MR. OBAMA TAKES NEW ENERGY, EFFICIENCY TO WASHINGTON
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1st inaugural address, 1933: "…Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men..."
Nancy Killefer has her work cut out for her. The President-elect tapped her for the newly created job of Chief Performance Officer. She is to oversee administration spending and eliminate waste.
Mr. Obama is going to have hundreds of billions, maybe a trillion dollars, to allocate. How he spends it will determine what kind of presidency he has and what kind of country the U.S. will be. Few details are available yet but the President-elect wants action.
Mr. Obama: “I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible…If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits.”
He has described what he wants to spend on as “…long term economic growth, things we need to be doing anyway…"
The President-elect was more specific about his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan in his January 8 speech about the economy: "To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75 percent of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of 2 million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced, jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain…”
From ChangeDotGov via YouTube.
One of the items on the agenda is making homes and federal buildings energy efficient.
It’s a popular aim. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) jointly called on the Obama transition team to include Energy Efficiency in the stimulus package, suggesting spending in particular on home efficiency improvements for senior citizens and low-income families.
Feinstein proposed the spending be done by way of big tax breaks for cutting home heating/cooling costs and for commercial building efficiency improvements.
Retrofitting for efficiencies would put back to work the very people, thought to be hundreds of thousands, who the housing downturn has put out of work.
In preparation for turning such proposals into realities, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and newly elected Chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) have moved Congressman Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) into the crucial Chairmanship of the newly created House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.
Markey will also retain his Chairmanship of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming (created by Ms. Pelosi in her first year as Speaker). This gives Congressman Markey, in conjunction with Pelosi and Waxman, enormous influence in the areas where the President-elect wants action.
Congressman Markey: "This is the next technological revolution in America…The stars are aligned for great change."
These moves signal a complete shift away from old policies maintained by Congressman John Dingell (D-Michigan), the man Waxman replaced and an advocate for the auto industry, and Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Virginia), the man Markey replaces and an advocate for the coal industry.
Congressman Markey: "It's time to create the clean-energy age…My goal is now to create an energy policy that creates millions of new jobs in the United States…"
Congressman Markey, on the November 18 Obama speech committing his administration to the climate change fight. From RepMarkey via YouTube.
A third of the $17 billion/year federal operating budget goes to heat, cool and light thousands of government buildings. In 2006, $6.2 billion went for the facilities of just 21 agencies. Half that went to the Defense Department.
Previous efforts to streamline that energy consumption have failed (despite presidential orders and Congressional legislation) because just keeping things going costs so much, there has been nothing left over to make improvements.
Though progress has been made, the goals of 30% improvement on 2003 energy consumption levels by 2015 and getting 7.5% of power from New Energy sources by 2013 will require spending an estimated $1-to-$1.5 billion/year above and beyond the operating expenses. Only $640 million was spent for such efficiency upgrades in 2007.
Perhaps this time will be different because money from the stimulus package could be put to work. Ms. Killefer’s abilities will be tested. But her's is not the only oversight that will be needed. National security exempts some buildings: How can they retrofit a top-secret facility yet make the spending transparent?
Footnote: Reuters reported that Obama’s Secretary of Energy-designate Steven Chu met with members of the Illinois Congressional delegation to discuss “clean” coal technology and the ambitious $1.8 billion FutureGen “clean” coal experimental plant, planned for Central Illinois until its estimated cost ballooned to an estimated $2.4 billion and it was cancelled by the Bush administration. Illinois Senators and Congressmen advocate FutureGen as a contribution to the fight against global climate change and a source of jobs.
Perhaps Dr. Chu can explain to them that there is no such thing as clean coal.
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Obama wants to cut energy use in federal buildings
H. Josef Hebert, January 7, 2009 (AP)
Obama says stimulus to include energy savings
Tom Doggett and Ayesha Rascoe (w/David Gregorio), January 7, 2009 (Reuters via UK Guardian)
Markey to lead powerful energy subcommittee; Post seen as central to the Obama agenda
Susan Milligan, January 8, 2009 (Boston Globe)
Obama Presses for Action on Economy
Brian Knowlton, January 8, 2009 (NY Times)
President-elect Barack Obama; Performance Officer-designate Nancy Killefer; Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California), newly elected Chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee and Congressman Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and newly appointed Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment
While President-elect Obama slowly introduces his New Energy agenda, the Senate and the House are preparing to enact it, positioning power brokers and proposals strategically, though streamlining federal building energy consumption will be expensive and challenging.
It's time for the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Energy Star and other efficiency plans to get involved in politics. (click to enlarge)
- Congressional legislation in the 2005 and 2007 energy bills mandated efficiencies that did not get fully met.
- Feinstein and Snow would increase the tax credit for home efficiencies and tax deductions for commercial building improvements through 2011.
- A Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing January 8 covered efficiency plans and other energy matters.
- The plan calls for the retrofitting of 75% of the federal governement’s 21 agencies and thousands of buildings.
- Senators Feinstein and Snow proposed federal underwriting for retrofitting the homes of the low income and seniors.
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- Few details of the overall stimulus plan have yet to emerge. Spending on energy, health care and education is frequently mentioned.
- The Obama-Biden New Energy for America campaign promise was for $150 billion in spending over 10 years to create 5 million jobs and weatherize 1 million homes a year.
- The Feinstein/Snow proposal would weatherize the homes of seniors and low income families with insulation, energy-saving windows and efficient water heaters. They would up the $2,000 the tax credit for new homes that reduce heating and cooling costs by 50% to $5,000 and raise the commercial building tax deduction for energy efficiencies from $1.80 per square foot to $3.
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- Senator Barbara Boxer (D- California): "In these challenging times, green jobs represent the kind of win-win solution we need…They put people to work here in America. You can't outsource installation of a solar roof on your house to another country."
- President-elect Obama, January 8: "To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America…That means updating the way we get our electricity, by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation…”