By Michael Brower 9/16/13
The Senate’s seesawing calendar this week highlights two priorities of significant national interest. As Syria takes a backseat – perhaps only temporarily – highly anticipated energy policy is finding the spotlight in the form of Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman’s “Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.” While action on Syria has embroiled the Congress in heated debate, the Shaheen-Portman bill is uniting members of both parties by using smart, common sense policy to create jobs, conserve energy and save billions for American consumers.
Three years in the making, the energy legislation Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman have crafted takes sensible steps to benefit the environment, American energy resources and, yes, the economy. In fact, the benefits of enacting the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act far outweigh the negatives – perhaps this is why the bill enjoys such strong bipartisan support.
Of course, with a gridlocked Congress, the hurdles that any legislation must clear are difficult at a minimum. But Shaheen-Portman appears to clear most of these with ease. For example, the bill is “deficit neutral” – a key concern of many congressional conservatives. The bill also provides major environmental benefits, removing approximately 108 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 or roughly the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road. And of particular interest to the general public, the bill will create 174,000 jobs in the 2013-2030 period. These figures are not just plucked out of the sky-the savings and jobs numbers are part of the half-trillion dollar, global efficiency industry and directly correlate with the 1.88 quadrillion Btu of energy conserved by Shaheen-Portman.
Some critics will pan the Shaheen-Portman bill as unnecessary; after all, America has plenty of energy to go around, particularly with our recent domestic oil, natural gas and renewable energy renaissance. But as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reminds us on an annual basis, over 50% of all energy produced in the U.S. goes to waste. This loss represents billions of dollars in costs and can be reduced dramatically with more efficient buildings and industrial practices. Calling Shaheen-Portman “unnecessary” is shortsighted at best and we suggest an energy efficiency “Negawatt” is perhaps the most cost effective bit of energy we can seek.
But at the end of the day, the most attractive goal that Shaheen-Portman can accomplish is simple: saving money for Main Street Americans. With projected cumulative net consumer savings topping $59 billion by 2030, the economics of Shaheen-Portman are something that Republicans and Democrats alike can support. By leveraging federal dollars to boost private sector output, this bill drives significant economic gains during a time of stagnant recovery and puts dollars back into the pockets of hardworking Americans. While energy savings and environmentally-conscious policies are arguably of equal ideological importance, the economic argument for energy efficiency is a true slam dunk. Congress often finds itself gridlocked over such ideological differences but, as the cost savings and jobs data shows, Shaheen-Portman can clearly rise above partisan brinkmanship.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy work hand-in-hand to deliver energy security, environmental security and economic security. This combination is unmatched across the eclectic collection of American energy resources and ought to be exploited to the greatest extent. Shaheen-Portman can play a critical role to balance out America’s energy supply with consumer demand, all the while saving money and driving business opportunity. The facts are clear – now it’s up to Congress to decide how to act.