Commonsense Conservative For Ohio


The Washington Post: The Senate should revive a bipartisan energy efficiency bill

November 19, 2014

WHEN A carefully built, bipartisan energy bill failed in the Senate in May, it was one of the worst instances of unwarranted Washington gridlock. By the same token, precisely because it is so sensible and enjoyed such bipartisan support, it offers one of the most obvious ways for Congress’s new leaders to break Washington’s holding pattern on policy and to help the country.

Energy is among the most polarizing issues in Washington, dividing coal-staters from environmentalists and often stranding pragmatists in between. But Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) wrote a bill that avoids every major policy landmine, basing their proposal on the unassailable principle that the country should waste less energy.

The pair aim to close the so-called efficiency gap — the perhaps 10, 20 or 30 percent energy savings that can be had at no disadvantage to lifestyle or living standards. This is an obvious opportunity for a federal push to rationalize energy use, rather than negatively distort it, as Congress so often does. Among the senators’ ideas is establishing model national building codes that states could voluntarily adopt and setting aside money to help them do so. The bill would provide for worker training and offer rebates for purchasing energy-conserving motors and transformers. It would mandate that the federal government itself waste less energy — for example, by cutting the amount of power its data centers use.

This is a modest reform package. It could have been more creative, perhaps establishing a “Race to the Top”-like competition for states to improve the energy efficiency of their economies. We would have preferred it to be stronger, by, among other things, setting mandatory national building codes, since commercial and residential structures are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the country’s energy use. The bill doesn’t even touch on carbon pricing, the biggest single step Congress could take to help slow climate change.

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