Obama Gets Efficient: $4 Billion For Energy Efficient Building Upgrades

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"Obama Gets Efficient: $4 Billion For Energy Efficient Building Upgrades"

by Jorge Madrid and Matt Kasper

Last week President Obama, with the help of former President Bill Clinton and other partners including the Center for American Progress, flexed some executive power to leverage $4 billion in government and private sector funds to finance energy efficiency building projects across the United States – creating jobs, reducing pollution, and cutting energy costs.

The Trifecta” President Obama called it.

With commitments to retrofit over 4 billion square feet of commercial real estate, American construction and manufacturing workers will be getting back on the job — at zero cost to taxpayers.

That’s right. The investment will pay for itself by way of energy savings.

The executive order will direct all federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy-efficiency upgrades in the next two years. This investment will be matched dollar for dollar by a coalition of over 60 private-sector companies, including 3M, Alcoa, GE and Southern California Edison, along with nonprofit organizations, state and local governments and universities, to upgrade a minimum of 1.6 billion sq. ft. of commercial and office space.

The efforts were made in response to a challenge set by President Obama earlier this year called the Better Buildings Initiative, a program that would achieve 20 percent energy saving by 2020, saving American business’ nearly $40 billion every year in energy costs. Former President Clinton, who was asked by President Obama to help lead this Better Buildings challenge, spoke forcefully on the economic common sense of moving forward immediately on energy efficiency:

“The best opportunity to preserve and rebuild this economy is through energy efficiency… I believe as strongly as I can say that this is good business, creates jobs, makes us more energy independent and helps to fight climate change.”

Other partners made specific pledges for retrofits, including major commercial banks like Citi, industry voices like the Chamber of Commerce, global real estate investors like the Lend Lease Corporation, and a broad cross section of other organizations. Most striking was the commitment of organized labor into pension funds to support these projects — making them investors in the future by helping develop the next generation of smart and clean infrastructure jobs.

Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who helped bring these investments together, lauded the effort:

“This is big news, and the leadership vision of these two U.S. Presidents has made this accomplishment possible. The Center for American Progress is proud to have played a key role in developing the Better Buildings Initiative and engaging public and private partners in this vital work.”

While action in Congress is at a standstill, this project shows the immense progress that can be accomplished outside of legislative action.

Jorge Madrid is a research associate with the energy policy team at the Center for American Progress; Matt Kasper is an intern with the energy team at CAP.

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6 Responses to Obama Gets Efficient: $4 Billion For Energy Efficient Building Upgrades

  1. thanes says:

    Now what, exactly, do Republican presidents end up doing when they retire?
    Hide, mostly. Or quickly succumb to their dementia privately, after having inflicted it on the rest of us.

  2. fj says:

    yes this seems to be big news; johnson controls is a strong advocate for its importance.

  3. Kota says:

    Oh look. They are able to save american businesses 40 billion every year, and then something can whiz on through. Call me shocked I tell you, shocked. Of course these busnesses are going to ‘pay that forward’ by putting it in a fund to help the rest of us retrofit our homes? No? Use it to retrofit their business to clean energy? No? Increase their profits?

    I think I’ll wait for the other shoe to drop on this one. For all I know they will use the savings to build coal plants in other countries, hire those people to run their factories off of it and claim what fine fellows they are. Business as usual.

  4. TKPGH says:

    What was conspicuously absent from the President’s speech were the phrases “climate change” or “global warming”,referring instead to “harmful pollution”. He let former President Clinton carry that water for him (Clinton mentioned the fight against climate change during his opening remarks).

    We have got to find some way to get Obama to accept the idea that global warming has to be openly discussed. I just got word that the Discovery Channel backed down on its position of not airing the final, global warming episode of it’s upcoming new series “Frozen Planet”, in the face of 75,000 petition signitures. If we could get that kind of response to a petition for Obama to do a speech on the climate and oceans crisis, I can’t help but think he would have to comply. 75000 people is enough to turn an election.

    I’ve been in touch with my Congressman’s office: the deniers show up far more than we do. Something has to give. Global Warming Education Network has been trying to garner support with a Facebook page (Presidential State of the Climate Address). To date, there are oly 181 “likes” registered there. Obama was great in Kansas yesterday, talking about the economy and fairness. He would be dynamite if he followed Sen. Whitehouse’s lead and spoke on climate and oceans. We have only ourselves to blame if he fails to do so.

    • thanes says:

      I’m becoming involved with the Ctizens’ Climate Lobby, which is entirely devoted to reversing that frightening and certainly true point you make, that the Denialists go to pester legislators far more than climate hawks. Thing is, it is against my temperament, which means its probably good for me. But urrrrrrrrgh, when I see some Denialist lie in the comments section of some actual reporting on global warming, I WANT BLOOD. But I have children I love. For them, I will go to the offices of Republicans as well as Democrats, and politely, and patiently, and compassionately, ask them to consider a carbon tax.
      And as far as I can tell, this is the only way humanity will survive. If every single person who calls themselves a climate hawk does this, and if they talk calmly to every sympathetically-minded, rational person to join them.

      • TKPGH says:

        Thanes- During a recent broadcast on KUOW radio, Former Congressman Brian Baird stateed that he would have rather based the debate on climate he was part of on personal responsibility, rather than cap-and-trade. For the future, I’m sticking close to the ocean acidification side of the argument and will try to frame it terms of personal responsibility to others. That is something that resonates with Republicans (or at least used to).

        For a possible new solution, see “The Coming Green Wave” in the Atlantic Monthly.