Energy Efficiency:

Bipartisan Policy Center's Kruger discusses future of Senate bill

As the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee moves forward with an energy efficiency measure this week, what could final passage of an efficiency bill mean more broadly for the future of energy policy? During today's OnPoint, Joe Kruger, director for energy and environment at the Bipartisan Policy Center, discusses the symbolic importance of the legislation. He also talks about the technological hurdles that exist in reaching some of the goals outlined in the measure.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Joe Kruger, director for energy and environment at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Joe, it's great to have you here.

Joe Kruger: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Joe, we're anticipating a mark-up this year, this week on the reintroduced "Shaheen-Portman Efficiency Bill." What are your expectations for the mark-up, and how telling is that going to be in terms of the overall prospects for this bill?

Joe Kruger: Well, I think this bill has broad support. It has bipartisan support, over 200 organizations, including companies. Organizations as diverse as the U.S. Chamber to NRDC are supporting it. So I wouldn't expect to see a lot of controversy. I think there will probably be some smaller amendments that people will introduce. But I hope to see that this thing will be charting a good path, and that it'll come out and will go forward in the Senate.

Monica Trauzzi: How advanced is the bill in terms of what the U.S. could actually be doing on efficiency? I mean, is this sort of the next generation efficiency bill that some folks have been talking about?

Joe Kruger: Well, I think it's a fairly modest set of proposals, but very constructive proposals, and common sense. I think the two senators involved in cosponsoring it really wanted to get as broad support as possible, and so one, the by, sort of the bylaw of it was no new mandates and no big pots of money for spending on programs. But what they did was put together a lot of kind of good, constructive programs that build on existing efforts in the federal government, and tweak a variety of things in ways that are very constructive, and I think will make a difference.

Monica Trauzzi: How much assistance does industry actually require in sort of getting certain technologies online in order to improve efficiency? Is this where DOE really needs to be stepping in?

Joe Kruger: Yeah. And I think there are some provisions that really provide a lot of technical assistance and sharing of data, and sharing of good practices with industry. And I think it's, there are some gaps in information, and I think that's really what DOE's main role is in this.

Monica Trauzzi: Are there technological hurdles that still exist in terms of reaching some of the goals that are laid out in the bill? Or are most of the hurdles on the financial side?

Joe Kruger: I think, I think both. I think financing is always an issue, and capital is tight, and, you know, ways that can sort of ease financing and sort of creative approaches, and the bill does have some things for commercial and residential buildings that tries to leverage private financing in some interesting ways. There's R&D that's necessary as well. There's not, this is not so much an R&D bill, but really, it looks at financing, and it looks at technical assistance.

Monica Trauzzi: I know BPC has introduced its own set of recommendations on efficiency. How does the bill compare to those recommendations?

Joe Kruger: I think it's very similar in spirit to what we did. We also wanted to look for things that could get bipartisan support, that didn't require a lot of new funding. We had a couple of differences. We sort of pushed efficiency standards, and accelerating the pace of efficiency standards in a couple of areas. But I think overall, things like pushing building codes and technical assistance and sort of public-private cooperation with industry to improve competitiveness, that was all in our set of recommendations as well.

Monica Trauzzi: So is it a sure thing that this bill will pass? I mean, I know nothing's ever a sure thing in Washington. Or are there potential roadblocks that you see coming down the line?

Joe Kruger: I don't know of any specific potential roadblocks. As you say, it's never a sure thing. What I would say is this will be a good test case for Congress, because I think nobody believes that there'll be some big, comprehensive energy bill, but we think there can be some discrete proposals, and we'll see how this goes, but I think this hopefully will bode well for other sort of discrete efforts on energy legislation.

Monica Trauzzi: OK. We'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.

Joe Kruger: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]