If I could know only one thing about a presidential candidate’s understanding of energy, it is whether they get that energy efficiency is the “first fuel.” If efficiency is not the cornerstone of their energy independence and climate strategy, they will fail. It’s that simple (see “Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution, Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far“).
How delightful, then, to see Obama use valuable time in his expensive half-hour political infomercial — his closing economic argument to millions of Americans — to tout McKinstry, a company that does energy efficiency retrofits.
Now efficiency is far less visually sexy than wind turbines or solar panels. That’s why anti-cleantech greenwashers from, oh, I don’t know, say Arizona and Alaska, invariably use renewable energy company backdrops — the visuals overwhelm any factual debunking of their policies that the media might do (assuming for the moment we had a media that actually ever did that kind of debunking).
So you know the candidate is serious about energy in general and efficiency in particular when they visit an energy efficiency company and then tell the nation about it:
All across America I’ve seen entrepreneurs and innovators who point the way to a better future, starting with energy independence. Recently, I visited the McKinstry Company, in Seattle. They’re retrofitting schools and office buildings to make them energy efficient, creating jobs, saving their customers money, reducing carbon emissions, and helping to end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. As president, I’ll use companies like McKinstry as a model for the nation. I’ll invest $15 billion a year in energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy, like wind, solar, and biofuels, creating five million clean energy jobs over the next decade — jobs that pay well and can never be outsourced.
The irony is that some people accuse Obama of focusing on style over substance. The decision to talk about McKinstry, rather than a solar company — or a foreign (!) wind company like Vestas — gives the lie to that claim.
Sadly, in this election cycle, Republicans have not only failed to endorse energy efficiency as a core strategy, they have actually mocked efficiency and conservation measures, such as tuning up your car or checking your tire pressure (see “Will the GOP’s cynical lies destroy the chance for serious energy and climate policy?“).
Kudos to Obama and his energy team.