requires no additional revenue.

In fact, the funding needed is already there — provided by other energy-efficiency programs, initiatives and grants; the bill’s focus is clearly on saving taxpayer money, not spending it.

But Shaheen-Portman still can’t seem to find its way onto the Senate schedule. Instead, its progress seems to be delayed by election-year partisanship.

We reject the “truisms” and point out that this valuable measure is sitting right there on the Congressional table, waiting to benefit consumers and businesses across the country and to prove that sometimes the best truths are the ones staring directly at us — that we aren’t hopelessly divided and that there’s much we already agree on that can get this country moving forward.

We applaud Shaheen and Portman for putting our economy, our energy security and our future ahead of party politics. We urge Congress to follow their important lead on bipartisanship.

Kateri Callahan is president of the Alliance to Save Energy.