In the coming weeks, the United States Senate will have the opportunity to take a real step forward toward a true all-of-the-above energy policy when we consider bipartisan legislation I introduced with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire - the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, or ESIC. Energy bills do not come before the Senate often; in fact, this act is the first such legislation we have seen in more than six years. That is why it is critical that we not allow this opportunity to pass us by.
Our nation's economy depends upon affordable and reliable energy. Securing it through an energy policy that encompasses all of our resources - coal, oil, natural gas and renewables - should be our goal.
But producing more energy is only one part of the equation. We also should work to decrease our demand on our resources by using what we have more efficiently. We should produce more and use less. ESIC will help to accomplish this goal, and it does so without imposing mandates on the American people and without adding to the deficit.
Unlike previous costly energy initiatives, ESIC relies on the market and the states to continue to drive efficiency improvements. Rather than instituting expensive, indefinite federal subsidy programs that benefit particular industries or technologies and distort the market, ESIC would put power in the hands of American businesses and American consumers.
It does not take a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, it eases the regulatory burdens on manufacturers and consumers while facilitating the transfer of accurate energy efficiency data to those who need it the most. It also connects manufacturers with energy-efficient suppliers, allowing them to maximize efficiency gains that then benefit us all through lower energy costs and cheaper goods.
The authorizations contained in ESIC are fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. In fact, ESIC actually would reduce direct federal spending by $10 million. Moreover, by forcing the federal government to practice what it preaches and make its own energy-efficiency reforms, ESIC would help save significant taxpayer dollars for years to come.
But the greatest benefit ESIC offers is the opportunity it would generate and the environment for job creation it will foster.
Every day, manufacturers across the country go toe-to-toe with competitors from nations that have considerably lower costs in labor and raw materials. We are never going to compete on wages in developing countries, and we wouldn't want to. We're also not going to cut corners and compromise the high quality of the goods we produce.
But what we can do is make it easier for employers to use energy-efficient tools that reduce their costs, enabling them to put those savings toward expanding their companies and hiring new workers.
And manufacturers are hungry for these tools. That's why more than 270 businesses, associations and trade groups - from the National Association of Manufacturers to the Chamber of Commerce - support this legislation.
The provisions in ESIC would make a huge difference in energy use, helping our economy and making the U.S. more energy independent. In fact, when fully implemented, the provisions in ESIC would save the equivalent of taking 80 million homes off the grid by 2030, with cumulative energy savings of up to $100 billion.
Energy is too important for us to continue to drag our feet. Whether it's the delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a continued aversion to expanding offshore drilling or overregulation of the coal industry, for too long we have failed to implement the kind of energy policies that would spur growth and jump start our economy.
Improved energy-efficiency is one part of an all-of-the-above approach that enjoys wide bipartisan support. ESIC should be the first step down a path to the energy strategy our nation needs and the American people deserve.