This article was originally published in the March/April 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online March/April 1993




Dear Bill Clinton


Now that you have moved into the White House, we would like you to take a careful look at your new home. Is it energy-efficient? We doubt it. You can set a good example by installing the most energy-efficient refrigerators, air conditioners, lights, and windows. You will also be saving taxpayers' money, which would also please us. But don't stop with the White House; there are 90 million more homes across the country that could benefit from efficiency improvements. What kinds of policies will make this happen?

The greatest energy savings will come from the implementation and extension of the appliance efficiency standards. The standards are already reducing consumers' utility bills as old appliances are replaced. These standards should be continued and strengthened where appropriate. In addition, they should be modified to reward manufacturers that greatly exceed the minimum. The next step is to develop minimum efficiency standards for new homes and major renovations. The standards would cover space and water heating, cooling, lighting, and water. In all these areas, relatively modest investments will substantially reduce energy and water use. A special mortgage subsidy along with an effective rating system for homes with efficiency measures might drive the market even faster. Presently, there is a patchwork of efficiency standards. A single national code would simplify home design and construction.

You should encourage regulatory agencies to let utilities profit from energy efficiency. Yes, it is hard to imagine how a company can profit by selling less of their product, but many utilities are doing just that. In some cases, utilities are the best agents for energy efficiency. Unleash them, but make sure that they verify the savings because utilities get greedy, too.

Poor people suffer disproportionately from high energy costs, and the government has several reasons to help them reduce their costs. For one, the government often pays their utility bills or the indirect costs from homelessness or resulting health problems. Even when low-income weatherization programs have enough money--few do--they are hampered by federal regulations that stifle innovation. For example, they are forbidden to attack the non-space heating components of energy use. We recommend that low-income weatherization programs be continued but that they be encouraged to try new technologies and approaches, such as linking to utility DSM programs.

Don't forget that you are the nation's largest home builder and landlord. In that position, you can exert tremendous leverage in the market by insisting on very high insulation levels, and only the most efficient refrigerators, lights, and windows. Presently, the HUD standards for public housing are scandalously lax and sometimes even fail to meet local standards. Military bases are just as bad. There is tremendous potential for retrofitting existing housing, too.

Finally, you need to increase federal support of energy efficiency research. Today's research produces the conservation technologies of tomorrow. Past research at the national laboratories and universities has produced some of the efficiency stars: electronic ballasts, low-emissivity windows, and new insulation materials. There's no reason to doubt that new discoveries will continue to flow if research funding is maintained.

Most of these recommendations involve re-jiggering current policies rather than spending more money. That's why we think that you can't lose by making energy efficiency a key element of your administration's policy.

    Alan Meier


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