Pres. Clinton: If we change the way we produce and consume energy to fight global warming in the right way we will open up a whole new explosive era of American economic opportunity by saving the planet for our grandchildren. The idea that this is bad for us is nuts. We just have to do it in a smart way. And [Sec. Chu] has determined to figure out what the smart ways are.
By Bracken Hendricks and Lisbeth Kaufman
At the Clinton Global Initiative America summit on Thursday, Secretary of the Department of Energy, Steven Chu and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley announced 14 new partners in the Better Building Challenge (BBC) a major step in enhancing energy efficiency of the U.S. The announcement was the result of months of work, during which the Center for American Progress and CGI helped broker public-private partnerships committing to major energy efficiency pledges.
The Better Buildings Challenge is one of the smart ways to ignite this explosion. Part of the Better Buildings Initiative to cut commercial buildings energy use 20% by 2020, the Better Buildings Challenge is rallying CEOs, University Presidents and local government leaders, to commit their organizations to becoming leaders in energy efficiency.
The Administration’s announcement on Thursday unveiled the first 14 of these energy efficiency leaders, who together are pledging more than $500 million and 260 million square feet of buildings and facilities enrolled for energy efficiency improvements. These include private company giants like Best Buy, which has dedicated more than 55 million square feet of retail space to retrofits for energy efficiency, and Lend Lease, which has pledged 40,000 high performance, efficiency homes for military families.
Likewise, financial organizations are pledging to provide robust financing specifically for efficiency retrofits. These commitments include Citi, which is dedicating $250+ million in financing over the next 18 months; Transcend Equity, which has dedicated $75+ million in financing over the next 18 months; and Abundant Power, which has pledged $50+ million in financing over the next 18 months, and, among others.
The announcement also profiled leading cities that have committed to massive energy efficiency retrofits. These include Atlanta which is targeting 220 downtown city blocks, its City Hall, and its Civic Center; Los Angeles which is dedicated $7.5 million to leverage $30 million investments in improving 22 million square feet of downtown buildings; and Seattle which will retrofit 23 million feet of downtown buildings to meet or exceed the Better Building Challenge goals.
These Better Building Challenge Commitments are a major step forward for energy efficiency in the U.S. As President Clinton explained at the closing plenary:
The Center for American Progress reported about a year and a half ago that we could get as much as half of our nation’s share of greenhouse gas reductions from building efficiency alone if we got serious and worked at it in a systematic way that would create clearly more than a million jobs if we did it right and did it in a hurry.
The 14 initial partners of the Better Building Challenge are doing just that. Their investments in energy efficiency will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs. Already a USGBC study predicts that the Better Building Initiative will create at least 114,000 jobs, creating a positive ripple effect throughout the economy.
— Bracken Hendricks and Lisbeth Kaufman, Center for American Progress
Below are the earlier comments from the Facebook commenting system:
A key development in energy-use “framing” * is the general replacement of ‘energy conservation’ with ‘energy efficiency.’ This is risky: an increase in efficiency can mask a concomitant increase in net energy usage.
I recently chatted with an Oregon nursery owner who’d received a major award for energy efficiency improvements from the Governor. I asked her how much energy she and her partner had actually saved. She told me that they hadn’t really saved any, because they started growing more for the same energy-cost expenditure. So the efficiency program was good for their business, and they grow wonderful plants, but it did not reduce their energy usage.
For these nursery owners, I’m all for them increasing their market share through cost-effective energy efficiency; after all, their entire business is based on creatures that absorb CO2! But is that always the right response to efficiency improvements?
One analogy is shopping the sales:
If today’s clothing budget is $100 and you discover that what you planned to buy is on sale for $50, do you stop there, and save $50 — or buy more? In our consumerist psycho-pathology, it’s way too easy to rationalize spending up: increasing shopping from $50 needed to $75, or all the way to the initial $100 budget — or even above, on the theory that we’re getting so much more for our money. Sometimes that makes economic and energy sense — but sometimes not!
I’ve taken to using the cumbersome phrase ‘energy conservation and efficiency,’ because the two concepts are intersecting sets, but not synonyms.
I’d be interested in any studies that show how efficiency increases tie to actual energy use in case studies — that is, how much conservation actually results, in proportion to the efficiency enhancements.
* Re ‘framing’: See George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant, 2004. This is a cognitive concept, not just wordsmithing. Changing from conservation to efficiency changes the way people think.
The Intelligent Green Buildings – SAID and the Building Envelope Systems Test (BEST) funded by NYSTAR are research ventures in new building system technologies and materials. They are state funded.
Exxonmobil Pipeline Leaks Oil in Yellowstone River in Montana.