With the election approaching and the parameters of the race becoming clearer, I thought now is a good time to reflect on the implications of this election for energy efficiency.
Following the election, control in Washington is likely to be split—neither party is likely to have a free hand. As of this writing, the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog gives the Democrats an 88% chance of retaining control of the Senate based on the latest polls as well as historic patterns in each state. They don’t provide odds for the House of Representatives but chances are very high that the Republicans will retain control. And then there’s the Presidency, which as of this writing FiveThirtyEight rates as a 70% chance Obama will win and a 30% chance Romney will win. In other words, the odds are very strong that we will continue to have split control of the federal government.
Given this likelihood, the $64,000 question is whether the current partisan standoff will continue. We do expect a few big “package deals” regarding the budget, debt ceiling, and perhaps tax reform. In addition, a farm bill may happen in 2013 and a transportation bill in 2014, as both of these are “must pass” bills with broad support. Beyond these items the outlook is very unclear—only time will tell if anything else moves forward.
Given this outlook, ACEEE will be working on budget, tax reform, agriculture, and transportation issues in the coming year. We also expect to spend significant time educating new members of Congress and the Administration on energy efficiency issues (in a Romney Administration everyone will be new, but even in an Obama Administration some new faces are likely). In addition, as always, we will work with our friends in Congress to advance other bipartisan energy efficiency proposals.
There are also likely to be a fair number of administrative actions under either President Obama or a President Romney, suggesting that there will be much work to be done with the executive branch, regardless of who is elected. President Obama has been very supportive of energy efficiency, a case in point being his recent fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles. Governor Romney’s plans for energy efficiency are less clear—his current platform emphasizes energy supply, and although he has said he opposes fuel efficiency standards, he was supportive of a variety of energy efficiency initiatives while governor of Massachusetts.
While policy opportunities at the federal level are unclear, states continue to make great strides, with bipartisan support for energy efficiency. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin attended the rollout of ACEEE’s 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard and stated: “Energy inefficiency wastes natural resources and tax dollars that could otherwise be used for essential services like education, transportation, and public safety.” She particularly noted efficiency programs by her state’s utilities, state tax incentives for more energy-efficient construction, and a state plan to achieve 20 percent energy savings by 2020 among all state agencies and entities. In response to the State Scorecard statements on the importance of energy efficiency were also made by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. For example, Governor Bryant at his recent energy summit pledged to update commercial building codes in the state, initiate an energy efficiency market program analysis, and lead by example by better managing state government energy use. Other recent examples of state progress include new energy-saving targets established for Missouri’s largest utility, “quick start” programs now being developed in Louisiana, and increased savings targets in Oregon and several New England states. In the past year, 13 states updated the energy sections of their building codes, as did multiple municipalities in an additional four states.
The bottom line—states are leading the way. We hope that after the election Washington will follow their lead and learn how to get things done on energy efficiency.