A clear direction on energy

We may not yet have a firm grasp on exactly what we need to do to merge the words clean and energy in perfect harmony, even with the 219-212 vote of the House of Representatives on cap-and-trade legislation last week. But we do at least have direction, and considering how much muck was thrown into the works in the environmental arena in the Bush years, movement in the direction of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions has to be considered progress.

“This is a moment where we’ve been called upon to cast off the old ways of doing business, and act boldly to reclaim America’s future. Nowhere is this more important than in building a new, clean energy economy, ending our dependence on foreign oil, and limiting the dangerous pollutants that threaten our health and the health of our planet,” President Barack Obama said yesterday.

The focus on clean-energy legislation now moves to the Senate, where we can expect more in the way of deliberation and hand-wringing and the like. I expect Virginia’s two moderate Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb, to play key roles in the Senate discussions on cap-and-trade. The House version of the legislation that passed on Friday requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020, and puts caps on greenhouse-gas emissions that are intended to incentivize business and industry to look for cleaner energy alternatives.

I haven’t seen anything definitive on the particulars of the House bill from the usually close-to-the-vest duo. The only even-vague sense of direction that I can glean from either is something from Warner from a town-hall meeting in Staunton in April in which he expressed support for a new coal plant being built in Southwest Virginia and drilling off the coast of Virginia as parts of a long-term energy solution. “I think our approach ought to be, We’ve got to put all the options on the table,” Warner said at the town hall.

My sense is that we’ll see centrists in the Senate tamp down the fires here, so to speak, much in the same way that we saw Southwest Virginia Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher do so in pushing for protections for industry in the final markup of the House bill.

But that said, I don’t foresee anything that will render cap-and-trade in one form or another DOA in the manner that the 1993 health-care reform that it has been compared to was driven to an unfortunate death.

This is clearly where we’re going as a country. It’s just a matter of how we’re going to get there.

 

– Column by Chris Graham

 

More on energy …

Obama administration launches new energy-efficiency efforts

Building on the action by the U.S. House of Representatives in passing historic legislation that will pave the way for the transition to a clean energy economy, President Barack Obama and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Monday announced aggressive actions to promote energy efficiency and save American consumers billions of dollars per year. Today’s announcement underscores how the clean energy revolution not only makes environmental sense, but it also makes economic sense – creating jobs and saving money.

“One of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner is to make our economy more energy efficient,” said President Obama. “That’s why we made energy efficiency investments a focal point of the Recovery Act. And that’s why today’s announcements are so important. By bringing more energy efficient technologies to American homes and businesses, we won’t just significantly reduce our energy demand; we’ll put more money back in the pockets of hardworking Americans.”

“When it comes to saving money and growing our economy, energy efficiency isn’t just low hanging fruit; it’s fruit laying on the ground,” said Secretary Chu. “The most prosperous, competitive economies of the 21st century will be those that use energy efficiently. It’s time for America to lead the way.”

 

More energy-efficient lighting

Monday’s announcement includes major changes to energy conservation standards for numerous household and commercial lamps and lighting equipment. Seven percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. is for lighting.

The final rule has numerous benefits, including:

– Avoiding the emission of up to 594 million tons of CO2 from 2012 through 2042 – roughly equivalent to removing 166 million cars from the road for a year;

– Saving consumers $1 to $4 billion annually from 2012 through 2042;

– Saving enough electricity from 2012 through 2042 to power every home in the U.S. for up to 10 months;

– Eliminating the need for up to 7.3 gigawatts of new generating capacity by 2042 – equivalent to as many as 14 500MW coal-fired power plants;

– Decreasing the electricity used in GSFLs by 15 percent, saving consumers up to $8.66 per lamp over its lifetime; decreasing electricity used by IRLs by 25 percent, saving consumers $7.95 per lamp over its lifetime.

In February 2009, President Obama tasked the Department of Energy with quickening the pace of energy conservation standards for appliances, while continuing to meet legal and statutory deadlines. Today’s announcement – which takes effect in 2012 – focuses on General Service Fluorescent Lamps (GSFL), which are commonly found in residential and commercial buildings, and Incandescent Reflector Lamps (IRL), which are commonly used in recessed and track lighting. These fluorescent and incandescent lamps represent approximately 38 and 7 percent of total lighting energy use respectively.

The final rule, as issued by the Secretary of Energy on June 26, 2009, can be viewed and downloaded from the Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s website at: www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/residential/incandescent_lamps.html.

 

Building Efficiency Initiative

President Obama and Secretary Chu announced a $346 million investment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of energy efficient technologies in all major types of commercial buildings as well as new and existing homes.

Residential and commercial buildings consume 40 percent of the energy and represent 40 percent of the carbon emissions in the United States. Building efficiency represents one of the easiest, most immediate and most cost effective ways to reduce carbon emissions while creating new jobs. With the application of new and existing technologies, buildings can be made up to 80 percent more efficient or even become “net zero” energy buildings with the incorporation of on-site renewable generation.

Today’s buildings consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy, including transportation and industry. In addition, almost three-quarters of our nation’s 81 million buildings were built before 1979. Some were designed and constructed for limited service, and many will eventually require either significant retrofits or replacement.

Innovations in energy-efficient building envelopes, equipment, lighting, daylighting, and windows, in conjunction with advances in passive solar, photovoltaic, fuel cells, advanced sensors and controls and combined heating, cooling, and power, have the potential to dramatically transform today’s buildings. These technologies—coupled with a whole building design approach that optimizes the interactions among building systems and components—will enable tomorrow’s buildings to use considerably less energy, while also helping to reduce emissions and increase energy security.

This funding includes:

– Advanced Building Systems Research ($100 million). These projects will address research focused on the systems design, integration, and control of both new and existing buildings. Buildings need to be designed, built, operated, and maintained as an integrated system in order to achieve the potential of energy efficient and eventually net zero-energy buildings. These projects will move beyond component-only driven research and address the interactions in buildings as a whole, in order to progress development of integrated, high performance buildings and achieve net zero- energy buildings.

– Residential Buildings Development and Deployment ($70 million). Expanded work in Residential Buildings will increase homeowner energy savings by supporting energy efficient retrofits and new homes while raising consumer awareness of the benefits of increased health, safety, and durability of energy efficiency. The projects will provide technical support to train workers and create jobs, developing a new workforce equipped to improve the Nation’s homes and will permit a major initiative to provide builders with technical assistance and training through states, utilities, and existing programs to increase the market share of new homes achieving substantial whole house energy savings. To address existing homes, DOE will work with municipalities with a variety of housing types and vintages as well as subdivisions with similar housing stock to encourage a large number of energy efficiency retrofits.

– Commercial Buildings Initiative ($53.5 million). These Recovery Act funds will be used to accelerate and expand partnerships with major companies that design, build, own, manage, or operate large fleets of buildings and that commit to achieving exemplary energy performance. This funding will be used to expand the number of these partnerships from 23 to about 75 through a competitive process beginning in September, 2009.

– Buildings and Appliance Market Transformation ($72.5 million). In order to achieve energy savings, and ultimately lead to zero energy buildings, the marketplace must be conditioned to accept the necessary advanced technologies and activities and ensure that the current technologies are performing as intended via current energy efficiency standards. Key activities include expanding ENERGY STAR to accelerate development of energy efficient products and expand the ENERGY STAR brand into new areas; preparing the design, construction, and enforcement community to implement commercial building energy codes that require a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency over the 2004 code in 2010; and accelerating and expanding DOE’s Appliance Standards program to evaluate innovative technologies and develop new test procedures that are more representative of today’s energy use and equipment.

– Solid State Lighting Research and Development ($50 million). The objective of the solid state lighting activities is to advance state-of-the-art of solid-state lighting (SSL) technology and to move those advancements more rapidly to market through a coordinated development of advanced manufacturing techniques. This project will both aid in the development and reduce the first cost of high performance lighting products. Continuing advances can accelerate progress towards creating a U.S.-led market for high efficiency light sources that save more energy, reduce costs, and have less environmental impact than other conventional light sources.

For information on these and other Funding Opportunities under the Recovery Act, visit: www.energy.gov/recovery/funding.htm.

 

 

Remarks by the president on energy, Monday, June 29, 2009

Good afternoon, everybody. Since taking — excuse me — since taking office, my administration has mounted a sustained response to a historic economic crisis. But even as we take decisive action to repair the damage to our economy, we’re also working to build a new foundation for sustained and lasting economic growth.

And we know this won’t be easy, but this is a moment where we’ve been called upon to cast off the old ways of doing business, and act boldly to reclaim America’s future. Nowhere is this more important than in building a new, clean energy economy, ending our dependence on foreign oil, and limiting the dangerous pollutants that threaten our health and the health of our planet.

And that’s precisely what we’ve begun to do. Thanks to broad coalitions ranging from business to labor; investors to entrepreneurs; Democrats and Republicans from coal states and coastal states; and all who are willing to take on this challenge — we’ve come together to achieve more in the past few months to create a new, clean energy economy than we have in decades.

We began with historic investments in the Recovery Act and the federal budget that will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs doing the work of doubling our country’s supply of renewable energy. We’re talking about jobs building wind turbines and solar panels; jobs developing next-generation solutions for next-generation cars; jobs upgrading our outdated power grid so it can carry clean, renewable energy from the far-flung areas that harness it to the big cities that use it.

And thanks to a remarkable partnership between automakers, autoworkers, environmental advocates, and states, we created incentives for companies to develop cleaner, more efficient vehicles — and for Americans to drive them. We set in motion a new national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. And as a result, we’ll save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years — the projected equivalent of taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.

And we know that even as we seek solutions to our energy problems at home, the solution to global climate change requires American leadership abroad. That’s why I’ve appointed a global climate envoy to help lead our reengagement with the international community as we find sustainable ways to transition to a global low-carbon economy.

And, now, just last Friday, the House of Representatives came together to pass an extraordinary piece of legislation that will finally open the door to decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, preventing the worst consequences of climate change, and making clean energy the profitable kind of energy. Thanks to members of Congress who were willing to place America’s progress before the usual Washington politics, this bill will create new businesses, new industries, and millions of new jobs, all without imposing untenable new burdens on the American people or America’s businesses. In the months to come, the Senate will take up its version of the energy bill, and I am confident that they too will choose to move this country forward.

So we’ve gotten a lot done on the energy front over the last six months. But even as we’re changing the ways we’re producing energy, we’re also changing the ways we use energy. In fact, one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner is to make our economy more energy efficient. And that’s something that Secretary Chu is working every single day to work through.

We know the benefits. In the late 1970s, the state of California enacted tougher energy-efficiency policies. Over the next three decades, those policies helped create almost 1.5 million jobs. And today, Californians consume 40 percent less energy per person than the national average — which, over time, has prevented the need to build at least 24 new power plants. Think about that. California — producing jobs, their economy keeping pace with the rest of the country, and yet they have been able to maintain their energy usage at a much lower level than the rest of the country.

So that’s why we took significant steps in the Recovery Act to invest in energy efficiency measures — from modernizing federal buildings to helping American families make upgrades to their homes — steps that will create jobs and save taxpayers and consumers money. And that’s why I’ve asked Secretary Chu to lead a new effort at the Department of Energy focusing on implementing more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances — like refrigerators and ovens — which will spark innovation, save consumers money, and reduce energy demand.

So today, we’re announcing additional actions to promote energy efficiency across America; actions that will create jobs in the short run and save money and reduce dangerous emissions in the long run.

The first step we’re taking sets new efficiency standards on fluorescent and incandescent lighting. Now I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and our businesses. Between 2012 and 2042, these new standards will save consumers up to $4 billion a year, conserve enough electricity to power every home in America for 10 months, reduce emissions equal to the amount produced by 166 million cars each year, and eliminate the need for as many as 14 coal-fired power plants.

And by the way, we’re going to start here at the White House. Secretary Chu has already started to take a look at our light bulbs, and we’re going to see what we need to replace them with energy-efficient light bulbs.

And if we want to make our economy run more efficiently, we’ve also got to make our homes and businesses run more efficiently. And that’s why we’re also speeding up a $346 million investment under the Recovery Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of energy-efficient technologies in residential and commercial buildings, which consume almost 40 percent of the energy we use and contribute to almost 40 percent of the carbon pollution we produce.

We’re talking about technologies that are available right now or will soon be available — from lighting to windows, heating to cooling, smart sensors and controls. By adopting these technologies in our homes and businesses, we can make our buildings up to 80 percent more energy efficient — or with additions like solar panels on the roof or geothermal power from underground, even transform them into zero-energy buildings that actually produce as much energy as they consume.

Now, progress like this might seem far-fetched. But the fact is we’re not lacking for ideas and innovation. All we lack are the smart policies and the political will to help us put our ingenuity to work. And when we put aside the posturing and the politics; when we put aside attacks that are based less on evidence than on ideology; then a simple choice emerges.

We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc, or we can create jobs utilizing low-carbon technologies to prevent its worst effects. We can cede the race for the 21st century, or we can embrace the reality that our competitors already have: The nation that leads the world in creating a new clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.

That’s our choice: between a slow decline and renewed prosperity; between the past and the future.

The American people have made their choice. They expect us to move forward right now at this moment of great challenge, and stake our claim on the future — a stronger, cleaner, and more prosperous future where we meet our obligations to our citizens, our children, and to God’s creation — and where the United States of America leads once again.

That’s the future we’re aiming for. I’ve got a great Secretary of Energy who’s helping us achieve it. I want to thank again the House of Representatives for doing the right thing on Friday, and we are absolutely confident that we’re going to be able to make more progress in the weeks and months to come.

Thanks, guys.

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