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Creating consensus on comprehensive energy and climate legislation has been and continues to be a messy and slow process. To some, it makes more sense to take a smaller step and aim at passing energy-focused legislation.
Passing the surer bet of energy policy could also have the effect of keeping the ball rolling. Jason Hartke, director of advocacy and public policy, U.S. Green Building Council, says that USGBC strongly supports comprehensive climate change legislation. But he points out that the $80 billion in the stimulus bill designated for energy efficiency was the largest energy policy passed in the nation's history."So as a down payment, that move was extremely valuable to this move to a clean economy. And the important thing is to keep the momentum, to continue to act." In short, while comprehensive legislation is ideal, something might be better than nothing.
The leadership hasn't wanted to move on an energy-only bill because passage of such a measure would effectively kill the chances of any climate change bill for the foreseeable future, says Penafiel."From a strategy point of view, they're really still trying to get the climate bill instead of looking at a less controversial alternative," she says.
But comprehensive legislation can do things narrower bills can't. For one, there's setting a price on carbon."It seems clear that setting a price on carbon is important," says Bailey."A market-based approach seems to be fairly straightforward and would reward companies that can innovate to reduce their emissions. A legislative package that addressed energy but not climate would only really be answering part of the issue." A cap and trade program coupled with energy efficiency has a built-in mechanism to fund those initiatives.
The market is also looking for the clear signal and predictability that comprehensive climate and energy policy would create."If we have our utilities make their investments in plants that generate huge amounts of carbon dioxide, we'll be leading them to make very bad investment decisions," says Roy."And the utility sector knows that, which is why they've been a pretty good ally."
For instance, Edison Electric Institute, an association of electric companies, supported the House climate bill and is supporting the Kerry-Lieberman effort."Electric utilities know those investments have to be smart and that a carbon cap has to be part of that equation," Roy says.
Comprehensive policy can also help energy efficiency move deeper into the building stock, beyond the Class A properties."It will help all buildings, not just the ones that are well-run," says Jennifer Amann, director of the buildings program at American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy."A lot of times what we're doing with policy is making sure that everybody is doing what the leaders have been doing."
Time is Running Out
It's not just the upcoming midterm elections putting time pressure on getting comprehensive climate legislation passed. The clock is ticking loudly on promised EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses in the absence of legislation.
Starting this year, EPA already requires large emitters, those with more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, to begin registering with the agency and recently indicated it would start phasing in its jurisdiction under the Clean Air Act as of January 2011. Dan Bailey, energy analyst with Sieben Energy Associates, says it's preferable for Congress to come up with a solution instead."If EPA came out and mandated something, it would be all cost," he says.
Some bills in Congress aim to take away EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Some trade groups are likewise challenging EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. And the American Power Act itself contains language to limit EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
— Naomi Millán
Comprehensive Reform Will Affect Buildings Beyond Class A