The Senate recently passed bipartisan landmark energy efficiency legislation that I have worked on for the past five years. It achieves three important objectives: creating jobs, cleaning up our environment, and making government less expensive.
Since coming into office in 2011, I have worked with Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire on the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. Two parts of the original Portman-Shaheen bill have already been signed into law by President Obama, and are already working to help individuals and companies use less energy, create jobs, and reduce emissions. Now the Senate has finally passed the entire Portman-Shaheen bill.
Our bill is based on the approach that America is better off if we are both producing more energy and using what we have more efficiently.
First, it saves money, and saving money means more money for jobs and better wages—that has always been my priority in the United States Senate. Our bill is a jobs bill. According to a recent study of the legislation, by 2030, it will help to create nearly 200,000 new jobs, and save consumers $16.7 billion annually in reduced energy costs by 2030.
Ohio workers are competing with companies around the world, many of whom use energy in a highly efficient way, keeping their costs down and their profits up. By making our plants more efficient, our bill will give Ohio workers, and workers all across our country, a competitive advantage.
Of course, by reducing energy consumption, our bill will also help us to clean up our environment. By some estimates, passing Portman-Shaheen will have an impact on our carbon emissions equivalent to taking 20 million cars off the road over the next 15 years.
The bill provides a model for how to protect our environment without imposing new job-destroying mandates or regulations on the private sector. It actually creates more jobs by the federal government being a better partner rather than a better taskmaster.
For instance, it helps small and medium-sized manufacturers access smart manufacturing technology by establishing rebates for upgrading electric motors and transformers and by funding career skills training for students receiving a certification for installing energy efficient building technologies. Rather than the federal government telling companies what to do, under our bill, the federal government helps them be more efficient.
The largest energy consumer in the country is actually our federal government—but it doesn’t always use that energy efficiently. Portman-Shaheen makes the federal government practice what it preaches by adopting energy-saving policies for federal buildings.
Portman-Shaheen helps low-income Americans retrofit their homes to be more energy efficient, which will save them money on their energy bill. For the millions of Ohioans caught in the middle-class squeeze of stagnating or even declining wages combined with increasing costs of health care costs and other expenses, a low energy bill can be a relief, and a few dollars extra at the end of each month they can spend, save, or invest.
It’s not every day that the Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce line up in support of an energy bill. But Portman-Shaheen is supported by more than 260 businesses, associations and advocacy groups from across a broad spectrum, from environmental groups to business groups to government watchdogs.
As a whole, the Portman-Shaheen bill will make the federal government more efficient, create jobs, and help clean up our environment. That’s a victory for all of us.
Rob Portman is a Republican U.S. Senator from Ohio.