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Massively Efficient Path to Save the Economy

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The incoming US Congress will be running full out in January to develop a stimulus package to have ready, potentially, for signature by President Barack Hussein Obama minutes into his Presidency. Organization after organization, business after business, motivated citizen after motivated citizen are knocking on every door conceivable with ideas for funding that range from great through good to indifferent to bad all the way to simply venally corrupt.

Just sent to the Transition team and Hill offices is, well, a truly "great" approach, a path that could massively stimulate economic activity throughout the United States while setting us on a path for a stronger tomorrow economically and in terms of global warming. As the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan summary concludes:

With a single investment, the U.S. can create jobs, strengthen the US economy, reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption, and save consumers billions of dollars. Investing in the Building Sector is the only investment that can accomplish all of these objectives.

Coming from Ed Mazria and the Architecture 2030 team, this plan focuses on driving massive commercial and home owner investments in energy efficiency through a program of buying down mortgages and renovation (energy rehab) loans based on achieved level of energy efficiency.

Consider this as the cost of a loan to achieve improved energy efficiency:
  • Energy efficiency 30 percent below code, 4.5% interest rate
  • 50% below code, 4.0%
  • 80% below code, 3.0%
  • Carbon neutral, 2.0%

Would rates like that induce you to seek out a contractor? Insulation? A new energy efficiency heating/cooling system? Energy-star plus appliances (of all types)? Insulating blinds for windows or storm windows? New windows (only in some, worse cases)? A high-efficiency wood stove or fireplace insert? Solar hot water or photovoltaiics? All of the above?

To be clear, the cost of paying back a loan that brought you 30 percent below the building code would, likely in the vast majority (98%???) of cases cost far less than the reduced energy costs. (And, of course, this is not counting that the loan repayment would be tax deductible while energy, except for business, is an after-tax cost.)

As for me, rates like that would induce me to strive for 'carbon negative' (average out sending power back to the grid, not using it) ... moving to act the moment the law allows, reducing my carbon footprint while proving work to people in the building trades and elsewhere.

But, as that suggests, the benefits and value will go far beyond the individual's satisfaction at zeroing out their home's carbon footprint.

  • 8.5 million jobs over two years
  • $140 to $200 billion of savings on home energy costs in the first five years
  • Over 6000 TBtu of reduced energy use resulting in about 500 mega-tonnes of reduced CO2 emissions (or about 10% of one year's US emissions) ... in just that first five years.

Yes, this investment would cost a lot, at least upfront. Mazria is calling for $85 billion a year, for two years. Quite a high figure, it seems, but unlike the $700 billion (or is it $7 trillion) that has gone into the financial industry, this program would provide a significant boost to Main Street (and every Main Street) across the nation. And, that boost, the economic activity and the millions of jobs would spark signficant economic activity in a multiplying effect. Those 8.5 million jobs mean fewer people seeking financial assistance (unemployment, food stamps and school lunch aid, housing assistance, welfare, etc ...) and that many more paying income taxes. A rough, back of the envelope calculation suggests that the social security and federal (not even state) income tax payments from the 8.5 million employed, even without considering the quite significant avoided costs, would total even more than $85 billion per year.

Last Wednesday, at EcoBuild, I had the chance to hear Ed brief the plan's concepts and how this accelerates Architecture 2030's overarching vision of achieving massive energy efficiency improvements in the US building infrastructure by 2030 -- cost saving improvements that would cut energy use enough to make coal-fired electricity plants simply unnecessary. (Remember that the building infrastructure is responsible for roughly 50% of all US GHG emissions.) This is a developed version of the material that Mazria/Architecture 2030 have been working on for years, evolved beyond the material presented at Harry Reid's National Clean Energy Summit earlier this year to something to match the challenge and opportunity that we face as the nation spirals into greater economic difficulties.

There are many real benefits of Mazria's approach, not least of which is the creation of massive numbers of real jobs in the near term while also achieving things through the near-term stimulus that will have long term value. Some of the strengths are not readily apparent or necessarily understood.

  • The focus on standards is, by definition, technology neutral. The item of import is not how something is achieved, but that it is achieved.
  • The program will lower foreclosures, even without buy-downs of troubled mortgages as the owners will have lower energy bills and thus be more able to deal with mortgage payments.
  • Acting this directly to spark the economy in a path that will dramatically cut into America's greenhouse gas emissions will be a sign of global leadership about Global Warming and, in fact, could spark an energy efficiency renaissance far beyond America's shores.
  • This $171 billion is leveraged money, buying down the cost of loans that could mean an actual boost to economic activity of $1.5 trillion or more.
  • The program would have ripple effects through the economy, enabling focusing investments on productive paths forward rather than leaving excuses for building additional coal-fired electricity generation capacity. And, as part of the ripple effect, the reduced demand on the electrical system would likely lead to lower energy costs for all due to the basic economics of the supply/demand curve. And, by the way, this plan enables the shut-down of America's polluting (non-"Clean Coal", if that ever emerges) coal-fired electricity plants no later than 2030, if not sooner, helping put the US (and the globe) on a path to not just slowing the growth but potentially beginning to reverse the mounting atmospheric CO2 levels.

As David Sasson at Solve Climate put it:

It sounds to good to be true. You can't get something for nothing. Where's the hitch, I wondered.

The answer is, there is no hitch. There actually is a huge something. It's a very big untapped asset that Mazria has figured out a way to harness: the energy wasted by almost every single building in the nation. Capture the dollar value of that energy and you've created a powerful engine of economic recovery situated at the heart of America's sweet spot: its homes and buildings.

Here is a path for desperately required short-term stimulus that also will help in meeting our desperate need to change our course from a reckless charge over the catastrophic climate change cliff. Stimulate the economy. Save money. Help stop Global Warming. Works for me.

And, ...

Again, the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan is already in Obama Transition Team in boxes and en route the Hill. It should be available on the Architecture 2030 website sometime later today.

This is a plan to read ...
... and to promote.

Ask yourself: Are you doing your part to ENERGIZE AMERICA?

Are you ready to do your part?

Your voice can ... and will make a difference.

So ... SPEAK UP ... NOW!!!

PS: Of potential interest, Energizing Energize America for Change we can Believe in. To be clear, Ed Mazria and Architecture 2030 are not providing the Silver Bullet to get us (the US and the globe) to a Prosperous and Climate-Friendly Society, but this is a pretty impressive Silver BB ... and a Silver BB that will help strike down our economic morass at the same time it helps accelerate the retirement of polluting coal-fired electricity.