November 28, 2012

One Easy Agenda Item on Climate: OMB Should Release DOE Energy Efficiency Rules

Action on climate change should be one of the first things President Obama takes on in his second term. There are countless steps the President might take, but perhaps one of the easiest things for him to do on that front is to instruct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release eight Department of Energy (DOE) rules regarding energy efficiency currently under OMB’s review. Regular readers will know that OMB is a kind of regulatory purgatory where rules can be held up seemingly indefinitely or sent back to the agencies responsible for them to be reconsidered in light of OMB’s widely questioned cost benefit analysis. As Earthjustice and others have noted, President Obama could make substantial progress on climate change by telling his own OMB that it needs to move on the rules.

Some of the DOE rules have been at OMB for well over a year, and the benefits of energy efficiency are being foregone while they are held up. DOE’s Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption Reduction for New Construction and Major Renovations of Federal Buildings rule, for instance, has reached the final rule stage but has been stuck at OMB since August of 2011. Beginning one year after it is finalized, the rule would require that new federal buildings and those that undergo major renovations adhere to new limits on their fossil fuel consumption. Five years after that, stricter limits would go into effect for further renovations or constructions. So, the sooner OMB releases the rule the sooner the rule will take effect and we can start realizing its significant benefits.

DOE estimated the rule will bring significant emissions reductions:  in the first year after the rule takes effect it will prevent 52,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 111 metric tons of methane, 53 metric tons of nitrogen, and 151 metric tons of sulfur dioxide from entering the atmosphere. These reductions will increase rapidly as other buildings are renovated and the standards are tightened at five-year intervals.

Another stalled rule is DOE’s Metal Halide Lamp Fixture rule. In that case, the proposed rule has been at OMB for nine months and will result in significant energy savings when finalized. Halide lamps are generally used in big box stores and athletic venues. They also consume a significant amount of energy. DOE has estimated that the rule will save as many as 1.6 quads (quadrillion British Thermal Units) of energy from 2015 to 2045. To put that in perspective, one quad is roughly equal to 8 billion gallons of gasoline combusted, or almost 300 billion kilowatt-hours.

The pending DOE efficiency standards are certainly just one small part of what needs to be done on climate. And it’s past time they get done.

Wayland Radin, Former Policy Analyst, Center for Progressive Reform. Bio.

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