This is material discussing the Energize America conference panel presentations with Governor Bill Richardson on the panel. This is part four of a series written by Jerome A Paris, originally published 15 June 2006.
This part, which was presented by A Siegel (A Siegel) describes the core principles of Energize America and discusses several of the acts, highlighting how they return to these core principles. Again, both the plan and the full presentation can be downloaded in pdf format from www.ea2020.org.
Yearly Kos, Energize America Presentation, Part IV
Principles and Exemplary Acts
At this time, the United States is hurtling toward the cliff like Thelma and Louise , but we’re in our Hummers rather than a convertible. And, we are dragging the world … and future generations … behind us, bound hand and foot by our dangerous habits and shaky energy structure. Energize America seeks to take us out of our obsolete, fuel-guzzling Hummers, hurtling into a dismal future, into 100+ mile per gallon (mpg), composite, flex-fuel, plug-in hybrid cars and SUVs that will allow us to turn aside from the cliff into a brighter and sustainable future.
With this vision in mind – that we both must and can pursue a better energy future – we turn to a discussion of the principles. At the core of almost all our work is a rather simple principle:
Make the right choice the easy choice for:
- Government, at all levels;
- Corporations, businesses, and other organizations;
- Communities and associations; and,
Right now there are too many misaligned incentives that favor the `wrong’ energy choice over the right one. These include accounting rules that make annual deductions of higher energy bills more attractive, fiscally, than long-term depreciation of renewable energy projects; government capital budgeting that inhibits spending more upfront to have lower long-term operating costs with better energy efficiency; and Americans’ hidden bias that drives a desire for 33 percent annual returns before undertaking energy efficiency investments. And then, of course, is the not insignificant issue that externalities are simply not calculated in energy decisions – the implications of pollution being the most serious (for the environment, human health, etc) but also not insignificantly security and other subsidized system costs.
Now, if this sounds too `fiscal’ oriented and not principled enough, remember that the core principle is to make the right decision the easy decision. While every Energize America team member believes in the importance of conservation, Energize America seeks to enable change through efficiency and a move toward more sustainable energy future. Tremendous gains can be made via efficiency – tremendous gains. Making efficiency – and renewable energy choices – more straightforwardly the `right’ choice from a financial accounting perspective will help propel the nation toward the situation where the right choice is the easy choice, rather than the difficult option to be adopted only by `zealots’, the `converted’, or reluctantly by the `unconvinced’.
Transportation is, as Jerome highlighted earlier, core to our energy challenges – especially critical to Winning the Oil Endgame as petroleum products are the critical transportation fuels. The Passenger Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Act will create an environment with incentives that should, at a minimum, lead to a 50% increase in the fuel fleet economy average by 2020.
The emphasis is on a `feebate’ to be applied at point of purchase – with a fee assessed for vehicles below the average for that year for a specific class and a corresponding rebate associated with cars above average in a similar way. Individuals will still have their choice – but the feebate enables a choice better both for the individual and for the nation.
This Act is structured to enable American car manufacturers to enter on a level playing field, with two years for the “Big Three” to adapt to these new market conditions. Energize America seeks to create an environment where American companies, American workers, and the American economy will prosper in the sustainable energy future.
The Sustainable Development Agency (SDA) will be focused on seeking out perverse incentive structures in regulations and laws … and propose paths and options to redress these perverse incentives. It will be a center of expertise for government, American business, Americans, and even the larger world community as to how to create paths toward a economically prosperous sustainable energy future.
While the SDA will focus on “America” it will engage with the world, to help foster a more sustainable energy focus for the US government’s interactions with the world and in various aid programs.
There is a simple reality in today’s world – the best energy investment is, simply, negawatts – achieving power savings through efficiency. Each watt saved through efficiency is the equivalent of creating a new watt of generating power.
The San Francisco Vote Solar bond program recognized and exploited the reality that government facilities have tremendous opportunities for huge gains through energy efficiency. San Francisco packaged efficiency with renewable energy investments such that the energy savings would cover the bond’s cost. Thus, San Francisco traded capital investment – via a bond – for lower (and more stable) operating costs. There is virtually no community in this nation that could not pursue such a program profitably.
The Community-Based Energy Investment Act seeks to enable local communities to be able to make the right choice – while saving money for the tax payer. The Act would develop a core Federal financial and energy expertise team to assist state and local governments for structuring bond programs. In addition, the Federal government would provide a small matching grant to incentivize moving forward.
This act would not just save taxpayers money through reducing public energy costs and lower governmental pollution, but would have a not insignificant corollary benefit of helping strengthen energy efficiency and renewable energy capacity throughout the United States. This newly created and enhanced capacity would be available to work for local businesses and local homeowners. The bonds will provide a public-private partnership that will have a multiplicative impact beyond `simply’ the positive results in the public infrastructure.
As vision, this act offers the potential for tremendous educational opportunities to foster the next generation’s ability to accelerate the progress toward a prosperous sustainable energy future.
This act provides a Federal enabling and sparking role for local action; this is using the Federal government to enable local initiative that will be in the common interest of all citizens. The Community-Based Energy Investment Act seeks to make the right choice for a more energy efficient and renewable energy infrastructure the easy choice for communities across throughout America.
Residences represent roughly 20% of the US energy usage. There is tremendous space within this usage for greater efficiency – providing the same (or better) quality of lifestyle with far less energy usage. Efficiency can come from better insulation, better windows, more energy efficient appliances, and better lighting. The clarity of potential gains through this last is reflected in the `symbolic’ yet quite substantive “C the Light” concept of providing every household with two compact fluorescent lightbulbs (and, perhaps in the near future, LED lights). In my kitchen, for example, I estimate a roughly 200 percent return on investment – per year, every year – from having replaced my traditional light bulbs with CFLs.
Through tax incentives, changes in building codes, changing incentives for landlords for greater energy efficiency in their properties (commercial and residential), and structured loan programs to enable all Americans affordable options for moving toward greater energy efficiency (e.g., lower monthly energy bills), the Home Efficiency Act will enable the right sustainable energy choice to be the easy choice for all Americans. This Act should foster, at a minimum, a reduction in total residential power use by at least 20 percent by 2020.
In conclusion – finally – let us return to principles. The Energize America project team has worked with the following principles in mind:
- Energy is a core national security concern
— including the interconnection with global warming
- Foster local, state and federal involvement
- Remain technology & process neutral (market-based)
- Create level playing field for producers & consumers
- Leverage American Ingenuity
- Make all energy subsidies transparent
— as part of a fiscally responsible policy
- There is no “silver bullet” solution …
— problem is multifacted, solution set will be multifaceted
Energize America seeks to
- Make a sustainable and prosperous energy future a reality and within reach for all Americans.
- Ensure that tomorrow’s Americans face a brighter future than today’s.
We realize that the sustainable and prosperous energy future is not just a necessity, but a real possibility.
Again, at the end of the day, the core principle driving Energize America is to empower the right choice as the easy choice.
Energize America seeks to make it easy for Americans to find the options and make choices that will lead toward a more sustainable energy and more sustainable prosperous future.