Will support for efficiency hold in 2009?

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By Elisa Wood
December 18, 2008

The stars are aligned to make 2009 a good year for energy efficiency — or at least, most of the stars.

President-Elect Barack Obama has assembled an energy team that supports clean technologies. Most notably, Obama named Steven Chu as energy secretary on December 15. Chu is a Nobel Prize winner and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a leader in bringing energy efficiency technologies to market, such as the compact fluorescent light bulb. http://www.lbl.gov/

Obama also is in the process of putting together an economic recovery package that places high priority on energy, including investment in efficiency. The goal is to quickly create jobs by giving ‘shovel-ready’ projects a boost in the sluggish economy. Efficiency projects more easily qualify as ‘shovel-ready’ — set for quick development – than most energy undertakings. Efficiency measures rarely require the kind of time-consuming permitting, engineering and financing of power plant or transmission construction.

So what star is out of place in the sky? The star that governs oil prices. It costs far less to fill up the gas tank now than it did last summer. That is a good thing. The problem is that the US consumer tends to be short-sighted. If gasoline is cheap today, who cares about tomorrow? Energy efficiency falls out of favor.

Joe Loper, senior vice president for the Alliance to Save Energy, warned about this “cycle of complacency” in testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources December 10. Loper recommended $15 billion in economic stimulus money for energy efficiency to keep the nation’s energy goals on track. Investing in efficiency will not only create jobs, but also will foster continued use of technologies that have already proven their worth. “A silent partner” in meeting the nation’s energy needs, efficiency has reduced America’s energy bill and related carbon emissions by 50% since 1973, he said.

Obama, himself, is worried that declining gas prices may erode support for his aggressive energy agenda. He told Time magazine that lower oil prices make “the politics of it tougher than it might have been six months ago.” http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/the_president-elect_on_his_goals_and_agenda_in_a_time_of_crisis/

We’ll see in the next several weeks if support continues for an overhaul of the nation’s energy portfolio, or if the public follows the wrong star in the sky.

Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. The Frazier
    Auto and Economic Recovery Plan

    As an observer of the economic recovery efforts currently underway I must say I have not heard a single plan that seems to be working. We have funded banks that are not loaning money. We have a scared populace that won’t borrow money we have looming layoffs and worsening conditions. Not to mention the denial by executives getting bonuses and out right fraud that is being exposed by the failing markets. So here is the “Frazier Plan”

    I was ordering a Coupon to get my Digital TV converter for my analog set and realized this program could be the answer. Briefly the government is giving me a $40.00 coupon to purchase a $50 to $60 converter box. Then it occurred to me the government could do the same thing with autos. Think about it. Here is how I see this idea working in an auto environment.

    First rule the car must be built in the US.
    Second Rule the car must be rated at 30 MPG Hwy
    Third it can not cost more than $17,000.

    Each card carrying tax payer that is a US citizen could apply on line for a coupon valued at $8,000 to $12,000.

    The difference in the purchase price of the auto would be paid by the coupon holder, for example 20% of the purchase price.

    This brings in the rest of the private sector to start the economy moving.

    This plan does not prop up the auto makers waiting on the economy to turn around. What they need is sales. The proposed loans to the auto makers does not help the rest of the industry if no one is buying cars, and what about dealers, suppliers, shippers and lenders. The auto industry is large enough to completely jump start the economy.

    The tax payer is funding the whole thing anyway so why not let the tax payer be the principal beneficiary?

    GM has three models that qualify
    Ford has three models
    Chrysler has one
    Toyota has three

    Customers would visit their local show room to order the car they want. They can upgrade with their own cash as long as the car meets the mileage requirement.

    I estimate it will cost about 700 billion dollars. It will leverage another 700 billion in private money.

    It will reduce oil imports by about 1/3. So what are we waiting for? Send this on to your friends and to your congressman.

    The Frazier Plan

    Ed Frazier Author