Our nation must have a comprehensive energy policy that emphasizes conservation and a move to affordable renewable power sources.
I have worked diligently in Congress to promote a comprehensive energy policy that guarantees access to affordable power, encourages energy conservation efforts, and pursues increased use of environmentally responsible and renewable sources of energy. I believe we must harness Americans’ ingenuity and creativity to make the United States a world leader in new energy technology and move our nation toward energy independence.
Comprehensive Energy Solutions
Our nation needs a comprehensive energy strategy that includes the development of clean and renewable energy sources, as well as new initiatives to encourage conservation and energy efficiency in order to protect hard working families and small business from skyrocketing oil and gas prices. While big oil companies pull in record profits, our consumers are paying the price.
I am a founding member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) and currently serve as Energy Task Force chair. SEEC was established to advocate for policies including clean energy innovation and job creation, environmental protection, and policies that will address global climate change. (For more information on SEEC and the Coalition’s efforts to pursue clean energy policies, please visit our website.) As a member of SEEC, I joined 26 colleagues in highlighting specific clean energy and energy efficiency incentives, many of which were extended in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
These tools will help move us towards energy independence, strengthen national security, stabilize the economy, lower energy prices and begin to combat global warming. Just as the United States rallied around President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon, so too must our nation harness its creativity and ambition to create new technologies that help us achieve energy independence. Small businesses have already taken on this challenge, and I am proud of the many Rhode Island companies leading the way with innovative solutions to best meet the energy needs of local communities.
I am also committed to providing opportunities and assistance to help our small business community continue contributing to this important sector of our economy. Through strategic collaborations with my colleagues in Congress, advocates, industry leaders and government officials, we will create an atmosphere where small business can flourish throughout Rhode Island and our entire nation.
In addition to developing new sources of power, we must also promote energy conservation efforts. A slight increase in the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards of automobiles, light trucks, and sport utility vehicles can drastically reduce our nation’s consumption of oil. Energy efficiency programs such as CAFE have the potential to save the U.S. economy $130 billion annually. The 2025 CAFE standards of 54.5 mpg will result in consumer savings comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by $1 per gallon. I also supported a funding increase for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which can assist homeowners in reducing their energy costs by more than $413 in one year.
We have the tools to make our buildings more energy efficient as well, but they are often viewed by developers as not being cost-effective. In turn, high energy costs are often incurred by property owners or renters, creating a significant disconnect between developers and users. To address this, I have introduced the Building Efficiently Act, which provides incentives for energy efficient construction and renovations. The bill will not only help bridge the disconnect between developers and end-users, it will create jobs in Rhode Island’s construction sector and decrease energy use and pollution for our consumers and businesses. If we empower Americans to make energy efficient choices, we can take a critical step towards energy independence.
High energy prices affect all of us, but are particularly troublesome for low-income households and some senior citizens, who may be forced to sacrifice certain necessities to pay for higher energy bills. To address this serious situation, I have consistently urged increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This program provides much-needed assistance to low-income households in paying their energy bills. Additionally, I have cosponsored legislation that would give the federal government greater authority to investigate and prosecute companies that engage in price gouging.
Leading by Example on Conservation and Efficiency
Congress must lead by example. Accordingly, I continue to support efforts to increase research, development, and implementation of energy efficiency technology across the nation. I was proud to partner with the Green the Capitol Program to reduce energy consumption in my D.C. office, before the program was terminated by the Republican Majority. In 2010, the Architect of the Capitol, working closely with Green the Capitol, installed 30,000 energy-efficient light fixtures, and converted 2,700 bathroom fixtures to automatic, low-flow units. These upgrades helped to achieve a 23.3 percent reduction in water consumption in the House Office Buildings. In addition to these efforts, Congress’s energy reduction programs have yielded great results. In Fiscal Year 2010, we reduced energy consumption by 17 percent. Despite the program’s regrettable termination, I continue to take small but significant steps in my personal office to reduce my carbon footprint and save taxpayer dollars on energy expenses.