Letter Supporting Legislation to Stimulate Economic Activity and Spur Job Growth by Investing in Energy Efficiency and New Technologies, and by Providing Access to the Nation's Energy Reserves
January 14, 2009
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, applauds Congress for considering legislation to stimulate economic activity and spur job growth. A great deal of the nation's economic recovery will depend on the availability of long-term, reliable supplies of affordable energy and the wise use of that energy. Therefore, energy must be a large part of any stimulus legislation.
The Chamber believes that Congress can stimulate the economy and provide energy security quickly by investing in energy efficiency and new technologies, and by providing access to the nation's energy reserves. In addition, Congress should enact regulatory changes to ensure that public and private infrastructure projects are brought on-line quickly. Specifically:
I. Promote Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy.
- Direct federal agencies to put out bids to modernize the energy systems in federal buildings under the Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) program. The existing ESPC program, established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), allows the Department of Energy (DOE) to contract with private sector companies, who then retrofit federal buildings to make them more efficient. These private sector contractors are paid by the federal government from the energy savings achieved by these buildings over the life of the improvement. Therefore, no federal authorizations or appropriations are needed and the private sector takes the risk. DOE recently expanded its list of qualified contractors who can bid on federal projects, which would result in an estimated $80 billion dollars of energy efficiency improvements at federal facilities, all without one penny of up-front federal funds or the need for federal appropriations. The ESPC program is a sound, cost-effective policy that can immediately create jobs and make federal buildings more energy efficient without one penny of appropriated money.
- Fully fund and implement the energy efficiency and technology provisions contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) and EISA, expand incentives for energy-efficient home improvements (such as Energy Star), and create incentives for water conservation home improvements. EPAct and EISA contain over 130 energy efficiency and technology programs which, if given the chance, would help jump-start America's economy. For instance, the Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative, authorized by EISA, would transform commercial buildings to use net-zero energy through a broad-based public/private partnership to develop and disseminate technologies, practices and policies. The Energy and Environmental Block Grant program, also authorized by EISA, would provide money for state and local governments to invest in energy efficiency and low carbon power generation in buildings. The Alliance to Save Energy estimates that funding grants for energy efficiency investments in state and local facilities would create roughly 24,000 jobs.
- Allow a ten-year carryback of 2008 and 2009 production tax credits for all low-emissions energy technologies so that qualifying facilities may apply credits not used to offset current tax liability against prior losses. Under this proposal, the cumulative amount of production tax credits for any year that may be carried back would be limited to the amount charged to capital accounts in 2009 with respect to qualifying new facilities placed in service in 2009.
II. Provide Access to Existing Energy Resources and Expand Existing Energy Infrastructure.
- Encourage the Minerals Management Service to begin leasing newly-available offshore oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and more importantly, resist efforts to re-impose a moratorium on exploration in those areas. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that development of these now-available OCS areas could yield as much as $1.3 trillion in royalties to the federal government and create more than 75,000 new jobs. This $1.3 trillion in royalties would help defer the cost of the economic stimulus efforts being authorized to jump-start our economy. Add to this the fact that these areas contain approximately 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 85 billion barrels of oil—enough natural gas to heat all residential homes for 93 years, and enough oil to fuel 82 million cars for 35 years—and development of the OCS is an easy decision. Although oil prices have come down from their 2008 highs. Congress cannot afford to have a short memory on this issue.
- Fund and enhance programs to build new energy infrastructure projects, such as new electricity transmission lines and repairs to natural gas distribution systems. This includes expanded backstop siting authority under EPAct's National Interest Electricity Transmission Corridor (NIETC) program, and designation of additional NEITCs to allow for the transmission of energy from rural to urban areas. These new transmission lines would not only create thousands of jobs but would also provide needed electricity for economic development.
III. Provide Regulatory Certainty for Clean Energy Technologies.
- Streamline the permitting and interagency consultation requirements contained in the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and other environmental statutes for public and private infrastructure and clean energy projects undertaken pursuant to the stimulus package. The most significant threat to developing and deploying clean energy technologies is Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY), which unfortunately does not discriminate between projects or technologies. Therefore, if there is to be a commitment to clean energy, there must also be a commitment to moving these projects quickly to the marketplace. The Chamber does not suggest completely abrogating programs such as NEPA; rather, the permitting and appeals process must be streamlined and sped up, with enforceable deadlines and less opportunity for abuse.
The Chamber stands ready to work with Congress to help enact meaningful economic
R. Bruce Josten