By Rob Portman
This week, the United States Senate began to debate a bill I introduced called the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. This bill—the first major piece of energy legislation to come to the Senate floor in six years—is the next step in the all-of-the-above energy strategy we need to achieve energy independence.
We were reminded again over the past few weeks why that energy independence is so important. The Middle East, where much of our energy comes from, is often a volatile and unstable region. Since our economy depends on cheap, reliable sources of energy, disruptions in places like Syria have consequences far beyond their borders, often leading directly to an increase in the price of oil, with effects throughout markets of every kind.
We should not be held hostage to events happening a world away. Instead, we should find ways to produce more energy here at home, while practicing good stewardship of the resources we have. For instance, I have been a vocal proponent of domestic production. Technology has opened new areas to exploration, including the Marcellus and Utica Shale in Northeast and Eastern Ohio, which we should support. And I have advocated for common-sense, environmentally sound projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline. But I also believe there is room to improve in the area of energy efficiency.
That’s where the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) comes in. By encouraging smart, common-sense techniques that will not increase federal spending, we can help manufacturers to cut costs and conserve energy while also forcing the largest energy user in the world—the United States federal government—to tighten its belt and save taxpayer dollars.
The proposals contained in this bill are common-sense reforms that we’ve needed for a long time. ESIC doesn’t contain any mandates on the private sector. In fact, many of its proposals come as a direct result of conversations with people in the private sector about how we can help them become more energy efficient while also saving money that they can then reinvest in their businesses and communities.
This legislation helps manufacturers. It reforms the Advanced Manufacturing Office by providing clear guidance on its responsibilities, one of which is to help manufactures develop energy saving technology for their businesses. It instructs the Department of Energy to assist with onsite efficiency assessments for manufacturers. It facilitates the already existing efforts of companies around the country to implement cost-saving energy efficiency policies by streamlining the way government agencies in this arena work together. And it increases partnerships with national laboratories and energy service and technology providers to leverage private sector expertise towards energy efficiency goals.
This legislation also establishes university-based Building Training and Assessment Centers, modeled after existing Industrial Assessment Centers located around the country, including one in Dayton, Ohio. These centers will train the next generation of workers in energy-efficient commercial building design and operation. Not only will these programs save resources, but they will help provide our students and unemployed workers with the skills they need to compete in the growing energy field.
This legislation will save taxpayers money. It makes the largest energy user in the world—the United States federal government—practice what it preaches by requiring it to adopt energy saving techniques that make its operations more efficient and less wasteful. This bill directs DOE to issue recommendations that employ energy efficiency on everything from computer hardware to operation and maintenance processes, energy efficiency software, and power management tools. It also takes the common-sense step of allowing the General Services Administration to update building designs to meet efficiency standards that have been developed since those designs were finalized. The government has been looking for places to tighten its belt; energy efficiency is a good place to start.
Energy legislation can sometimes be controversial, as it can include provisions that hurt employers and restrict economic growth. This energy bill is different. This is a bill that helps to create jobs, not destroy them. It is a bill that is supported by more than 260 businesses, associations and advocacy groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Sierra Club, the Alliance to Save Energy, and the United States Chamber of Commerce. According to a recent study of our legislation, by 2030, ESIC will save consumers $13.7 billion a year in reduced energy costs by 2030.
All this adds up to a piece of legislation that Americans across the spectrum can support. This bill makes good environmental sense. It makes good energy sense. And it makes good economic sense, too.
I look forward to seeing it become law.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.