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Massively Efficient Path to Stimulate the Economy

December 11th, 2008 · 9 Comments

The incoming US Congress will be running full out in January to develop a stimulus package to have ready, potentially, for signature by President Barack Hussein Obama minutes into his Presidency. Organization after organization, business after business, motivated citizen after motivated citizen are knocking on every door conceivable with ideas for funding that range from great through good to indifferent to bad all the way to simply venally corrupt.

Just sent to the Transition team and en route Hill offices is, well, a truly “great” approach, a path that could massively stimulate economic activity throughout the United States while setting us on a path for a stronger tomorrow economically and in terms of global warming. As the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan summary concludes:

With a single investment, the U.S. can create jobs, strengthen the US economy, reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption, and save consumers billions of dollars. Investing in the Building Sector is the only investment that can accomplish all of these objectives.

Coming from Ed Mazria and the Architecture 2030 team, this plan focuses on driving massive commercial and home owner investments in energy efficiency through a program of buying down mortgages and renovation (energy rehab) loans based on achieved level of energy efficiency.

Consider this as the cost of a loan to achieve improved energy efficiency:

  • Energy efficiency 30 percent below code, 4.5% interest rate
  • 50% below code, 4.0%
  • 80% below code, 3.0%
  • Carbon neutral, 2.0%

Would rates like that induce you to seek out a contractor? Insulation? New windows? new energy efficiency heating/cooling system? Energy-star plus appliances (of all types)? A high-efficiency wood stove or fireplace insert? Solar hot water or photovoltaiics? All of the above?

As for me, rates like that would induce me to strive for ‘carbon negative’ (average out sending power back to the grid, not using it) …

But the benefits and value will go far beyond the individual’s satisfaction at zeroing out their home’s carbon footprint.

  • 8.5 million jobs over two years
  • $140 to $200 billion of savings on home energy costs in the first five years
  • Over 6000 TBtu of reduced energy use resulting in about 500 mega-tonnes of reduced CO2 emissions (or about 10% of one year’s US emissions) … in just that first five years.

Yes, this investment would cost a lot, at least upfront. Mazria is calling for $85 billion a year, for two years. Quite a high figure, it seems, but unlike the $700 billion (or is it $7 billion) that has gone into the financial industry, this program would provide a significant boost to Main Street (and every Main Street) across the nation. And, that boost, the economic activity and the millions of jobs would spark signficant economic activity in a multiplying effect. Those 8.5 million jobs mean fewer people seeking financial assistance (unemployment, food stamps and school lunch aid, housing assistance, welfare, etc …) and that many more paying income taxes. A rough, back of the envelope calculation suggests that the social security and federal (not even state) income tax payments from the 8.5 million employed, even without considering the quite significant avoided costs, would total even more than $85 billion per year.

Yesterday at EcoBuild, I had the chance to hear Ed brief the plan’s concepts and how this accelerates Architecture 2030’s overarching vision of achieving massive energy efficiency improvements in the US building infrastructure by 2030 — cost saving improvements that would cut energy use enough to make coal-fired electricity plants simply unnecessary. This is a developed version of the material that Mazria/Architecture 2030 have been working on for years, evolved beyond the material presented at Harry Reid’s National Clean Energy Summit earlier this year to something to match the challenge and opportunity that we face as the nation spirals into greater economic difficulties.

There are many real benefits of Mazria’s approach, not least of which is the creation of massive numbers of real jobs in the near term while also achieving things through the near-term stimulus that will have long term value. Some of the strengths are not readily apparent or necessarily understood.

  • The focus on standards is, by definition, technology neutral. The item of import is not how something is achieved, but that it is achieved.
  • The program will lower foreclosures, even without buy-downs of troubled mortgages as the owners will have lower energy bills and thus be more able to deal with mortgage payments.
  • Acting this directly to spark the economy in a path that will dramatically cut into America’s greenhouse gas emissions will be a sign of global leadership about Global Warming and, in fact, could spark an energy efficiency renaissance far beyond America’s shores.
  • This $171 billion is leveraged money, buying down the cost of loans that could mean an actual boost to economic activity of $1.5 trillion or more.
  • And, …

    Again, the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan is already in Obama Transition Team in boxes and en route the Hill. It should be available publically on the Architecture 2030 website sometime tomorrow. This is a plan to read … and to promote.

    UPDATE: As David Sasson at Solve Climate put it:

    It sounds to good to be true. You can’t get something for nothing. Where’s the hitch, I wondered.

    The answer is, there is no hitch. There actually is a huge something. It’s a very big untapped asset that Mazria has figured out a way to harness: the energy wasted by almost every single building in the nation. Capture the dollar value of that energy and you’ve created a powerful engine of economic recovery situated at the heart of America’s sweet spot: its homes and buildings.

    Here is a path for desperately required short-term stimulus that also will help in meeting our desperate need to change our course from a reckless charge over the catastrophic climate change cliff. Stimulate the economy. Save money. Help stop Global Warming. Works for me.

Tags: Energy · Global Warming · architecture · architecture2030 · building green · climate change · energy efficiency · environmental · financial policy · government energy policy · green

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jason Scheurer // Dec 19, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    WOW!! What a concept.

    I am a Environmental Building Scientist in the making. I am in the process of building one of the first “ALL GREEN” homes in Huntington Beach, CA. This is through Build It Green’s GreenPoint Rated Guidelines. I am full aware of the GHG emmissions we are using to destroy the planet. This plan “EXCITES” me! I would love to know more about it and share with all that I know.

    One of the problems that I have run into being in the construction industry, is convincing the Specialty Trade Contractors to start building smarter than they were taught. I think we need to implement continuous education into our system or they trades and employees do not receive work in this field. We could get an over dilution of novices that are trained wrong.

    One of my Building Scientist Mentor’s is creating a catagory called a “Super Rater” for the Home Performance sector in the Residential area.

    I hope this plan takes action and I would be in full support of it when it comes into action.

    I will be available for any comments and to stand up for this plan as long as it works properly.

  • 2 A Siegel // Dec 20, 2008 at 5:22 am

    Jason

    Agree that building ‘trades’ is a key challenge. For me, part of ‘continuing ed’ for all contractors should be discussions of energy efficiency and smarter (including greener) building practices. For example, some strong guidance in code / enforcement but starting with education about how to reduce waste stream from building projects. (Probably have pulled 500 lbs of cardboard for recycling out of neighbors’ renovation project waste streams; 250+ lbs of metal; etc … And, that was just haphazard, rather than dedicated efforts to cut waste stream.)

    I would suggest checking out Architecture 2030, getting put on their mailing list, and sharing that material with all you think interested. In particular, I would strongly encourage you to contact your members of Congress.

  • 3 HuffPost scores a 10 on the Inhofe Scale // Jan 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm

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  • 8 Win the Future with Real Solutions // Apr 1, 2011 at 9:19 am

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