Energy Policy

Alliance to Save Energy's Tate discusses future of Senate efficiency bill

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocking amendments to the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, what's next for the measure? During today's OnPoint, Elizabeth Tate, director of government relations at the Alliance to Save Energy, discusses the political challenges plaguing the efficiency bill.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Elizabeth Tate, director of government relations at the Alliance to Save Energy. Liz, thanks for coming on the show.

Elizabeth Tate: You're welcome. I'm happy to be here.

Monica Trauzzi: Liz, it appears the Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill has hit yet another snag. What's the latest you're hearing on its future?

Elizabeth Tate: Well, I think the rumors of its demise are largely exaggerated. I know that Shaheen and Portman and Senate leadership are working very hard to come to an agreement on the amendments, and I think those negotiations are active and ongoing. I know that a lot of the media reports have suggested that this has already failed. I think we are days away from that. I think there's a lot of conversation still to be had, and we remain very optimistic that this bill has a chance to see a vote.

Monica Trauzzi: And does it appear to you that there is a willingness to negotiate from both sides to get this to the finish line?

Elizabeth Tate: Absolutely, absolutely. I think the Republicans who co-sponsored the bill and other Republicans who really support energy efficiency are motivated to see a path forward as are the Democrats. One of the unique things about this bill is that everybody supports the underlying bill. Nobody's arguing with the goal of energy efficiency. It's all -- all of the problems are related to other energy issues, which largely stems from the fact that we haven't had an energy debate in seven years. So I think there really is a willingness to see this forward, and I think there's a willingness to move on this base bill.

Monica Trauzzi: Greenwire recently reported that Majority Leader Reid recently said he believed that the Koch brothers were involved in trying to get the measure to fail. Do you believe that to be true?

Elizabeth Tate: I don't know about that. I do know that some of the very conservative groups have been arguing against this. You know, they argue that if efficiency is so good, why don't businesses and families do it on their own? And to that we say that, you know, adoption of new technology and practices often takes a nudge from the federal government and it's absolutely appropriate for the federal government to be that leader to show the way forward.

Monica Trauzzi: What does the alliance support in terms of the types of measures that could be a part of this overall package if it moves through?

Elizabeth Tate: Well, we're very supportive of the entire package, you know, most specifically the base bill which has incentives for DOE to improve a model national building code. Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy we use in the United States, and that provision of the bill has the largest potential for savings. Also the SAVE Act, which was one of the amendments that were so-called baked in in the new version, that really brings energy efficiency savings to homeowners and homebuilders, and that really we think will move the market in residential energy savings.

Monica Trauzzi: So talking about the politics and the numbers here, are there enough Republicans to join Democrats in stopping a potential filibuster if we get to that point?

Elizabeth Tate: I think so. Those numbers are moving, and obviously everybody has their own position given what the amendment deal will ultimately look like. But as I said, we have a lot of Republican support for the base bill, so if there is a negotiated deal that people can be comfortable with, I think we have a lot of support.

Monica Trauzzi: So as you mentioned, the bill as it stands now has changed slightly from the one that was proposed a few years ago. There have been so many developments in the energy space during that time. Do you think the bill has kept pace with those developments?

Elizabeth Tate: Absolutely, and I think it was very good that they reintroduced this this year. They added 10 new provisions which really expand the goals of the bill from beyond just the federal sector and the building sector and the manufacturing sector to schools, to homes, to benchmarking, to commercial buildings. It really widened the scope, and I think it means that a large section of the economy will see the benefits of energy efficiency.

Monica Trauzzi: What happens to efforts on efficiency if this bill doesn't cross the finish line this time?

Elizabeth Tate: We keep going. There's so much interest in efficiency right now. What we're seeing on the House side -- the House passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act earlier this year, which was a portion of Shaheen-Portman. They're gearing up to introduce the SAVE Act. They're really excited about efficiency on that side of the Hill, so I think we just continue the charge. If it doesn't work this work period, that does not mean that it doesn't work this year or this Congress. I think we just keep going.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, lots of moving parts to keep watching. Thank you for coming on the show.

Elizabeth Tate: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

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

[End of Audio]



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