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Can “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” Save the World?

  April 22, 2022


By Greg Zimmerman


Electrifying buildings should be a huge priority for facility managers for many reasons. The main one is that by using renewably produced electricity to heat buildings instead of carbon spewing natural gas, electrification can quite literally save the world from climate change. 

But a recent campaign to highlight the importance of electrifying buildings can also help save the world in another way. Noted environmentalist Bill McKibbon has started a campaign called Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom. The goal is to get the Biden Administration to enact the Defense Production Act to have companies build heat pumps to send to Europeans for free or at a very reduced cost. McKibbon draws a parallel between his idea and the World War II-era Lead-Lease program. The idea is that with enough European heat pumps in place, Europe could effectively cut off the spigot of Russian natural gas. 

The benefits for the U.S. would be many, as well, McKibben argues. Not only would production on such a mass scale stimulate the U.S. economy, it would also accelerate the growth of the use of heat pumps and the electrification of buildings here, which has the overarching benefit of slowing climate change. 

McKibbon’s idea is nothing if not inventive. According to the Washington Post, it’s caught the attention of the Biden Administration, which is “studying” the idea. In early March, 200 environmental organizations sent a letter to President Biden urging him to adopt the idea. And in late March, five senators sent a similar letter to Biden expressing support for Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom. 

Still, adoption is a longshot. But as McKibbon says, “We’ve got to do all that we can do—this is as dark a moment as we’ve faced in many ways, with the specter of nuclear conflict and the climate crisis mixing in truly horrifying fashion.” 

He continues: “We can do this. Biden could make good on some of his energy promises and some of his manufacturing promises; we could peacefully punch Putin in the kidneys, doing him severe damage without raising the odds of nuclear war; and we could even start to head off the instability and war that will invariably accompany the climate crisis.” 

Greg Zimmerman is editor, FacilitiesNet.com and Building Operating Management. 

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