In a Senate that hasn’t passed a major energy bill since 2007, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 761), co-sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), has been getting a lot of attention, and is highly anticipated in many circles for its bipartisan appeal and the possibility that it could break through Congressional deadlock.
Known as Shaheen-Portman, the bill would strengthen building codes for homes and commercial buildings, encourage manufacturing and supply chain efficiency and require the federal government to use energy savings techniques in its data centers.
Backed by over 200 organizations including the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the energy efficiency bill enjoys not only broad support, but also a collective sense of urgency for its passage. Just last year, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that the United States ranked ninth in energy efficiency out of 12 of the largest economies. The national framework for energy efficiency offered in Shaheen-Portman could help the U.S. become a more energy-efficient economy through a more coordinated and comprehensive effort. In order to do that, the bill has to get to the Senate floor and avoid being taken down by unrelated, contentious amendments.
Here are five reasons why legislation like this should not be the least bit controversial:
- Shaheen-Portman is a good deal for American consumers, businesses and the economy. ACEEE analyzed a previous version of the bill and found that it would provide cumulative net consumer savings of $59 billion over the 2012-2030 period and create 159,000 jobs by 2030. In its preliminary analysis of the new bill, ACEEE found that Shaheen-Portman would save about 9.5 quadrillion Btu’s between 2014-2030, or nearly one-tenth of the annual energy use of the U.S.
- Lower energy use means less fossil fuel consumption and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. Annual carbon dioxide emissions reductions are estimated to be 108 million metric tons in 2030, which would be the equivalent of taking over 22 million cars off the road.
- Shaheen-Portman is deficit neutral. In their commitment to a zero-cost bill, the cosponsors have dropped costly provisions and worked to offset new spending by reducing other spending authorizations. It does not add a dime to the deficit.
- The 2013 version of Shaheen-Portman leaves out controversial provisions. Recognizing the general distaste for the phrase “federal loan program” in the 113th Congress, the bill’s sponsors dropped the building loan and revolving loan programs that were included in the original version of the bill. However, the bill’s prospects are still being threatened by a potential amendment that would approve the Keystone XL project.
- Federal policy is necessary to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling American energy productivity by 2030. In a recent interview, Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan said that in order to reach the goal, “…it’s going to take a partnership between local, state, and the federal government.” Callahan added, “We cannot as a nation and a national policy take a pass on this.” The states and localities cannot do this on their own.
Shaheen-Portman offers an opportunity for Congress to do something on energy efficiency, an uncontroversial-yet-critical component of cutting both the deficit and carbon pollution. With August recess starting next week, this week offers the best opportunity to pass the first significant energy legislation in 6 years.
Mari Hernandez is a Research Associate on the Energy Team at the Center for American Progress.