with the explosion of -degree-plus temperatures across most of the United States in the second half of July, the release of two reports on buildings, electricity, and climate change, coupled with the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passing of an energy bill, is particularly timely.
Reports on Climate Change
The reports are distributed by the Pew Center, an independent nonprofit and nonpartisan organization providing information on global climate change, established by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the largest U.S. philanthropies devoted to environmental topics. The two reports, 'Towards a Climate-Friendly Built Environment' and 'U.S. Electric Power Sector and Climate Change Mitigation,' are available at the Center's website, www.pewclimate/org/global-warming-in-depth/all_reports.
According to the Center, buildings and electricity sectors account for approximately half of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions. The reports find that 'a portfolio of affordable technology and policy options exists to completely transform the high-emitting buildings and electricity sectors to low-GHG (greenhouses gases) emitting sectors over the next 50 years.' As Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center states in a press release, 'This research shows that we can achieve enormous reductions in the building and electric sectors, but only if we craft a clear and comprehensive policy to guide them.'
The most comprehensive package of U.S. energy policies in more than 13 years, a $12.3 billion energy bill was passed by both the House and Senate at the end of July. Some of the specifics of the legislation include $14.5 billion in energy-related tax breaks ($2.9 billion to the coal industry; $3.1 billion for electric power producers and distributors; and $2.6 billion to oil companies, according to a New York Times report). Additional incentives, to the tune of $1.3 billion, encourage energy-efficiency and conservation programs, along with alternative energy sources, which will receive another $4.5 billion.
The National Electrical Manufacturing Association, a strong lobbying force on Capitol Hill, actively worked to have an energy-efficient commercial buildings provision-one that 'provides a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for new or renovated buildings that exceed the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 standard by 50 percent, with deductions for lighting systems, HVAC systems, and building envelope'-included in the 1,724-page bill. This measure, which also provides up to a $.60 deduction per square foot for individual systems, will go into effect December 31, 2005.
Finally, one of the more interesting items in the bill is the expansion of daylight-savings time by four weeks-three weeks in the spring and a week in the fall. This change will be implemented in 2007. A|L