02/16/16 : Daniel Bresette

Timing of Regulations Does Not Negate the Benefits of Energy Efficiency Standards

Kateri Callahan Alliance to Save Energy

Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan testified to the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee last Wednesday in support of efficiency standards for appliances, equipment and vehicles. The focus of the hearing was whether the trend of end-of-term increases in regulatory actions, which peaked under President George W. Bush, would continue as the Obama Administration wraps up its business and prepares for the transition. As always, the Alliance and Ms. Callahan welcomed the opportunity to talk about the importance of and benefits from standards, which have proven to be one of the most effective and cost-effective efficiency policies of all time. 

As Mrs. Callahan pointed out in testimony, any such increase in standards taking effect would reflect an urgency of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other agencies to meet mandates set by Congress, rather than any suspicious purposes. Mrs. Callahan said that the pace of the Obama Administration’s efficiency standards rulemaking has been “driven in large part by a need to meet congressional directives and court-ordered mandates for clearing backlogs.”  Callahan continued: “In the case of efficiency standards at least, it is Congress—not the Administration—that dictates the timelines and deadlines for action. These are not tied in any way to a given president’s time in office.”

Efficiency Standards: A Long, Bipartisan History of Success

In 1975, President Ford signed a bill into law that created the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program, which sets efficiency targets for cars and trucks. And beginning in 1987 with President Reagan, meaningful, bipartisan legislation to establish and advance standard-setting policies has continued, with new legislation in 1990, 1992, 2005 and 2007. 

Did you notice the years those bills became law? All were signed by Republican presidents. A true testament to the across-the-board appeal of efficiency standards.

President Obama has emphasized efficiency standards in his energy policy for good reason—few programs contribute more savings to more Americans. In 2014, standards for appliances, equipment and vehicles accounted for savings (12.6 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs)) equivalent to over 10 percent of U.S. annual energy consumption. And, as Mrs. Callahan testified, he is not the first president to understand this.

The Legacy of Efficiency Standards: Cost Savings and Environmental Benefits

The legacy of the Obama Administration’s commitment to efficiency standards will be cost savings and environmental benefits. According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, DOE’s efforts since 2009 will generate savings worth $447 billion and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.2 billion metric tons by 2020. And those figures do not include the dozen or so standards scheduled for later this year. We should be eager for those to take effect. After all, the sooner these standards are issued, the faster we can all realize savings. 

Click here to watch the full hearing.