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In Case You Missed It: Six 2020 Candidates Discuss Energy Efficiency

September 6, 2019

The 2020 presidential candidates aren’t pulling punches when it comes to energy waste and climate change. At CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall this past Wednesday, 10 Democratic candidates spoke out—and between the US Department of Energy rollback of energy efficiency standards for light bulbs, the pending challenges to vehicle fuel economy, and strategies to combat climate change, they had a lot to talk about.

But where do they stand on energy efficiency? If you didn’t have the stamina to watch the seven-hour marathon, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what six of the leading 2020 Democratic candidates had to say about efficiency’s role in a greener future, and in their potential administration.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said light bulb standards are a distraction from bigger issues.

[Light bulb standards] is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we're all talking about. They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws, and around your cheeseburgers. When 70% of the pollution of the carbon that we're throwing into the air comes from three industries [building, electric power, oil], and we can set our targets and say, by 2028, 2030, and 2035, no more. Think about that. Right there. Now, the other 30%, we still got to work on. Oh, no, we don't stop at 70%. But the point is, that's where we need to focus.

Andrew Yangan entrepreneur, spoke up against the DOE’s rollback.

We need lightbulbs that don't burn out. Because you know these lightbulbs are manufactured so that they intentionally burn out, so there's an industry and we replace them over and over again. Do you think that's good for the earth? Of course not. If anything, we should be pushing regulations that make it so that our lightbulbs consume less energy and need to be replaced less often.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Mich., cited energy efficiency’s bipartisan support and versatility across multiple sectors. She advocated for “strict building standards,” electric cars and trucks, and green infrastructure.

These are just numerous examples of what we can be doing [with] energy efficiency, which I agree is low-hanging fruit. You know why it's popular with the public? Whether it's increasing the gas mileage standards and then eventually moving to electric cars, or the building standards, or the appliance standards — it's popular because if people save money they really like it. … And then of course the ultimate way to push these energy efficiency ideas is by pricing carbon.

Former Vice President Joe Biden also supported electric vehicles.

We have to take combustion engine vehicles off the road as rapidly as we can, but that also can create a significant number of jobs and opportunities for people …-- I propose we have 500,000 charging stations in the new green economy. We should own, we should own the electric vehicle market. I think we should raise the CAFE [vehicle fuel economy] standards, bring them back to where they were which would have saved 12 billion gallons of oil to begin with and move beyond … But the bottom line is, [we should] set in place standards that cannot be walked away from when, in fact, the next president, if someone else comes along, does what Trump tries to do.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., said climate solutions need to be broad and include light bulb efficiency.

It’s not just moving to sustainable energies. It is also being much more efficient in terms of the energy that we use. So if you can get electricity from a light bulb that utilizes one-tenth of the power that an old incandescent lightbulb used, of course you're going to do that. Of course you're going to encourage that technology. In Vermont, we are making it as easy as possible, helping people buy those lightbulbs. And it is, in my community, in Burlington, Vermont, if I'm not mistaken, over the last many years, despite good economic growth, we are not using any more electricity than we did 10 years ago because we have put investments into energy efficiency,” he said.  “And so that's the direction we've got to go.

Former US Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, said he would bring back environmental regulations, including the light bulb standards.

[We need] higher vehicle emissions standards, a clean power plan, and [to] completely electrify this economy from our power sector to our transportation sector to our industrial sector.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said his city has pledged to live up to the commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement.

We have undertaken energy savings contracts to make our buildings more energy efficient, set up electric vehicle charging points so that we're modelling what needs to happen with the future of transportation. And we're doing it because we're living in a country where our national government has failed … We’re going to need more … old-fashioned building trade jobs to … do the retrofits to get the energy efficiency that we need.

Want to read more? You can find all the transcripts here.

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