ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 85 - 12/09/2010

California Votes Down Proposition 23, Efficiency Advocates Want Next Congress to Approve "Strong Policies"

Environmental advocates scored a victory in California when voters there defeated Proposition 23, a ballot initiative that would have suspended the state's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (A.B. 32). The law was designed to promote a reduction in building energy use, among other things, in an effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emission (GHG) levels in the state to 1990 levels by 2020.


The American Institute of Architects' California Council (AIACC) Nov. 5 reported that it "is pleased with the California voters' decision to reject Proposition 23 and not suspend the implementation of California's landmark greenhouse-gas-reduction law.


"Suspending AB 32 [would have been] the wrong direction for California to go. A.B. 32 has made California the nation's leader in green venture capital, which is leading to the development of technologies architects will use to make buildings more sustainable." Proposition 23 would have suspended key initiatives in the law until the unemployment rate reached 5.5 percent or below for four consecutive quarters.


AIACC pledged to "continue to work diligently in moving forward to support the development of sustainable buildings and communities."


AIACC represents the interests of more than 10,000 architects and allied professionals in California. Founded in 1944, AIACC's stated mission is to "support architects in their endeavor to improve the quality of life for all Californians by creating more livable communities, sustainable designs, and quality work environments." AIACC is the largest component of the national AIA organization.


EnerNOC Inc., a provider of energy-management applications that employs nearly 500 people, joined businesses, utilities, and civic, labor, and environmental organizations in opposition to Proposition 23.


"Where A.B. 32 set a course for reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency, Proposition 23 would reverse that course," EnerNOC President David Brewster said before the vote. "Our customers have told us repeatedly that by implementing energy-management strategies and GHG reduction initiatives, they have captured bottom-line savings that allow them to reinvest funds back into their core business and develop their workforce. Practical GHG emissions legislation will encourage investment in California's cleantech economy and stimulate significant job growth."


EnerNOC asserted that it has put millions of dollars back into the hands of its California customers through its comprehensive demand response application, DemandSMART, and its data-driven energy-efficiency application, SiteSMART. As of June 30, EnerNOC reported that it had more than 4,800 megawatts of demand response capacity under management and has saved its commercial, institutional, and industrial customers roughly $250 million since 2001.


When asked what estimates his firm can provide in support of its argument that A.B. 32 stimulates job creation, EnerNOC spokesperson Brian Bowen told Green Building Insider, "As one of the leading energy management companies in California, EnerNOC employs nearly 100 individuals across the state, not including an extensive network of subcontractors and suppliers. Since the beginning of the recession in October 2008, the firm has hired 260 individuals, more than 100 of whom filled newly created positions, demonstrating the high growth potential and long-term job creation that a commitment to clean energy technologies can deliver both within the state of California and nationwide."


On the flip side, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) lamented the defeat of Proposition 23.


"Proposition 23 was defeated because a sophisticated multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign falsely led Californians to believe they were voting to clean their air of pollutants that posed a danger to their health," NPRA President Charles Drevna said. "In fact, Proposition 23 would simply have temporarily postponed drastic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that are made up largely of carbon dioxide, the same substance humans and animals exhale after every breath we take. The postponement would have been in effect only until California's unemployment rate dropped to reasonable levels for a year.


"The defeat of Proposition 23 will hurt families across California by destroying jobs and raising the costs of gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity, and more. It is the wrong medicine at the wrong time for California's ailing economy, which suffered from a 12.4 percent unemployment rate in September that left 2.27 million men and women unable to find jobs they so desperately need.  


"The severe economic pain and hardship caused by the extreme mandates of [A.B. 32] will accomplish absolutely nothing positive in terms of climate change. They will result in the relocation of jobs and businesses from California to other states and other countries, along with the relocation of carbon emissions produced by those businesses and people. Since every state and nation on Earth share the same atmosphere, moving carbon from one location to another will not bring about any reduction in greenhouse gases."


ASE Seeks 'Strong' Energy-Efficiency Policies
In other election news, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) Nov. 3 expressed its intent to work with the next Congress to reduce energy use in buildings and other sources.


ASE congratulated returning and newly elected members of Congress and urged them to "work together to quickly enact strong energy-efficiency policies in response to the American people's pleas, as expressed in the run-up to the mid-term elections, for a 'back to basics' approach to national energy policy."


ASE stated that it will call upon the new Congress to embrace and quickly enact energy-efficiency policies that "curb waste, create good jobs, enhance national security, and, perhaps most importantly, in the current economy, cut energy costs for American consumers and businesses."


"Polls indicate that the American people want government to embrace policies that promote self-sufficiency and independence while leaving more money in their pockets, not taking more out," ASE President Kateri Callahan said. "While responding to these voter demands is a tall order for the new Congress, policies that drive energy efficiency into the U.S. economy answer this ‘win-win' policy demand perfectly.


"As a homegrown and abundant resource, energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest, cleanest way to meet our country's growing energy appetite," Callahan added. "Mining the energy-efficiency resource potential fully, however, requires a strong national policy framework that includes building energy codes and labeling, appliance and equipment standards, consumer and business incentives, and investment in research and development."


ASE asserted that "even while the debate over national climate policy has grown contentious and divisive, more and more Americans -- whether Republican or Democrat, Tea Partiers, or Liberals -- are agreeing on the importance of cutting waste out of our energy system in general and out of their own daily energy use in particular." 

Over the next few months, ASE said it will be seeking out both incumbent and newly elected lawmakers to lead a campaign for swift enactment of bipartisan legislation to advance energy efficiency as America's "first fuel of choice" for meeting the country's growing energy demands while preserving and enhancing its quality of life. 




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