Green Jobs Briefing Draws Huge Crowd on the Hill
On October 22, EESI and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy held the Green Jobs: Re-energizing the American Economy briefing in conjunction with the House Climate Change Caucus. With the economy in its current state, job creation is a hot topic, evident by the standing-room-only crowd of 180 attendees.
The panel of experts explained that investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy can help address two of our most pressing problems: the economic crisis and climate change. One of the reports presented at the briefing found that investing $100 billion into a green economic recovery program can create two million jobs in two years. This is possible because renewable energy jobs are more labor-intensive than those in the fossil fuel industries, meaning more jobs are created by investing in renewable energy industries than in fossil fuel industries. The jobs created will also be higher paying jobs. Video and presentations from the briefing are available here.
In addition to organizing the briefing, EESI released an updated version of its green jobs factsheet Jobs from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, available here. EESI is dedicated to developing policy that will promote the expansion of green jobs and will continue to focus on the topic when the 111th Congress takes office.
Coalition Unveils Plan for Next Transportation Bill
EESI has been actively engaged in building and strengthening the “Transportation for America” coalition which includes a broad range of transportation, energy, community development, business, labor, environment, housing, and public health interests. In early October, the coalition introduced its “Build for America” plan that outlines a strategic redirection of federal transportation policy. The coalition is focused on authorization of the next multi-year transportation bill, which Congress will be addressing in 2009. “The next transportation bill must also be a climate bill,” says Jan Mueller of EESI’s Transportation and Energy Program. The current transportation law expires in September of 2009.
The “Transportation for America” campaign has four key priorities: investing in a world-class rail and transit system that competes with other leading nations; accountability measures to ensure Americans receive performance from their tax dollars; repairing existing highways, bridges, and transit infrastructure and keeping them in a state of good repair; and integrating transportation with the development needs of local communities. EESI is working to address the nation’s critical transportation issues, particularly the role of the transportation sector in meeting energy security and greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Energy Technologies Featured on Capitol Hill
Reps. Udall and Wamp
On July 31, EESI and other members of the Sustainable Energy Coalition hosted the 11th annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Forum in conjunction with the U.S. House and Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucuses. More than 40 sustainable energy businesses, industry trade associations, government agencies, and policy research organizations set up exhibits to showcase the current status and near-term potential of a cross-section of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and programs.
The focus of this year’s EXPO was on the role that sustainable energy technologies are ready to play in addressing volatile conventional energy prices, increased reliance on energy imports, job loss, the negative impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental and public health problems that come from using fossil fuels.
Several Members of Congress assembled at the Expo for a morning news conference to show their support of renewable energy and energy efficiency including Co-Chair of the Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), Co-Chairs of the House Caucus Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Rep. Inslee took the opportunity to announce his introduction of the U.S. Climate Action Now Act, which would improve the energy efficiency of buildings and help connect renewable energy sources to the grid.
An afternoon panel featured James Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and currently with Booz Allen Hamilton, Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, Lars Hansen of Novozymes North America, and David Sandalow, author of Freedom from Oil. The discussion focused on the national security implications of our dependence on imported oil and the future outlook for biofuels and plug-in electric vehicles. Woolsey challenged the audience to "do to oil what we did for salt," noting that once refrigeration technology was widely implemented, salt was no longer a strategic commodity that gave exporting nations power over others.
EESI Launches New Website
Over the summer, EESI staff worked hard to revamp our online information, which culminated with the launch of our brand new website in October. The new eesi.org uses a content management system (CMS), making it easier for EESI to organize and cross-reference environment, energy, and policy information in a user-friendly way. A new search function (in the upper right part of the screen) also makes information easy to find. We continue to add more content every week, so be sure to visit us often!
EESI and APA Create Database for Planners
EESI's joint project with the American Planning Association (APA), Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future, made great strides this summer, accumulating and preparing over 100 entries for the searchable database of energy and climate change resources. The database and other elements of the project are intended to help practicing planners integrate energy and climate issues into their ongoing work. The database will be available later this year at www.planning.org/energy. Recommended resources can still be submitted to planning[at] eesi.org. Resources of interest include management tools, existing plans, case studies, research papers and technologies of potential interest to planners, energy experts and other practitioners.
The project was strengthened with the launch of the new EESI and APA websites. EESI’s updated Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future webpage, www.eesi.org/apa, offers users considerably more functionality with additional features to come, including the Planners Energy and Climate Network (PECN). PECN is an online forum to share information and experiences on climate and energy resources. The project team is looking forward to opportunities for growth in the coming months as the project nears the end of its second year. EESI is continuing its promotion of the project with an upcoming presentation at the Eco Build National Conference in December and the impending release of a Planners Advisory Service (PAS) memo, an abbreviated version of the upcoming planners’ energy and climate best practices guide.
Congress Extends Energy Tax Credits
In October, Congress passed the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,” which contained a group of measures that extended the expiring alternative energy tax credits. The extension has been a top policy priority for EESI, the renewable energy industry, and various other environmental groups. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the extension of these clean renewable energy tax incentives "will create and save half a million good-paying jobs in America immediately." Below are some highlights:
• A one-year extension of production tax credit (PTC) for wind and refined coal facilities through January 1, 2010
• A two-year PTC extension for energy produced from geothermal, biomass, and solar facilities
• Elimination of the $2,000 tax credit cap for residential solar electric installations
• Creation of a new tax credit for certain combined heat-and-power systems
• Provision of $800 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to help finance renewable energy projects
• Extension of a 50 percent first-year depreciation for cellulosic biomass ethanol plants to include any plant producing biofuels from cellulosic biomass sources
• Creation of a new tax credit for plug-in hybrid vehicles
• Extension of tax credits for builders of new energy-efficient homes through 2009
• Extension and increase of tax credits for energy efficient appliance manufacturers
• Extension of authority to issue bonds for qualified green building and sustainable design projects through 2011
New Congressional Caucus Advances High Performance Green Buildings
Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO) are spearheading the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus to provide an informal, bi-partisan forum for Members of Congress who share an interest in improving the U.S. building sector. In addition to the founders/co-chairs, Caucus membership currently includes Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Robert Brady (D-PA), Ben Chandler (D-KY), Bill Foster (D-IL), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Steve Kagen (D-WI), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), and Jerry McNerney (D-CA).
EESI is working with the Caucus and its private-sector counterpart, the High Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus Coalition, to raise awareness about the enormous impact that buildings have on every aspect of our lives, the economy, and the environment. Through briefings, "Dear Colleague" letters, legislation, and other means, the Caucus will share data and best practices to inform research and development investment, standards, energy policy, climate policy, emergency housing procurement, and other legislative actions.
Green building is one of the easiest, fastest, cheapest and enduring climate mitigation strategies. Buildings use more than 40 percent of total energy and are responsible for more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. For new and existing buildings, efficient insulation, windows, lighting, appliances and other "low-hanging fruit" have an immediate return on investment in the form of reduced demand on our country's energy resources and lower monthly energy bills for homeowners and businesses. “Green” buildings have a light impact on the environment (sustainable site design can also restore ecosystems), save energy, conserve water and other natural resources, provide healthful indoor air quality, and generate power on site from renewable energy sources. "High performance" design seeks to meet these design objectives and more, including cost effectiveness, safety and security, accessibility, functionality, productivity, aesthetics and sometimes historic preservation through a holistic, integrated, "whole building" approach. The Coalition has organized three Congressional briefings since September and is planning more for the 111th Congress.
The first Caucus briefing on June 18 featured the release of a report to Congress and the U.S. Department of Energy (as required by Sec. 914 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005) on the assessment and development of voluntary standards for high performance building design. More than 100 building industry organizations participated in this effort, led by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). The second briefing was on September 10 – High Performance Buildings: Operating After Disasters, and the third briefing on October 21 addressed High Performance Green Schools and legislation passed by the House earlier this year.
EESI collaborated with the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council and the U.S. Green Building Council to organize and conduct the schools briefing on behalf of the Caucus and Coalition. Presenters showed how school districts can save $100,000 and more annually by reducing their energy demand, minimize sickness and absenteeism by ensuring superior indoor air quality (particularly in classrooms), and boost student achievement by incorporating natural lighting, high-quality acoustics and other strategies into the building design. Presentations are posted at www.eesi.org. For more information about the High Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus and Coalition, please visit www.hpbccc.com.
Achievements in Sustainable Biomass
EESI’s Sustainable Biomass and Energy Program has been very busy over the last several months. We have continued to focus our efforts on ensuring that renewable biomass lives up to its potential as a sustainable form of clean energy and as an important tool for good stewardship of agricultural lands, forests, and other ecosystems. Increasingly, the issue of sustainability is taking center stage in discussions regarding biofuels and bioenergy. And rightfully so. For biomass to be part of a truly sustainable energy economy, it is essential that feedstocks are produced in ways that make meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, protect soil resources, conserve water, improve biodiversity, and contribute positively to local economies and social goods. EESI has played an important role in these discussions, bringing valuable information and expertise to Congress and other key players.
We are especially proud to have contributed the cover article for the July/August issue of Solar Today. In this piece we explored the climate, land use and sustainability implications of biofuels, with a strong focus on how we might improve the performance and environmental benefits of the next generation of renewable fuels. The piece was mentioned in a number of publications and generated a number of requests for additional information. One reader called it "…one of the most balanced views on this subject."
EESI was also asked to testify at several Congressional hearings. At a July 24 hearing before the House Agriculture Committee regarding implementation of the national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), Senior Policy Associate Jetta Wong discussed the narrow definition of 'renewable biomass' included in the RFS and its implication for the use of woody biomass from sustainable forestry. In her testimony, Jetta contended that the definition will likely rule out a great deal of this important feedstock and could very well hamper the realization of a cellulosic biofuels industry in the United States. Furthermore, this definition will do little to promote sustainable forestry, and may actually act as a disincentive to a number of stewardship activities. Our testimony was well received and we were invited to speak at a field hearing that the Senate Agriculture Committee held in Rapid City, South Dakota on August 18. Although unable to attend the hearing in person, EESI submitted written testimony for the record.
Finally, a major project nearing completion is a policy guide entitled Advancing Commercial Scale Production of Low Carbon Biofuels: State level policy options that improve local economies and environments. Every region of the country has the potential to develop its own low carbon biofuel industry, using biomass feedstocks from farms, forests, urban areas, and/or open spaces. EESI worked with an Advisory Committee of biofuel, biomass, and state policy experts from around the country to develop ten policy recommendations for states looking to develop their own low carbon biofuel industries, which will in turn help the nation meet the ambitious targets of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard – 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. The guidebook will be published by the end of 2008, and EESI will conduct an outreach campaign to distribute the information to state governments and other stakeholders.
BCO Celebrates 50th Issue
Our BCO: Bioenergy, Climate Protection, Oil Reduction newsletter celebrated its 50th issue this September. The newsletter began in 1999 as ECO, with a focus on ethanol, but has since expanded to include the latest research, commercialization, and policy updates on all types of bioenergy. Recent feature articles have included Rising Demand for Wood Pellets and Stoves, The Connection between Climate Change and Extreme Weather, Update on the 'Food vs. Fuel' Debate, and Green Energy from Fats, Oils, and Grease. What new feedstocks and technologies will be developed next? What innovative state and federal policies are moving this industry forward? Sign up for a free subscription at www.eesi.org/newsletters to stay informed!
EESI Speaks at Berlin Meeting
On October 8, EESI’s Amy Sauer traveled to Berlin, Germany to speak at the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s international conference, Greening the Economy: Sustainable Economy in Europe and the USA. The conference was a chance for the United States and the European Union, especially Germany, to share ideas and strategies regarding the “going green” movement. Amy said “the conference was a great opportunity to see how Europe's current efforts to create a more 'green' economy compare to those in the United States.”
Amy discussed various US efforts to reduce emissions and transition to clean, renewable energy sources in her presentation, Environmental Pioneering in the International Context: The United States. She also discussed the expanding research and development of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric cars and hybrids occurring in the United States. She also clarified the various differences in policy proposals offered by each of the presidential candidates in regards to energy and environmental issues.
One difference that Amy noted while at the conference was that policies in the European Union tend to be implemented in a “top-down” manner where individual nations follow the lead of the EU, whereas in the United States, policies are often created and “tested” on the state level before the federal government adopts them. Since the United States is perceived to have moved slowly on climate issues, many of the European attendees did not realize all the actions individual states have taken to reduce emissions and improve the environment. They were impressed at the advances being made by states to use renewable energy technologies. Overall, Amy felt that “there's great potential for these types of partnerships between the US and the EU, and I think we can only benefit from more events like these.”
Protecting School Children from Diesel Exhaust
EESI has partnered with the Utah Clean Cities program to develop and disseminate an educational curriculum to help reduce the health and environmental impacts associated with unnecessary idling of school buses. Aimed at school bus operators and other school officials, the curriculum provides practical information on how idle reduction can significantly reduce health risks for schoolchildren, air pollution and fuel consumption – saving money for beleaguered school districts.
The curriculum has been developed and field-tested in six school districts in Utah and Nevada. EESI is working with numerous school-related organizations and through our own clean transportation network to increase awareness about the availability of the curriculum and its potential benefits. For more information about idle reduction for school buses, see the EESI fact sheet, Clean and Green School Buses, available here.
EESI Receives Top Charity Rating for Third Consecutive Year
For the third consecutive year, EESI was rewarded with the highest rating of 4-stars for its sound fiscal management by Charity Navigator — an independent organization that evaluates the financial health of charity organizations. We are extremely proud to have once again received this high rating. It indicates that EESI exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities working in the field of environmental protection and conservation. Only 10 percent of charities in America have been awarded 4-stars for three consecutive years.
EESI will finish out 2008 with briefings on several important topics, including the hidden health costs of current federal transportation policy (December 3), results of USGS monitoring of drinking water quality around the country (December 5), and the potential of a carbon tax (December 9). Details on locations, times, and speakers will be posted at www.eesi.org/briefings as they become available.
Plans for the 111th Congress
EESI is preparing to work with the 111th Congress on developing innovative solutions to the urgent environmental, energy, and economic problems of our time. Beginning in January 2009, we will visit new Congressional offices to introduce them to our organization and our strategy for mitigating climate change, strengthening energy security, stimulating the economy, and creating jobs. EESI will organize a series of briefings to provide objective, up-to-date information on the basics of climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable communities, including buildings and transportation.
Amy Sauer Returns to EESI as a Policy Associate
Amy Sauer was hired this summer as EESI’s new Policy Associate in the Energy and Climate Program. Her work will focus on federal climate and energy legislation, issues such as federal energy subsidies for fossil fuels, key policies and technology developments for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Her responsibilities include publishing the weekly Climate Change News, helping plan and conduct Congressional briefings on climate and energy issues including “green” jobs and economic stimulus; closely tracking relevant energy legislation; and providing information on renewable energy opportunities to a Congressional audience.
Amy first joined the EESI team in 2007 as an intern, where she contributed to analyses of several large pieces of federal legislation including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Lieberman-Warner bill, which aimed to create the first U.S. cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Amy received a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a Master's degree in Secondary Education at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and recently received a Master's degree in Environmental Science at American University in Washington, DC.
Stories of Just a Few of Our Wonderful, Creative Donors
When Dan Gutman, author, speaker and all around good guy, compiled a book entitled “Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green,” he donated a sizable part of his advance to EESI “because of the fine work [we] do protecting our planet.” The book is a useful and creative compilation of ways kids of all ages can save energy, reduce waste and help the environment. It is available for pre-order from Random House and will be available at your local bookstore on March 24, 2009. He also will be donating any royalties from the sale of the book to environmental organizations.
A high school student in Minnesota, Erik Wadman, organized a benefit concert for EESI as a school project. Held at a local VFW, about 70 people attended the show and it was a great success.Please click here to subscribe to our e-mail list for event notices or newsletters.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 by a bipartisan Congressional Caucus dedicated to finding innovative environmental and energy solutions. EESI Update and our work on energy efficiency, renewable energy, agriculture, forestry, transportation, and urban planning issues are made possible through financial support from people like you. Your tax deductible contribution (EIN: 52-1268030) will help EESI develop innovative policy solutions for a healthy, secure, and sustainable future. For more information on supporting EESI, please click here or contact Susan Williams at (202) 662-1887 or swilliams [at] eesi.org.