Bill would aid American energy independence

The Senate has begun to debate a bill I introduced called the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. This bill -the first major piece of energy legislation to come to the Senate floor in six years – is the next step in the all-of-the-above energy strategy we need to achieve energy independence.

We were reminded again over the past few weeks why energy independence is so important. The Middle East, where much of our energy comes from, is often a volatile and unstable region. Because our economy depends on cheap, reliable sources of energy, disruptions in places such as Syria have consequences far beyond their borders, often leading directly to an increase in the price of oil, with effects throughout markets of every kind.

We should not be held hostage to events happening a world away. Instead, we should find ways to produce more energy here at home, while practicing good stewardship of the resources we have.

For instance, I have been a vocal proponent of domestic production. Technology has opened new areas to exploration, including the Marcellus and Utica shale in northeast and eastern Ohio, which we should support. And I have advocated for common-sense, environmentally sound projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline. But I also believe there is room to improve in the area of energy efficiency.

That’s where the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act comes in. By encouraging smart, common-sense techniques that will not increase federal spending, we can help manufacturers to cut costs and conserve energy while also forcing the largest energy user in the world – the federal government – to tighten its belt and save taxpayer dollars.

The proposals contained in this bill are common-sense reforms that we’ve needed for a long time. The act doesn’t contain any mandates on the private sector. In fact, many of its proposals come as a direct result of conversations with people in the private sector about how we can help them become more energy efficient while also saving money they can then re-invest in their businesses and communities.

This legislation would help manufacturers. It would reform the Advanced Manufacturing Office by providing clear guidance on its responsibilities, one of which is to help manufacturers develop energy-saving technology for their businesses. It would instruct the Department of Energy to assist with onsite efficiency assessments for manufacturers. It would facilitate existing efforts of companies around the country to implement cost-saving energy efficiency policies by streamlining the way government agencies in this arena work together. And it would increase partnerships with national laboratories and energy service and technology providers to leverage private sector expertise toward energy efficiency goals.

This legislation also would establish university-based Building Training and Assessment Centers, modeled after existing Industrial Assessment Centers located around the country, including one in Dayton. These centers would train the next generation of workers in energy-efficient commercial building design and operation. Not only would these programs save resources, but they would help provide our students and unemployed workers with the skills they need to compete in the growing energy field.

This legislation would save taxpayers money. It would make the largest energy user in the world – the federal government – practice what it preaches by requiring it to adopt energy-saving techniques that make its operations more efficient and less wasteful.

This bill would direct DOE to issue recommendations that employ energy efficiency on everything from computer hardware to operation and maintenance processes, energy-efficiency software and power management tools. It also would take the common-sense step of allowing the General Services Administration to update building designs to meet efficiency standards that have been developed since those designs were finalized. The government has been looking for places to tighten its belt; energy efficiency is a good place to start.

Energy legislation sometimes can be controversial, as it can include provisions that hurt employers and restrict economic growth. This energy bill is different. This is a bill that would help create jobs, not destroy them. It is a bill that is supported by more than 260 businesses, associations and advocacy groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Sierra Club, the Alliance to Save Energy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to a recent study of our legislation, by 2030, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act would save consumers $13.7 billion a year in reduced energy costs by 2030.

All this adds up to a piece of legislation that Americans across the spectrum can support. This bill makes good environmental sense. It makes good energy sense. And it makes good economic sense, too.

I look forward to seeing it become law.