Washington, D.C., May 14, 2008 – U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, made the following statement during today’s hearing titled, “Building Green, Saving Green: Constructing Sustainable and Energy-Efficient Buildings:”
“Today’s hearing on green buildings touches on many of the same issues the Select Committee examined during last week’s hearing on energy efficiency. For the most part, policy to promote green buildings is simply policy to promote efficiency in building construction, maintenance, and operations.
“There are several reasons to encourage more productive uses of energy. Improved efficiency gives us the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near term without enacting punishing regulations that would cripple our economy.
“According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings consume 40 percent of the energy used in the U.S. That’s more than both the industrial and transportation sectors. Buildings are responsible for 39 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions and 71 percent of electricity consumption.
“As Tony Stall, of Dryvit Systems, will tell us today, 80 percent of buildings constructed before 1960 are poorly insulated. Energy literally seeps through the walls of these buildings.
“It is clear that increasing energy efficiency in buildings should be a high priority in our energy policy. But it shouldn’t be just a government priority. With the potential savings in costs that these energy savings would create, I think many building owners will want to make these improvements.
“Mr. Stall says in his testimony that his company’s insulation product will help lower annual energy costs by 10 to 20 percent. The Green Building Council says that energy efficient buildings could generate up to a nine percent decrease in operating costs, a nearly eight percent increase in building values and more than a six percent increase in return on investment. Who wouldn’t want to reap those kinds of savings?
“Unfortunately for my good friends in the majority party, their legislation to date have not been where their words are. In the energy bill passed in the previous Congress, there were certain tax credits for energy improvements that many people around the country have taken advantage of.
“I am one of those that did that. I replaced the furnace in my Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin condominium and I have been able to recoup in just a year and a half the cost of an additional furnace. We have not had global warming in Wisconsin; we had the one of the coldest and snowiest winters in the last 30 years there.
“However, all of these credits expired at the end of last year. Nobody facing bad gas bills, bad electric bills or in the case of fuel oil, extremely bad fuel oil bills, have been able to do the type of work that has been given the tax credit because they don’t know whether the tax credit will be there when the time comes to file their 2008 tax returns.
“Now I’m told that the majority party is going to put an extender bill on the floor next week. I hope it’s not stuck with a lot of other things that don’t relate to energy and R & D tax credits, but the fact is that we’ve had almost five months slip by with no tax credits for doing these good things, and that is the responsibility of the majority party, and they ought to put their legislation where their hot air has been.
“Last week, I said that energy efficiency can produce great results when encouraged, but when mandated, these policies have the same effect as a tax. I think the same principle applies with policies to encourage green buildings.
“The amount of savings generated by energy efficient buildings should be encouragement enough for building owners to make these changes. I also think that the federal government can help through research and development funding and tax credits. Additionally, establishing industry standards will go a long way towards ensuring that buildings new and old are as energy efficient as possible.
“However, the government should not take it upon itself to begin issuing mandates for green buildings. For many, this will be a tax. Not only that, I certainly don’t have confidence that government regulators will mandate the best, most cost effective energy solutions. It’s not a stretch to think that these regulations will be much less efficient than the buildings they seek to manage.
“I think a mechanism already exists in the U.S. economy to encourage energy efficiency in buildings. The potential savings that green buildings create, coupled with the rising cost of energy, creates a compelling incentive for building owners to improve the efficiency of their structures.
“When it comes to efficiency, free market forces are far more efficient than regulations in turning buildings green. While regulations may make buildings more efficient, only free market forces can make both buildings and their owners’ wallets greener at the same time.”
# # # #