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How can Washington green America’s economy? ACC’s reply to the National Journal

ACC President Cal Dooley today posted a comment on the National Journal’s “expert” blog on Energy & Environment in response to reporter Amy Harder’s question, “How Can Washington Green America’s Economy?”

It’s a challenging question, but one to which ACC has given a lot of thought. I’ve included Cal’s response below.

As always, you are welcome to share your own ideas.

Photo via shaheen.senate.gov

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Washington Has a Role to Play

By Cal Dooley

CEO, American Chemistry Council

Washington can play a key role in stimulating America’s clean-energy economy. In this time of fiscal austerity, supporting energy efficiency is among the best, least expensive and quickest ways to encourage greener and more robust economic development. It’s a proven way to help America save energy and money while creating jobs.

A number of federal initiatives that make smart, targeted investments can spur innovation and job growth in the clean energy sector. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 (S.1000), sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is a good example. The Shaheen-Portman bill appropriately gives energy efficiency a prominent place on the nation’s energy policy agenda.

S. 1000 includes a series of measures that save energy and reduce costs. For example, its provisions would help drive energy efficiency gains in buildings and manufacturing, thereby creating green jobs and environmental benefits.

Buildings consume 40 percent of all energy used in the United States. The Shaheen-Portman bill sets a goal of zero net energy in new buildings by 2030. The ACC has long supported updating building energy codes because they help investors overcome market barriers while reducing energy costs for businesses.

S.1000 would also establish a $700 million loan program through 2021 to encourage manufacturers to adopt commercially available energy-efficient technologies and processes not yet widely implemented. This would enable American manufacturers to improve equipment and reduce energy costs, which would help make them more competitive in the global economy.

Chemical makers and many other manufacturers use natural gas to create two forms of energy—steam and electricity—for industrial facilities. Known as “combined heat and power” (CHP), this kind of energy is generated close to where it is needed, so little is lost in transmission. CHP can produce energy twice as efficiently as older coal burning electric utilities.

Expansion of CHP is supported broadly by business, labor and environmental groups and could provide 20 percent of U.S. energy generating capacity by 2030. We support policies to encourage investment in this more efficient generation of industrial energy.

Chemical manufacturers supply a wide range of materials, products and technologies that enable appliances to be more energy efficient. Improved appliance energy conservation standards, such as those in the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreements Act of 2011 (S.398), could cut consumers’ home energy costs by $43 billion through 2030, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Existing federal appliance standards have already saved taxpayers more than $300 billion and reduced energy use by 3.6 percent annually.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, led by Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), has proposed creating a Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that would help finance clean energy projects. CEDA would provide loans, loan guarantees, and other financial incentives to mitigate investor risk. The proposal would encourage the development of new clean energy technologies and help move innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace.

To drive economic growth and meet our nation’s environmental goals, America needs a comprehensive energy policy that promotes energy efficiency in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. This includes the adoption of strong energy efficiency building codes and more efficient generation of industrial energy.

Improving energy efficiency is simply a smart way to do business. The private sector leads the way when it comes to innovation and new clean-energy technologies. But Washington can and should be part of the supporting cast.

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