ACEEE's Bill Prindle, Acting Executive Director, on Climate Change and Energy Independence: Transportation and Infrastructure Issues



Bill Prindle


In the transportation sector, fuel economy policies must be used to reduce the growth in fuel use; but the demand for travel must also be addressed. The Committee’s jurisdiction allows it to pursue directly such important policies as:

  • • Setting prerequisites for federal funding assistance for new transit lines to ensure that zoning in host municipalities will promote compact development;
  • • Requiring state and metropolitan transportation plans and programs demonstrate reductions in mobile source greenhouse gas emissions;
  • • Shifting the formulas for allocating federal transportation dollars to states to reflect the importance of reducing oil consumption and vehicle GHG emissions.

3. Stronger building efficiency policies. Buildings are the largest collective driver of carbon emissions, accounting for some 40% of total U.S. emissions. They also contain the largest portion of the nation’s energy-using infrastructure: some 80 million buildings, most of which are more than 30 years old. There is vast potential for “mining” the efficiency potential of the American building stock. This can be accomplished by:


  • • Creating stronger building energy codes. The U.S. government can lead the way by setting the nation’s highest standards for building energy performance, beginning with 30% improvement beyond national model codes, and improving to 50%. The ultimate goal of building codes should be a “zero-carbon” standard, wherein the energy footprint of new buildings is kept to minimum, and any remaining energy use is offset by efficiency or renewable energy credits. Congress should also direct the executive branch to work with the national model code process to improve national model code energy performance levels by 30% by 2010 and 50% by 2020.

  • • Accelerating building code adoption and enforcement. The Committee should consider tying federal funding under its jurisdiction to state adoption and enforcement of the most advanced national model building energy codes from the International Code Council. It should also support authorizations and appropriations to provide technical assistance and implementation support for state adoption and enforcement of better building codes.

  • • Setting and providing funding for efficiency targets for existing buildings. Previous federal energy legislation, and a recent Executive Order, have set new efficiency targets for federal building energy performance. To support achievement of these targets, Congress should permanently authorize the Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) program that has been successful in bringing private capital into federal facilities, and should consider federal financing mechanisms to further support these investments. To accelerate efficiency in state-owned buildings, the Committee should consider tying federal funding in its jurisdiction to states’ setting and achieving target such as states.

  • • Accelerating progress in appliance and equipment efficiency standards. The U.S. has made great progress in setting and updating energy efficiency standards for dozens of common household and business products and equipment. For example, all new refrigerators built since 2001 use only about ¼ the energy of comparable models sold in the 1970s. Congress should help accelerate this progress by creating greater flexibility for the Department of Energy’s standards program to set standards on a regional basis, to set standards that regulated multiple features of a given product, to preserve states’ rights by limiting federal pre-emption of state standards, and to create an expedited rulemaking process for the growing number of consensus-based standards.
  • A significant part of America’s energy efficiency infrastructure is its research and development institutions. The last 30 years have witnessed a disturbing decline in U.S. energy research and development; federal investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is only about 1/3 of 1970s levels, and private R&D has also fallen during that time period. As a result, there has been a serious erosion in the capabilities of our national laboratories, our universities, and our state governments to rise to the unprecedented challenges of the 21st century. We urge the Committee to consult with the Science and Energy committees in finding ways to rebuild America’s energy efficiency infrastructure, beginning with federal R&D program authorization and appropriations.

    Energy and Carbon Savings

    ACEEE research shows that new energy efficiency policy initiatives could make a big difference on the energy security and global warming fronts. For example:

    • • A 2006 ACEEE study finds that we can reduce U.S. oil use by more than 5 million barrels per day by 2020, equivalent to 680 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—nearly 10% of the federal Annual Energy Outlook reference case emissions. Improvements in passenger vehicle fuel economy account for more than 3 million barrels per day of savings, but more than 2 million barrels per day of savings are available in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, and in heavy vehicles and airplanes. Not reflected in this estimate are substantial additional savings that could be achieved through reduction in vehicle miles traveled.
    • • Another 2006 ACEEE study found that doubled efficiency investments in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap and trade system for power-sector carbon dioxide emissions would add $13 billion to the regional economy in 2021. This increased energy efficiency investment would reduce average energy bills by up to 12%.
    • • ACEEE’s analysis of Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS) in the electricity and natural gas utilities sectors shows that an EERS target reaching 10% of electricity sales in 2020 would save utility customers a net $29 billion while reducing 2020 carbon dioxide emissions by 343 million metric tons, about 5% of the Annual Energy Outlook reference forecast.