The Dernogalizer

August 20, 2010

Weekly Mulch: Green Daydreams? A Clean Gulf, Energy Efficiency, and More

Filed under: energy,environment — Matt Dernoga @ 9:14 pm
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Below is a free cross-post from the Weekly Mulch, enjoy!

Weekly Mulch: Green Daydreams? A Clean Gulf, Energy Efficiency, and More

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) took Obama administration officials to task for encouraging Americans to believe that the majority of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had dispersed.

“People want to believe that everything is OK and I think this report and the way it is being discussed is giving many people a false sense of confidence regarding the state of the Gulf,” Markey said.

Belief, after all, is powerful force. As coal baron Don Blankenship says, “You have to have your own beliefs, your own core beliefs, your own strengths and do what you think is right. You can’t do what others believe is right, you have to do what you believe is right.”

But what if your beliefs, even those backed up by science, are wrong? If you believed government officials who reported the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had dispersed—wrong. If you believed McDonald’s or Sara Lee really was helping save the planet—wrong. (Does anyone actually believe that one?) And if you believed you were conserving tons of energy by flicking off the light switches when you left the room—wrong again!

Gullible Greens

Wait, what? Yes, it turns out that environmentally friendly folk don’t know how little energy they save by line-drying clothes, recycling bottles, or turning off the lights, Mother JonesKevin Drum writes. Don’t worry! Those activities still conserve energy. Just not as much as you might have thought.

Drum’s evidence comes from a study that asked people to estimate the amount of energy they were saving by engaging in a given activity. Green-minded people tended to miss the mark on how much energy certain activities conserved. Perhaps they want to believe their conservation activities have a more dramatic impact, the studies’ authors suggested.

There’s a kicker, though. “The most accurate perceptions about energy use, it seems, are held by numerate, conservative homeowners who don’t bother trying to save energy,” Drum writes. Ouch. Apparently, knowing how much energy they’ll save, conservatives decide it’s not worth it to even try.

“A green-tinged fog”

But perhaps energy conservationists aren’t to blame for their own confusion. After all, as Anna Lappé writes at Yes! Magazine, corporations increasingly are using green messaging to sell their products:

McDonald’s recently launched an “Endangered Species” Happy Meal, “to engage kids in a fun and informative way about protecting the environment,” explains project partner Conservation International…. Earlier this year, Sara Lee unleashed with much fanfare a new line of “Earth Grains” bread that promotes “innovative farming practices that promote sustainable land use” as part of what the company calls its “Plot to Save the Earth.”

Lappé calls the confusion created by these campaigns “a green-tinged fog” that consumers can get lost in. And in the same way that green advertising is increasing, tips for green living are proliferating, which could explain the confusion about which ones are actually useful.

Government spin

But for the government, there’s no excuse for spreading misinformation. For instance, earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report showing that most of the oil in the Gulf had either been collected or dispersed. Scientists questioned the report from the very first day of its release, and this week evidence is mounting that the report misrepresented the situation in the Gulf.

At the Washington Independent, Andrew Restuccia writes that a group of scientists in Georgia have released a report countermanding the claims of the government’s study, and that other scientists have found a 21-mile smear of oil still in the Gulf.

Riki Ott reports at Chelsea Green on a more vivid argument against the Obama administration’s claims that the oil in the Gulf is no longer a problem:

Off Long Beach, Mississippi, on August 8, fisherman James “Catfish” Miller tied an oil absorbent pad onto a pole and lowered it 8-12 feet down into deceptively clear ocean water. When he pulled it up, the pad was soaked in oil, much to the startled amazement of his guests, including Dr. Timothy Davis with the Department of Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System. Repeated samples produced the same result.

How’d it happen?

So what is the government’s excuse? Right now, NOAA is standing by its analysis, Restuccia reports. Bill Lehr, a senior scientist with the agency, said yesterday that NOAA will release more documentation supporting its claims in two months.

“I assure you it will bore everybody except those of us that do oil spill science,” he said, according to Restuccia.

But as Ott explains, part of the government’s issue is the standard they’re using to evaluate the fate of the oil to begin with:

The problem is the ‘rigorous safety standards’ are outdated. The protocol relies on visual oil. What of the underwater plumes? The chart produced by NOAA last week shows, in effect, that over 50 percent of the oil (not to mention dispersant) is still in the water column as dispersed or dissolved oil. Scientists have found that the oil-dispersant mixture is getting into the foodweb.

In other words, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And in this case, what NOAA believes is less important than the scientific facts on the ground. To deal with the oil spilled in the Gulf, NOAA and its partners might have to admit that they were wrong.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

May 6, 2010

House Passes Homestar

Now if only the Senate could pass something worthwhile.  Yesterday I posted that Homestar was going to be up for a vote today.  It passed with mostly Democratic support, and Republicans managed screw it up a little bit.  Below is the AP article by Jim Abrams

Home renovators alert: House passes Caulkers bill

WASHINGTON — Homeowners could collect thousands of dollars in Cash for Caulkers rebates for renovating their homes with better insulation and energy-saving windows and doors under a new economic stimulus bill the House passed Thursday.

The Home Star bill, passed 246-161, would authorize $5.7 billion over two years for a program that supporters — mostly Democrats — said would have the added benefits of invigorating the slumping construction industry and making the earth a little cleaner.

“Home Star is that solid investment that’s going to achieve that hat trick of energy savings for the homeowner, of moving toward a cleaner environment and of creating jobs here at home,” said bill sponsor Peter Welch, D-Vt.

Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the bill, and they were able to attach a condition that it would be terminated if Democrats do not come up with a way to pay for it.

The measure has come to be dubbed Cash for Caulkers, a takeoff on the popular 2009 Cash for Clunkers initiative that rewarded people for replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with more fuel-efficient models.

President Barack Obama has promoted the bill, which also needs Senate approval.

The initiative is separate from an energy tax credit of up to $1,500 that was included in last year’s economic stimulus act. That credit for energy efficiency improvements runs through the end of this year.

Supporters estimate that 3 million households would make use of the new program, saving $9.2 billion in energy costs over a 10-year period. They said it would create 168,000 jobs, mainly in the recession-hit construction industry.

“Nearly one in four workers in the home construction and services industry has been laid off,” said Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. “Passing Home Star says, ‘Help is on the way.'”

Republicans were more skeptical, saying the price tag was too high at a time of mounting federal debts.

“We are going to authorize $6.6 billion of money we don’t have so we can caulk homes?” asked House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

“This is not a terribly bad bill, but it has one fatal flaw: It is not paid for,” said Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, top Republican on the energy committee. Democrats argued that the issue of paying for the legislation will come later in the budgetary process, when Congress approves annual spending bills.

Republicans succeeded at the end of the debate in altering the bill to say it will be terminated if it is found to drive up the federal deficit, a provision that will force Democrats to come up with an offset. The Republicans also were able to alter the legislation so that the rebates would go directly to homeowners. In the original version, homeowners were to receive a discount or rebate from a retailer or contractor, who then would apply for payment from the government.

Waxman said Republicans picked up Democratic votes for that final GOP motion — 178 of 245 voting Democrats backed it — by including several “gimmicks” that could be used against lawmakers in future elections, such as a provision that contractors in the program must ensure that they don’t have sexual predators on their payroll. He said some of the GOP-backed changes would be dealt with when the House and Senate work out a final version.

In debate on the bill, Republicans questioned whether the government can run the rebate program fairly and effectively. They said a $4.7 billion weatherization program that was part of last year’s economic stimulus act has been slow to provide grants to states.

The Cash for Clunkers program, too, had some problems. An Associated Press study last November found that the program was commonly used by people turning in old pickups for new trucks that got only marginally better gas mileage.

Under Home Star, rebates or discounts would be provided to homeowners at the time of sale. The retailer or contractor then would submit documentation to a processing office which would verify the information and forward the request to the Energy Department for payment.

To prevent fraud, the program would require licensing for all participating contractors and a certain percentage of projects would be inspected.

The bill has two parts: The Silver Star program provides upfront rebates of up to $3,000 for specific energy-efficient improvements in homes, such as installing energy-efficient appliances or duct sealing, insulation or new windows or doors.

A Gold Star program would entitle people to up to $8,000 when they conduct comprehensive energy audits and implement measures that reduce energy use throughout their homes by more than 20 percent.

The bill has the backing of a wide spectrum of environmental and business groups.

“There is strong evidence that temporary, targeted incentive programs like Home Star can generate jobs, investment and economic growth,” National Association of Manufacturers president John Engler said at a hearing in March.

With House passage, the bill moves to the Senate, where it most likely will be attached to the next jobs bill.

The legislation also would approve $600 million over two years for grants to states for programs to replace mobile homes with more energy efficient models.

The original bill included $6 billion for the rebate program plus the $600 million for the state grants. The Republicans were able to remove $324 million targeted for a Home Star loan program.

The bill is H.R. 5019.

May 5, 2010

Support Homestar Legislation

Filed under: energy,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:19 pm
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I just got an e-mail from Green For All about energy efficiency legislation called Homestar which will be voted on tomorrow.  Below is the e-mail, and if you want even more background on Homestar, check out this fantastic info sheet by Efficiency First.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Urgent: Home Star vote!

Tell your Representative to Pass Home Star!

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will vote on the Home Star bill (H.R. 5019).  We urgently need your help to get it passed!

If you haven’t heard about Home Star yet, listen up.  The fast-acting program will create new jobs in energy-efficiency, cut pollution, and lower energy bills.

Please call your Representative now and tell them to pass Home Star.

(Our simple call tool makes it easy).

Home Star will create an estimated 168,000 jobs, save Americans $9.5 billion on energy bills over ten years, and reduce pollution and global warming. It will do all this by providing rebates to homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient.

Please act now!  Tell your Representative to pass Home Star!

Our communities desperately need jobs, and Home Star will help create them.  It is a critical step towards building the kind of clean energy economy we need to lift people out of poverty, spur on sustainable growth, and end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

Thank you for taking action.

Jessy Tolkan
Political Director
Green For All

April 21, 2010

Maryland’s $20 million Dolllar Earth Day Grant

Filed under: energy,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:22 pm
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I just posted that for Earth Day, the Obama Administration will be releasing $452 million dollars of authorized stimulus funding on a “retrofit ramp-up.  Maryland was one of the recipients, we got a whopping $20 million dollars in funding.  So where is that money going?  Here’s the summary from the White House’s press release…

State of Maryland ($20 Million): The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) “Investment in Main Street: Energy Efficiency for Economic Growth” strategy proposes a holistic, community-based approach to target individual households, multifamily rental properties, and commercial properties for energy-efficiency retrofits.  The project includes a state-wide bulk purchasing program for supplies and equipment that will lower overall costs.  Maryland will also focus on multi-family and small business retrofits that will result in significant, measurable reductions in energy consumption.

A look at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) website gives us a more detailed look at how this money will be spent.

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 21, 2010) – Governor Martin O’Malley today applauded an announcement by Vice President Joe Biden that Maryland and 24 other communities around the nation will receive $452 million in Recovery Act funding to expand energy efficiency building retrofit programs. The State’s award of $20 million will support the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) plan, “Investment in Main Street: Energy Efficiency for Economic Growth.” This strategy is a holistic, community-based approach to target individual households, multifamily rental properties, and commercial properties for energy-efficiency retrofits.

“This increased investment means the creation of up to 5,400 jobs to benefit Maryland’s economy as well the significant impact of helping 4,000 families who own or rent homes,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “This initiative also assists small businesses and communities to save money and energy by improving energy efficiency in their workplaces. More importantly, this will stimulate private investment which will ensure the sustainability of these programs and help expand Maryland’s burgeoning green workforce.”

In addition to the $452 million Recovery Act investment, the 25 projects announced today will leverage an estimated $2.8 billion dollars from the private sector over the next 3 years to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the country.

The Retrofit Ramp-Up projects, which are part of the overall $80 billion Recovery Act investment in clean energy and energy-efficiency, complement the Obama Administration’s ‘Recovery through Retrofit’ initiative, which lays the groundwork for a self-sustaining and robust home energy efficiency industry. The awards are the competitive portion of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program, which was funded for the first time under the Recovery Act to help state, local, and tribal communities make strategic investments in improving energy efficiency, reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions.

In addition to the focus on homeowners and rental and commercial properties, Maryland’s plan includes a state-wide bulk purchasing program for supplies and equipment that will lower overall costs. The initiative also will highlight multi-family and small business retrofits that will result in significant, measurable reductions in energy consumption.

Projected outcomes detailed in DHCD’s initial proposal include:

  • $20 million in DOE funds to leverage more than five times that amount in other funds. Efforts will be focused in target communities where the following outcomes for homeowners, renters and small business owners are anticipated.
  • An estimated 2,000 homeowners will benefit from energy efficiency retrofits of their homes in first 3 years.
  • Twenty buildings comprising approximately 2,000 affordable rental units will benefit from energy efficiency retrofits.
  • A projected 900 historic commercial properties will benefit from energy audits and low-interest retrofit financing in concert with DHCD’s Neighborhood BusinessWorks program.
  • Based on the initial application, DHCD projected the creation of 2,100 jobs in the first three years, with an increase of up to 5,400 jobs within six years.
  • The establishment of sustainable financing resources for homeowners, rental properties and commercial properties.
  • The creation of a Statewide Energy Efficiency Purchasing Cooperative to maximize purchasing power for retrofits.
  • Providing funding for affordable housing, energy retrofit and energy efficiency. This not only supports families who are on a limited income but relieves financial burdens on property owners and developers of affordable housing.
  • Funding also will be used to implement targeted outreach, compliance and educational efforts for the implementation of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Codes (IECC), recently adopted in Maryland and required for local jurisdictions by July 2010.

The targeted communities were selected by weighing what would benefit the greatest number of Marylanders, taking into consideration those areas that have not yet received an allocation of EECBG funding. The selected areas are all in communities where there is significant leveraging and partnership activity. Each area is a Main Street Maryland community, has numerous multifamily developments and is a target area for other funds through DHCD.

Targeted communities include:

Berlin (Worcester County)
Cambridge (Dorchester County)
Chestertown (Kent County)
Cumberland (Allegany County)
Denton (Caroline County)
Easton (Talbot County)
Elkton (Cecil County)
Frostburg (Allegany County)
Oakland (Garrett County)
Princess Anne (Somerset County)
Dundalk (Baltimore County)
Westminster (Carroll County)
Havre de Grace (Harford County)
Salisbury (Wicomico County)
Takoma Park (Montgomery County)

“DHCD remains committed to helping Maryland’s communities remain viable and vibrant,” said DHCD Secretary Raymond A. Skinner. “It means giving resources to help residents improve their homes, supporting small businesses so they can thrive and providing tools to community groups to enhance their town landmarks and commercial hubs.”

Vice President Biden Kicks Off Five Days of Earth Day Activities with Announcement of Major New Energy Efficiency Effort

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:05 pm
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See press release: here

Washington, D.C. – Vice President Biden will today kick off five days of Administration events around the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with the announcement of the selection of 25 communities for up to $452 million in Recovery Act funding to “ramp-up” energy efficiency building retrofits.  Under the Department of Energy’s Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative, communities, governments, private sector companies and non-profit organizations will work together on pioneering and innovative programs for concentrated and broad-based retrofits of neighborhoods and towns – and eventually entire states.  These partnerships will support large-scale retrofits and make energy efficiency accessible to hundreds of thousands of homeowners and businesses.  The models created through this program are expected to save households and businesses about a $100 million annually in utility bills, while leveraging private sector resources, to create what funding recipients estimate at about 30,000 jobs across the country during the next three years.

“For forty years, Earth Day has focused on transforming the way we use energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuel – but this year, because of the historic clean energy investments in the Recovery Act, we’re poised to make greater strides than ever in building a nationwide clean energy economy,” said Vice President Biden.  “This investment in some of the most innovative energy-efficiency projects across the country will not only help homeowners and businesses make cost-cutting retrofit improvements, but also create jobs right here in America.”

“This initiative will help overcome the barriers to making energy efficiency easy and accessible to all – inconvenience, lack of information, and lack of financing,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, we will make our communities more energy efficient and help families save money.  At the same time, we’ll create thousands of jobs and strengthen our economy.”

In addition to the $452 million Recovery Act investment, the 25 projects announced today will leverage an estimated $2.8 billion from other sources over the next 3 years to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the country.  Overall, the program funding was eight times oversubscribed, with more than $3.5 billion in applications received for the just over $450 million in Recovery Act funds available, indicating significant demand for investment in energy-saving and job-creating projects like these nationwide.

Grantees will employ innovative financing models to make these savings accessible, for example by offering low and no-interest loans that are repaid through property tax and utility bills.  In implementing these projects, grantees will deliver verified energy savings and incorporate sustainable business models, to ensure that buildings will continue to be retrofitted after Recovery Act funds are spent.  The Department will use the lessons learned from these pilot programs to develop best-practice guides to comprehensive retrofit programs that can be adopted and implemented by other communities across the country.

The Retrofit Ramp-Up projects, which are part of the overall $80 billion Recovery Act investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, complement the Obama Administration’s ‘Recovery through Retrofit’ initiative, which lays the groundwork for a self-sustaining and robust home energy efficiency industry.  The awards are the competitive portion of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program, which was funded for the first time under the Recovery Act to help state, local, and tribal communities make strategic investments in improving energy efficiency, reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions.

Secretary Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, joined Vice President Biden today for the announcement, which was the first of more than two dozen events and activities Administration officials will participate in around Earth Day.  In addition to today’s event, the President will host an Earth Day reception with environmental leaders on Thursday, April 22nd, a video message from the President will air as part of events on the National Mall on Sunday, April 25th, and Administration officials will participate in educational programs with school children, visit wetland and coastal restoration projects and participate in community service projects as part of the President’s Earth Day call to action.  The events will highlight some of the ways the Administration is working to improve the environment, transform American infrastructure for greater energy-efficiency and build a clean energy economy that supports the jobs of the future.  As part of the events, Administration officials will also continue the push for Congress to act on HOME STAR legislation and comprehensive energy and climate change legislation.  A full roster of Administration Earth Day activities is below and more information on the President’s Earth Day call to action is available at www.WhiteHouse.gov/EarthDay.

Retrofit Ramp-Up Awards

The following governments and non-profit organizations have been selected for Retrofit Ramp-Up awards.  These projects are planned to begin in fall 2010.  Final award amounts are subject to negotiation:

Austin, Texas – $10 million
Boulder County, Colorado – $25 million
Camden, New Jersey – $5 million
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning – $25 million
Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, Ohio – $17 million
Greensboro, North Carolina – $5 million
Indianapolis, Indiana – $10 million
Kansas City, Missouri – $20 million
Los Angeles County, California – $30 million
Lowell, Massachusetts – $5 million
State of Maine – $30 million
State of Maryland – $20 million
State of Michigan – $30 million
State of Missouri – $5 million
Omaha, Nebraska – $10 million
State of New Hampshire – $10 million
New York State Research and Development Authority – $40 million
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – $25 million
Phoenix, Arizona – $25 million
Portland, Oregon – $20 million
San Antonio, Texas – $10 million
Seattle, Washington – $20 million
Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance – $20 million
Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Ohio – $15 million
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation  – $20 million
For more information on the selected projects, visit HERE.  A map of the selected projects is available HERE.

Retrofit By the Numbers

• Residential and commercial buildings consume 40 percent of the energy and represent 40 percent of the carbon emissions in the United States.  Building efficiency represents one of the easiest, most immediate and most cost effective ways to reduce carbon emissions and save money on energy bills while creating new jobs:

• Existing techniques and technologies in energy efficiency retrofitting can reduce energy use by up to 40 percent per home and lower total associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 160 million metric tons annually.

• Residential and commercial retrofits also have the potential to cut energy bills by $40 billion annually.

Administration Official Earth Day Events and Activities (more…)

April 11, 2010

Annapolis Botches Energy Efficiency, Again

Filed under: Energy/Climate,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:46 am
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I wrote last year that Governor O’Malley raided the state’s fund for energy efficiency, and diverted it to one-time checks for energy-assistance.  Here’s my view on the matter…

“I’m sure people have noticed their electricity bills have gone up a lot over the past few years. Imagine if there were two things the government could do with the money it has to address this problem. On one hand, they could write you a check for a couple hundred dollars(which is how much higher your bill is every month now…). This might be nice short-term relief, but that money will be gone fast, and you’ll be dealing with the same old electric bill the next month. On the other hand, the government could take the money and invest it in energy efficiency, reducing the size of your electric bill over time every SINGLE month. This is long term relief. While spending this money, we would also be creating jobs, addressing our energy shortage, and reducing pollution. This should be a very easy decision.”

Well, we’ve botched this again this year.  It was reported in the MD Daily Record by Danielle Ulman that the diversion of funds for this program has once again been extended, this time through 2012.  Meanwhile New York is using these funds to leverage $5 billion in energy efficiency investment.  Below is the story.  The title says it all…

RGGI funds get diverted to help some pay electric bills

Money meant for energy efficiency programs will instead go to help low- to moderate-income households pay their electric bills after lawmakers agreed to recommendations from the Department of Legislative Services Thursday.

The House of Delegates and the Senate disagreed last month on whether to funnel 50 percent of the money Maryland receives from selling carbon emissions allowances through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, to bill assistance in fiscal 2012. The House had rejected the measure, but budget conference committee members agreed to the Senate’s version of the budget.

RGGI’s purpose is to reduce the carbon emissions of power plants by requiring their owners to purchase carbon allowances based on the amount of pollution they emit. The number of allowances will be reduced over time.

Tommy Landers, a policy advocate with Environment Maryland, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the Legislature’s decision.

“It means that the General Assembly has sent the wrong message,” he said. “They decided against this common [sense] measure that does four things for Maryland — it puts Marylanders to work, it reduces consumption, it reduces stress on the grid and most importantly, it reduces people’s bills.”

Thursday’s decision allocates 50 percent of Maryland’s RGGI proceeds to low-income energy assistance and 17.5 percent for energy efficiency, conservation and programs to control customer electricity use on peak demand days. Residential rate relief has a 23 percent share of the money, clean energy and climate change programs get 6.5 percent and 3 percent goes to administration of the fund.

Originally, 17 percent of Maryland’s money went to bill assistance and 46 percent was supposed to go to energy efficiency. The rest went to residential rate relief, renewable and clean energy programs and fund administration.

Requests for bill assistance have risen as more people find themselves out of work, according to DLS. They said they expected requests to increase again in 2012.

Opponents of the move say energy assistance is important, but it does not help cut down on electricity use. The legislature similarly diverted RGGI money to help cover bills in fiscal 2010 and 2011, but the gap in home weatherization and energy efficiency funding was covered by federal stimulus money, which is expected to be gone before 2012.

“This fight is going to rear its head again next year, and we’ll be back,” Landers said.

Through March 2010, Maryland sold 41.7 million carbon allowances, and raised $113.3 million. It is second among 10 states in sales and proceeds, behind New York, which sold 79.2 million allowances and made $213.4 million.

March 14, 2010

Bipartisan Group of Senators and House Members backs Rural Energy Savings Program

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:22 am
Tags:

I got this a few days after the release, but this rural energy savings program (introduced by my new favorite Senator Jeff Merkley) compliments nicely with the Building Star and Home Star energy efficiency programs that have been unveiled.  Now can we pass one of these?  Press release below

March 10, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley introduced legislation today to create jobs and lower energy bills for families and small businesses in rural communities by promoting energy-saving home renovations.  The Rural Energy Savings Program would assist rural electric co-ops in offering “on-bill” financing to their customers, allowing families and businesses to repay the loan through savings on their monthly energy bill. Oregon has 18 electric co-ops serving communities across the state.

Original co-sponsors of the Rural Energy Savings Program include Senators Jeff Merkley, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D), and Michael Bennett (D-Colo.).  A companion bill in the House of Representatives was introduced by Representatives James Clyburn (D-S.C), Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and John Spratt (D-S.C.).

“For our rural communities to recover and thrive in the wake of the economic crisis, we need to put people back to work and lower families’ expenses, and the Rural Energy Savings Program does both,” Senator Merkley said.  “This program will help the families and businesses in rural areas who can’t afford the cost of a home or building renovation by offering them low-cost loans that they can repay out of the money they will save on their energy bills.”

“This bill provides for energy conservation, job creation and cost-effective upgrades that will improve consumers’ quality of life,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said.  “There is such broad support for this initiative because it is a win-win-win proposition.”

“Oregon electric cooperatives applaud Senator Merkley for his proposal to encourage energy efficiency and create jobs in our rural communities,” Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association Executive Director Ted Case said.
To borrow money to fund local energy-efficiency programs, individual co-ops or state-based groups of co-ops will apply to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) within the US Department of Agriculture.
The legislation has also received support from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

March 4, 2010

Merkley, Pryor Announce Energy-efficiency Renovations Program for Commercial Buildings

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 7:47 pm
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Below is a press release from Orgean Senator Jeff Merkley’s office about new building efficiency him and a colleague are introducing.

Merkley, Pryor Announce Energy-efficiency Renovations Program for Commercial

Buildings

“Building Star” Would Create Thousands of Jobs, Benefit Small Businesses, Lower Energy Bills

March 4, 2010


WASHINGTON, DC
– Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced legislation Thursday to create jobs by promoting the installation of energy-efficient renovations in commercial and multi-family residential buildings.  Merkley and Pryor were joined by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) as original co-sponsors of the “Building Star” legislation.

By utilizing rebates and low-interest loans, the “Building Star” program leverages between two and three dollars in private investment for every federal dollar spent.

“Clean energy is not only the next great growth industry, but it’s an engine for job creation today,” Senator Merkley said.  “Energy-efficiency programs like ‘Building Star’ will put Americans to work in construction and manufacturing and save small businesses money as we strive for American energy independence.”

“Buildings represent 40 percent of the energy used in the United States, and many have old equipment that waste energy and money,” Senator Pryor said. “Investing in energy efficiency retrofits for industrial, commercial, and multi-family buildings can drive economic recovery by saving small businesses money, spurring construction and manufacturing, and creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs across America.”

“We have the opportunity to create clean energy jobs and revitalize our economy while protecting the environment,” Senator Stabenow said.  “With this bill, we will be able to spur growth in Michigan’s hardest hit sectors, like construction and manufacturing, while saving families and small businesses across the country billions of dollars on energy bills.”

“Retrofitting businesses to reduce their energy usage isn’t just about protecting the environment and cutting energy costs – it’s about rebuilding our economy, too,” Senator Brown said. “Investments in energy efficiency retrofitting can spur economic growth in Ohio’s manufacturing sector and increase property values.  A national retrofitting agenda can generate billions of dollars in savings and hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”

“I strongly support efforts to move toward energy independence through increased energy efficiency, which reduces emissions while creating jobs,” Senator Sanders said.  “That’s why I support ways for states and local governments to help homeowners and businesses finance the upfront costs of energy-efficiency measures.”

In addition to rebates to reduce the cost of energy-saving measures such as high-efficiency heating and improved insulation, “Building Star” will also extend low-interest financing options to small businesses and other building owners.  Such financing arrangements help building owners with the upfront cost of a building renovation by letting them pay off the cost out of the savings on their energy bill.

“Building Star” is similar to “Home Star,” a parallel program put forward by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that offers energy-efficiency assistance to homeowners.  President Barack Obama announced his support Tuesday for the residential property “Home Star” program, including the financing options recommended by Senator Merkley.

“Building Star” would begin creating jobs immediately and is projected to create as many as 150,000 jobs in some of the economy’s hardest-hit sectors including construction, manufacturing, and distribution over the next two years.  In addition, “Building Star” is expected to save building owners more than $3 billion on their energy bills annually by reducing enough peak electricity demand to avoid the need for thirty-three 300-megawatt power plants. It will also reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change by 21 million metric tons, or the equivalent of nearly 4 million cars’ emissions each year, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“Senator Merkley’s Building Star proposal recognizes the role commercial building retrofits can play in providing immediate job creation while ensuring the nation’s existing buildings can fulfill their potential as energy efficient 21st century structures,” said Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Jared Blum.  “Commercial buildings retrofits are an essential part of any Congressional effort to chart an effective course for the nation’s construction industry recovery program.”

“The Insulators Union is proud to support ‘Building Star,’ said International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Vice President Terry Lynch.  “Our Union is currently suffering over twenty percent unemployment.  ‘Building Star’ will create and preserve jobs for thousands of insulators and other workers, make commercial buildings more energy efficient and help jump start the construction job market.”

“Building Star is a cost-effective way to create thousands of American jobs by helping make commercial buildings more energy efficient,” said Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer.  “We offer our full support to Senator Merkley’s bill, which provides an innovative solution to the challenge of job creation.”

The financing components of “Building Star” and “Home Star” were first put forward when Merkley and Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the Consumer and Business Clean Energy Financing Act of 2009.

December 13, 2009

Cash for Caulkers should use Energy Efficiency Loan Fund Model

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:12 pm
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Back in September, I wrote about the the power of energy efficiency loan funds, and how they could be utilized by local and state governments to eliminate the barrier of upfront financing for energy efficiency improvements which often prevents them from happening.  When my student group UMD for Clean Energy was involved in our local city council elections this past fall, the priority policy of our platform was a low-interest energy efficiency loan fund.  We managed to elevate this to being an important issue in the elections, and our city council has made it a priority to push for tweaking a state law that would allow municipalities in Maryland to undertake this kind of a program.

Last week, President Obama announced that as part of his new jobs bill, a cash for caulkers program that puts people back to work by weatherizing houses, will be a key part of the legislation.  However, as Dave Roberts notes a Grist, right now “public statements from the administration have focused almost entirely on cash rebates, which would pay back homeowners up to half the cost of various retrofit investments. There’s a way to get far more bang for federal bucks, though, and it has to do  with financing

Simple rebates are better than nothing, but we want to implement the best practices possible that get the most bang for the buck.  That has proven to be energy efficiency loan funds that use public money to leverage private capital.  A good model is New York’s loan program that was passed back in September, which takes $112 million dollars in public funds, and leverages private capital for $5 billion dollars of energy efficiency loans, along with a little of the money being spent on green jobs training programs tied to the retrofits done because of the legislation.  It’s expected to create 16,000 new jobs.

Fortunately, US Senator Jeff Merkley has sent President Obama a letter suggesting that Cash for Caulkers shouldn’t use rebates, but loan guarantees

“I strongly believe that to achieve these [energy saving and job creating] goals, the program must include financing assistance for residential and commercial building owners who cannot afford the upfront cost of a home renovation but who could pay for it out of the savings they will see on their energy bill. Financing assistance can allow federal dollars to be leveraged substantially farther than a rebate program. For example, appropriating $2 billion for loan guarantees could allow $20-$40 billion in financing.”

Smart!  Senator Merkley would know something about this kind of a program.  In Portland Oregon, they have a similar program called Clean Energy Works, which Grist wrote about in October

“The program uses $2.5 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds the city received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as seed money to start a revolving loan fund that will enable Portland homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes at no up-front cost. The energy improvements that will be available to homeowners during the pilot phase of the program, which will cover 500 homes, include insulation, air sealing, duct sealing, and improvements to space heating and water heating systems.”

Let’s not just hope, but encourage President Obama and Congress to get the Cash for Caulkers program right.  If it works well, similar initiatives will emerge around the country, and in future Congresses.

December 8, 2009

New Cash for Caulkers Program Officially a Go!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:56 pm
Tags: ,

I wrote a few weeks ago that a “Cash for Caulkers” program was being considered as part of a jobs bill that the Obama Administration would push in early 2010.  Not only is Cash for Caulkers officially a centerpiece of the jobs bill, but so is clean energy investment.  Below is the entire article.

President Obama proposed a new program Tuesday that would reimburse homeowners for energy-efficient appliances and insulation, part of a broader plan to stimulate the economy.

The administration didn’t provide immediate details, but said it would work with Congress on crafting legislation. Steve Nadel, director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, who’s helping write the bill, said a homeowner could receive up to $12,000 in rebates.

The proposal is part of the President’s larger spending plan, which also includes money for small businesses, renewable energy manufacturing, and infrastructure.

We know energy efficiency “creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment,” Obama said. “With additional resources, in areas like advanced manufacturing of wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, we can help turn good ideas into good private-sector jobs.”

The program contains two parts: money for homeowners for efficiency projects, and money for companies in the renewable energy and efficiency space.

The plan will likely create a new program where private contractors conduct home energy audits, buy the necessary gear and install it, according to a staffer on the Senate Energy Committee and Nadel at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Big-ticket items like air conditioners, heating systems, washing machines, refrigerators, windows and insulation would likely be covered, Nadel said.

Consumers might be eligible for a 50% rebate on both the price of the equipment and the installation, up to $12,000, said Nadel. So far, there is no income restriction on who is eligible. That would mean a household could spend as much as $24,000 on upgrades and get half back.

Homes that take full advantage of the program could see their energy bills drop as much as 20%, he said. The program is expected to cost in the $10 billion range.

It’s not clear how the home efficiency plan would be administered – the government may issue rebates to consumers directly, homeowners might get a tax credit, or the program could be run via state agencies.

If consumers have to spend a lot of money up front to get the credit, it could throw a wrench in the works, David Kreutzer, an energy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told CNN.

“This will not be something that’s attractive to people who are having trouble already making their budget payments month to month or week to week,” he said.

To keep consumers from having to spend thousands of dollars before getting reimbursed, Nadel said, one idea is to have contractors or big box retailers pay part of the cost up front.

Fraud issues could also come up, Kreutzer said.

“Any program that is going to run through a third party and is going to distribute billions of dollars needs to have lots of checks and balances to make sure there’s not abuse,” he said.

Nadel noted that as a way to guard against fraud, contractors would have to be certified to participate.

Energy company boost

Obama’s new spending plan also calls for renewable energy companies to get additional support. That could come in the form of loan guarantees – basically, money the government uses to secure loans for startups.

In the original stimulus bill passed earlier this year, $6 billion was earmarked for such loan guarantees. But then lawmakers took away $2 billion to fund Cash for Clunkers – the popular program that paid people to turn in their old cars.

The $4 billion from the original bill has funded about $40 billion in loans, said the staffer on the Senate Energy Committee. Meanwhile, firms are hoping for another $4 billion in loan guarantees, since they have another $40 billion worth of projects that need funding.

A bill on energy efficiency reimbursements already has supporters in the Senate.

“Not only will [such legislation] increase our energy security and transform our energy infrastructure to a modern, clean and efficient one,” Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., wrote in a recent op-ed column in the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. “But it also will position the United States to lead in the development of clean energy technologies.”

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