Selected tags: State of the Union

Bipartisan Consensus: Wasting Energy Is Senseless

In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced the goal of cutting energy waste in buildings and homes in half over the next 20 years.  House Speaker John Boehner clapped approvingly.  U.S. buildings and homes waste so much energy that a 50% reduction of such energy waste would save businesses and individuals billions of dollars, would deliver healthier air to all Americans and would put us on the path of energy independence.  Most of our energy comes from burning fossil fuels; so, consuming less fossil fuel will reduce toxic emissions and improve air quality.  Cleaner air will save lives.  Studies estimate that over 35,000 Americans die every year due to air pollution related illnesses.

Cutting energy waste in half won’t just happen on its own, though, and it won’t be easy.  We need to identify the opportunities where we can eliminate energy waste, and then invest in the types of technologies that lead to more energy efficient buildings and homes. The good news is that these modern, cost-effective technologies are available now.

Clearly, opening windows when a building is overheated is not the solution. For example, building owners will need to invest in control technologies that cut overheating and turn off lights and equipment when not needed. These are smart energy efficiency investments with typically short pay-back periods. And, in reducing the energy we waste, we improve our quality of life with more money in our pockets and fresher air in our lungs.

Finally, let’s not forget about the environmental impacts of energy exploration, which is another reason why we shouldn’t waste the energy that was so hard to get out of the ground in the first place.  The actual extraction of fossil fuels is the second biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and – if developed irresponsibly – can pollute our water, air and oceans — jeopardizing our health, livelihoods and quality of life.  When you consider the whole range of health and environmental impacts involved with using, and (of course) wasting, energy –it is blatantly obvious that wasting energy is already coming back to hurt us.

If Washington can agree that wasting energy is senseless, let’s keep the momentum going and support smart efforts, policies and investment tools that will help energy efficiency reach its full potential.  Cutting energy waste is a win for our wallets, our health and our children’s’ future.

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President’s Vision Encompasses A Next-Generation Energy System

Tuesday’s State of the Union (SOTU) speech included much that was music to environmentalists’ ears.  The headline, of course, is the commitment to take serious action to address the most significant challenge our generation faces – climate change.  And, with it, the extreme weather and public health burdens that are already making life harder for vulnerable regions and people nationwide, and that stand to become so much worse as the root cause remains unaddressed. 

But some of the most exciting aspects of the SOTU message are the nuts and bolts that underlie the top-line goal.  Specifically, the President’s speech recognizes that Americans have an opportunity to achieve many of the carbon reductions we need through actions that create new business opportunities, increase national security and drive economic growth.  In fact, we already are.  As the President noted, the past four years have seen the beginnings of a revolution in American energy production and use – technological innovations have put us on track to energy independence and renewable resources constitute a growing share of electric generation capacity. 

The President’s vision, as outlined in the SOTU, encompasses a next-generation energy system – one where the system that was revolutionary in Thomas Edison’s time is finally supplanted by a system that meets the needs of our time.  Technological change can bring full-scale transformation, and government can play a role by accelerating technological development.  A future where cars and trucks no longer depend on oil can finally be imagined – and government efforts can help bring that future into the present more quickly.

Carbon-free wind and solar energy represent a growing share of our resource mix, and  they can grow to serve a larger and larger share of load.   And energy waste in buildings can be cut substantially – but doing so requires innovations in energy retrofits, building operations and finance, which government can also help to foster.

Finally, President Obama referred to fostering a ‘self-healing power grid,’ which is extremely important. Modernizing our outdated, aging electric grid and how it is operated (as well as customer-side technology and practices) will help minimize problems that arise from extreme weather events and other disruptions, while also allowing for greater shares of electric demand to be served by resources whose output depends (literally) on something as fickle as the weather.

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