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.