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Grist: "Obscure-but-awesome energy law getting shivved by natural gas lobby"

2 min. read

Does this sounds like an "awesome" energy law to you, as it does to Grist's David Roberts and as it does to us?

Wouldn’t it be cool if we passed a rule mandating that all new federal buildings had to be carbon-neutral by 2030? The feds buy and build a lot of real estate. An effort to wring fossil-fuel energy out of those buildings — by increasing their efficiency and supplying them with renewables — would seriously bolster domestic markets for efficiency and distributed energy. Beyond that, it would serve as a proving ground and an example for the communities where those buildings are located. It would be galvanizing.


...We do have such a rule! It was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush! It’s on the books, the law of the land. Specifically, it is Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It says that new federal buildings, or major renovations ($2.5 million or more) of federal buildings, must reduce their consumption of fossil-fuel energy (relative to a similar building in 2003) 55 percent by 2010, 80 percent by 2020, and 100 percent by 2030...

Sounds like a win-win, in which taxpayers - that's you and me - save money, while also cutting pollution and enhancing the health and productivity of workers in those buildings. Who would possibly be against such a law? One guess.

On April 12, representatives from the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition(FPCC) met at the White House with administration officials from DOE, CEQ, and OMB. At that meeting they offered this issue brief[PDF], which called on Congress to “substantially modify or eliminate EISA section 433.” You can bet that issue brief hit all the relevant congressional offices as well.

Less than a month later, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) of the House Appropriations Committee offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that would “prohibit funding” to implement Section 433.

What is motivating this stealth attack on one of the few genuinely ambitious energy laws in the U.S.?

For the AGA, it’s pretty simple: no fossil fuel means no natural gas.

In other words, the fossil fuel industry once again is using its financial muscle and political power to keep their gravy train going as long as possible, even if it holds back our country. There's certainly nothing "awesome" about that.