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Senators Reach across the Aisle to Create Jobs and Reduce Emissions
In confidence that success inspires more of the same, let’s take a moment to celebrate a model of bipartisan leadership that we saw in the Senate yesterday morning when Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) reintroduced their Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC). While pursuit of environmental progress on Capitol Hill currently requires navigating the hurdles of deep-rooted division, there are certain areas of agreement that rise to the surface. Yesterday, these two lawmakers took a step toward capitalizing on two goals that both parties are comfortable with: improving America’s energy efficiency and creating jobs in the process.
Though energy efficiency advocates may face a bit of a steeper slope in the House, another bipartisan duo started the climb yesterday. Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT) submitted similar legislation as well.
The Senate bill, S.761, carries the same extensive support that it did last year, though it reflects a trip back to the drawing board to rework a few points of contention that ultimately blocked its enactment. Now, the bill’s low-cost, mutually beneficial qualities have attracted the approval of more than 200 organizations. The bill works in three key areas (buildings, manufacturers, and the Federal government), and outlines financing strategies with which to meet its goals. It includes a plan to plant the seeds for sustaining its vision, by establishing university-based training programs to ensure that those entering the workforce will be equipped with current and progressive skill sets.
By incentivizing the transition to more efficient manufacturing technologies—a process that itself will create jobs in the short-term—companies will see energy cost savings that they can use to grow their businesses and hire long-term employees. On another note of mass appeal, its requirements of the Federal government to retrofit its systems and address inefficiencies in its buildings and vehicle fleets, this legislation would ultimately save tax dollars from leaking through the cracks of outdated infrastructure.
Both Senators credit economics for their bill’s bipartisan popularity. Senator Shaheen states simply that: “The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use. That’s why energy efficiency is something we can all support.” Introducing this bill urges their colleagues to act on the obvious in a Congressional climate that offers few opportunities for doing so, as was the central message of Senator Portman’s press release yesterday:
“We don’t often get legislation that brings Republicans, Democrats, business, labor and environmental leaders together, but with this bill we have. Energy efficiency is the fastest, most cost-efficient way to tackle our energy needs and keep our economy competitive all while creating needed and sustainable jobs. Passing this bill would be a clear and quick win for the economy, taxpayers and the environment.”
If enacted, the ESIC Act has the potential to do more than grasp the low-hanging fruit of energy policy. Rather, it strengthens a critical and politically useful argument that investing in energy-saving technologies pays for itself. It reduces emissions that are polluting our water and our air and endangering wildlife. And it gives us all something to shake hands on. Every step forward makes our leap of comprehensive climate policy more attainable. The National Wildlife Federation applauds two Senators willing to orchestrate one of those steps. May it inspire many more.