McCary: Plan before US Senate would create higher energy costs

August 1, 2013 



— At a time when Congress is looking to cut federal spending, the U.S. Senate is about to vote on a plan that would cost taxpayers more in wasted energy.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven, with the support of oil and gas producers, is proposing an amendment to an energy-efficiency bill that would eviscerate a tool that government agencies are using to make their buildings more energy efficient, reduce costs and promote innovation in building design.

Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act, signed into law in 2007 by President Bush, sets targets for cutting fossil-fuel use in new and renovated federal buildings. Sen. Hoeven’s amendment would repeal that rule.

As an architect, I am writing to say that is bad public policy.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that buildings use more energy than any industry sector — 48 percent of the total. More than 75 percent of all the electricity produced at U.S. power plants goes to operate buildings. As the owner and operator of millions of square feet of buildings — from courthouses to office buildings to VA hospitals and embassies abroad — the federal government spends $6 billion per year just to power these facilities. Shouldn’t officials make sure their buildings use as little energy as possible?

If that’s not enough numbers, consider this: The U.S. government ranks fourth on the Greenhouse 100 index, a ranking of U.S. industrial polluters based on emissions of the gases responsible for global climate change. According to a June report by the University of Massachusetts, the U.S. government produces 77 million tons — equivalent to the emissions of 15 million cars. The Senate will take a huge step backward if it votes to repeal Section 433 of EISA.

Ironically, the private sector increasingly recognizes the importance of innovative, energy-efficient design. Large corporations, from Starbucks to Target to Walgreens, are asking architects to design their properties to use less energy. They know it’s good for the bottom line.

Architects are prepared to lead the design of a more sustainable future. But we need the federal government to lead by example.

Luke McCary

President, S.C. Chapter, American Institute of Architects


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