Energy Policy

Alliance to Save Energy's Callahan discusses future of Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill

Will the Senate's tight schedule and resistance to an amendment deal block the Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill from making its way to the floor this year? During today's OnPoint, Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, discusses the future of S. 1000, an energy efficiency bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. Kateri, thanks for coming back on the show.

Kateri Callahan: It's great to be here.

Monica Trauzzi: Kateri, energy efficiency would seemingly be an easy lift for Congress, but it's proving to be difficult. The Shaheen-Portman bill has bipartisan support, industry support. Why aren't we seeing it go anywhere?

Kateri Callahan: Well, it's not the energy efficiency bill. It's not Shaheen-Portman. As you said, it's got wide bipartisan support. Both of the sponsors feel that they could easily get the 60 votes if it could be brought to the floor. The problem is bringing a vehicle to the Senate floor, as you know, can invite some mischievous amendments and give an opportunity for more controversial energy policy to be brought forward. So that's what we're trying to work on right now, to convince the leadership on both sides, the minority and the majority leadership, to limit the number of amendments, let them, you know, go ahead and posture on some of the things that we don't think are probably going to be able to be - to gain the votes to go on the bill and let the bill go through. So, we're really pushing hard and we've got a lot of strong support. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce linking arms with NRDC, I mean there's strange bedfellows for you, and working with us to push at the leadership to schedule time on the floor. You know, you know how the legislative clock goes when we get this close to an election, so time is of the essence and we're just really putting a full-court press on right now to get the bill scheduled.

Monica Trauzzi: There are some supporters of the bill who have interests on some of these other controversial measures that you mentioned. Are they indirectly sort of getting in the way of moving this bill forward?

Kateri Callahan: I actually don't think so. In all the years - I've been promoting energy efficiency policy now for nine years and we have stronger support and more solid and vocal support from the business community than I think we've ever had in the past, because they see this as a way to move the country forward and don't think that there's much of a chance of other things moving. So, we've got them, you know, not only signing letters, but getting up at press conferences, calling Senators' offices themselves. We have over 250 businesses, organizations, nonprofits, faith-based groups, all coming together and working on this bill. And that's why we have some confidence that even in these very, very politically divisive times, we're going to get this bill to the finish line.

Monica Trauzzi: So, how does this bill affect industry? What are the key elements of it?

Kateri Callahan: Well, there are several key elements and I think that it's, the impacts are economy wide and are only on the good side. It's one of the reasons that conservatives, just like liberals, can come together on this bill. First of all, it makes the federal government more energy-efficient. And when you do that, of course, you're lowering the costs of the federal government for its energy use and that is a savings for taxpayers. So, A) you're saving taxpayers money. The second thing that you're doing is providing capital for industry, for commercial buildings to make the investment in energy efficiency. What does that do? That creates jobs, that lowers energy use and puts those savings back into the economy for more useful purposes. So, you're helping homeowners, you're helping businesses, you're saving taxpayers money. And then I think the other very, very important piece of this is all of this is being done without adding cost to the federal treasury, because the sponsors very smartly put in offsets. So it's not adding cost, it's saving taxpayers money and it's helping consumers and businesses save money. What's not to like about that?

Monica Trauzzi: So, what's the latest that you've heard from Leader Reid in terms of when this could come to the floor if it does?

Kateri Callahan: You know, he's, as you know, your organizations have been trying to get a comment from him on this and haven't gotten a public comment. We understand from Senator Shaheen and from the folks that we talked to there are a couple of things going on. One is the schedule is very, very crowded and bills, unfortunately, because of all the partisanship right now, are taking much longer to get on and off the floor than they typically would. So, we've got a crowded schedule and, again, we have to come to some agreement on limiting the number of amendments. So that if we can get this and assure the leadership that it's not going to take weeks to get through, but only a couple of days, then we've got game.

Monica Trauzzi: Are there other prospects for efficiency for the year or is it just this one, all your hope is for this one?

Kateri Callahan: Well, I think, you know, this vehicle has a lot in it, so it's enough really. I mean, you know, obviously, we'd like more, but this bill is, the ACEEE has indicated that it will create 80,000 jobs in this country by 2020 and 159,000 jobs by 2030. It will save tax, or save consumers and businesses $59 billion between now and 2030 in avoided energy costs. So it's got big impacts. It's going to avoid the CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 21 million cars off the road, so it's big. It's really important. So, we do have a lot banked there. It also would offer an opportunity, if it were brought up, to bring on some of the other legislation, most notably the appliance standards that have passed the house in a previous Congress that have been approved on a wide bipartisan vote in Senate energy. And when you couple those two pieces of legislation together, you're going to get a lot bigger impact and positive impacts on the economy and the American people. So, we think that this is, we're pinning our hopes on it. The other thing, Monica, that's important is there is actually companion legislation in the House and strong bipartisan support amongst some of the key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for moving that bill out of committee and onto the House floor. So, you know, it's not good enough just to pass the Senate, as you know, we have to have both sides of the Capitol engaged in this.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, it will be interesting to watch. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.

Kateri Callahan: Thank you.

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

[End of Audio]



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