Posting in Cities
The White House announced a $4 billion initiative to improve energy efficiency in hundreds of public and private buildings. And it's been accomplished -- or hopes to be -- without asking Congress for money.
The Obama Administration -- with help from former President Bill Clinton and a little used federal energy savings program -- announced $4 billion in energy efficiency upgrades to government and private sector buildings over the next two years. The effort, known as the Better Buildings Challenge, aims to create jobs and improve energy performance at least 20 percent by 2020 across 1.6 billion square feet of commercial industrial space.
And it's all been accomplished -- or hopes to be -- without asking Congress for money.
Where the money will come from
The investment includes a $2 billion commitment made via presidential memorandum to upgrade federal buildings using a little used program known as Energy Savings Performance Contracts. The program pays the contractors who undertake the work with realized energy savings. In other words, the building upgrades are financed using long-term energy savings to pay for up-front costs -- and at no cost to taxpayers.
The other half is dependent on the private sector and local government. Sixty major companies, universities, labor unions, hospitals, cities and states have committed to invest an additional $2 billion in private capital into energy efficiency projects. The announcement builds on a previous commitment made by 14 private and local government partners at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in June to finance $500 million in energy efficiency projects.
Metrus Energy, a California-based startup, was among that inaugural group and announced Friday it has upped its commitment in energy efficiency projects to $75 million. The company is one of several startups that have sprung up in recent years in the burgeoning energy retrofit financing market. Metrus Energy has developed an efficiency services agreement, which is modeled after the power purchase agreements used to help finance large-scale renewable energy projects.
A number of manufacturers including Alcoa, Briggs and Stratton, Cummins Inc., Legrand and Nissan as well as retailers such as Best Buy, Kohl's Department Stores and Walgreens have committed to energy retrofits. In all, some 300 manufacturing plants will be upgraded. The total commercial industrial space that is expected to be retrofitted equals more than 500 Empire State buildings, Obama said in a speech this morning.
The Better Buildings Challenge is essentially an offshoot of the Better Buildings Initiative, a plan launched by Obama in Febraury 2011 that aims to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings 20 percent by 2020 through legislation, private investment and action by the administration. Since Congress has failed to act on many of the proposals within the initiative, the Obama Administration moved forward on the private-public partnership component and tapped Clinton to recruit businesses.
Clinton's involvement isn't surprising. The former president has long pushed for investment in energy efficiency upgrades, calling it "not sexy," but important low-hanging fruit that will create jobs, reduce costs and save energy.
Independent estimates including one from the University of Massachusetts Amherst have said the broader Better Buildings Initiative has the potential to create up to 114,000 jobs. That is, if Congress were to approve the numerous legislative proposals. It isn't clear how many jobs could be created under the $4 billion building challenge program. Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said in a conference call Thursday that according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates, the $2 billion federal piece could add some 35,000 jobs.
Photo: Flickr user jurvetson, CC 2.0
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I work in energy efficiency and in the last couple of year has created many jobs, reduced energy use (saving customers money), and allowed coal fire power plants to be shut down.. just to name a few benefits. One more benefit is the project often payback for any investment is within a few years and can eventually reduce expenses, making the overall payback in saving larger the investment by far!
Congress cannot give any agency or the President an open ended checkbook. Any financing authorization would have had a cash limit and require reauthorization. The Presidents own announcement said it would be payed for with the savings from utility funds. Meaning that money had already be allocated by Congress to pay operrational bills. Without an Act of Congress authorizing the reuse of such savings, operational funds cannot be reallocated by Presidental order for infrastructure projects. If they were already authorized by Congress to do such a program there would be no need for the Presidential order.
Congress authorized Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) to encourage federal agencies to become more energy-efficient and to reduce their energy costs. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT 1992) authorized Federal agencies to use private sector financing to implement energy conservation methods and energy efficiency technologies.
The U.S. Constitution demands that all spending originate in the House of Representatives. The last time I checked, the House was part of Congress. Once again, the current president is bypassing the Constituion... which is hardly news these days.
The program might have valid savings, but legally he should not be doing it by executive order. This is further proof of his poor leadership. If the numbers are as you state , this should be an easy sell in Congress. It could be passed in a week. But he cannot allocate money without Congresstional approval. You know, that whole checks and balances thing. It is a little thing called the CONSTITUTION. Try reading it.
...while the government press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/12/02/we-cant-wait-president-obama-announces-nearly-4-billion-investment-energ says 114,000 jobs will be created. Let's split the difference and say around 100,000 jobs will develop for the 4 billion dollar investment, or 40,000 per job. But wait a minute. The 20% resulting drop in commercial building energy use translates into a 40 billion dollar savings, which means that for each of the 100,000 jobs created, $40,000 dollars is saved in energy costs. Sounds like the program pays for itself to me--job well done!
How can the President incur debt and reallocate money without Congressional approval? That is unconstitutional. If the money was allocated by Congress for the pay the operating costs of a department the money cannot be reallocated to another use if there are savings found by any means. If shutting off the lights in empty rooms saves money the excess is supposed to be returned to the general fund at years end as a surplus. Futher more, paying the contractors after the fact is incuring debt without Congressional approval. Added to the improper use of funds to pay the contractors with savings that is supposed to be returned to the taxpayers I will call this plan what it is. A power grab by a wannabe despot.
There is no executive order. None required. Try doing some research before making such false declarations.
The Constitution is so last-century. Congress doesn't even bother with passing budgets anymore, so why shouldn't the President feel free to spend like a clueless teenager in the mall with mommy's credit card?
The Republicans in Congress would refuse to pass anything like that because they don't want to give Obama anything that looks good. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said [i]"the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."[/i]
Once the cost of the retrofits is payed off it saves money and energy for the life of the building. Or we could just keep paying the increasing cost of the energy bills.
...which has failed to produce a budget in how many years now? The Democrats refuse to produce a budget because a budget is a statement of priorities, and the Democrats do not wish to go on the record with a hard-copy of their real priorities before an election year dominated by Tea Party activism. Cowards.
...when it benefits their agenda. Sorry. They had total control of all 3 branches of government for 2 years. There is no excuse. They don't even propose a budget because they know it would be political suicide. And since few seem to care, why should they? They're getting most of what they want without one anyway.
With the ridiculous filibuster rules the Democrats in the Senate have almost no ability to pass anything without Republican cooperation. The Republicans are not cooperating.
...when you defend Obama's failures as mere extensions of Bush policy. How convenient. It's little different than the "Heads we're right - tails you're wrong" approach to climate science.
crony capitalism any more than you do but I temper my idealism with pragmatism. Nothing is ever going to be perfect Why not talk about the positive stories from the over $40 billion loan program that Solyndra participated in rather than focusing strictly on the failures? My disagreements with the Bush II administration has more to do with policy than any crony capitalism. If the policy is correct then the crony capitalism takes care of itself. And no, I'm not all that happy with Obama's policies either.
I reject crony capitalism and corrupt politics wherever I find it. It only seems to bother you when non-Progressives are responsible for it.
Mostly I'm saying it's typical Washington DC politics. The parties only matter a bit on who is getting the money. There's nothing about the Obama administration that stands out in this regard.
...as the basis for approving anything. But then again, perhaps not since the Obama Administration has pretty much expanded upon nearly everything the Bush Administration started. Perhaps that should be their campaign slogan for next year: Obama 2012 - Bush's 4th Term Either way, the fact remains. When the Bush people saw what a stinker of of a deal this was, they wisely differed. The Obama Administration blinded by both ideology and corruption reversed that decision. They own it.
if not for the Bush administration. (Replying to myself since I can't reply directly to you.) [i]Bush Administration Initiated Solyndra Loan Guarantee. At a September congressional hearing, former DOE official Jonathan Silver testified that the Bush administrations DOE selected 16 projects, including Solyndra, from 143 submissions to move forward in the loan guarantee process. During the final days of the Bush administration, the DOE loan guarantee credit committee, consisting of career officials, said that although the Solyndra project appears to have merit, the committee needed more information. The Bush administration developed a schedule for due diligence on the Solyndra project and in March 2009, the same credit committee of career officials recommended approval of the application. [Media Matters, 9/19/11][/i]
...however the Bush Administration passed on it. It was only approved [b]after[/b] the Obama Administration took over. An Obama fundraiser, Steven Spinner, took an advisory role at DOE and pushed for the loan to proceed, even as his wife's law firm advised on the same deal. (DOE and the couple deny any undue influence.) Earlier this year, DOE reworked the Solyndra loan guarantee as the company floundered and put private creditors ahead of taxpayers.
It's political theater to attack the Obama administration. Some Republicans on the investigating committee wrote the manager of the loan program requesting loans from it for projects in their districts. The Solyndra loan was in the pipes for two years during be Bush II administration before Obama took over. The program is still under the projected failure rate. Solyndra was doing ok until the Chinese produced a glut of cheaper solar PV products that they couldn't compete against. There's nothing wrong with their technology, it's just not the least expensive way to do it now.
A company that was predicted to fail almost to the day gets funded anyway by politicians who received funds from a principal. Solyndra is the poster child for the crony capitalism that has taken over America.
If you're referring to the Solyndra bankruptcy it's a made up crisis. Something the Republicans are trying to pillory the President with. The program that loaned the money to Solyndra budgeted for a 12% failure rate of the loans it made. The Solyndra bankruptcy is about 1.5% of the whole program.