January 22, 2013

Backtracking on Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just retreated on important new energy efficiency standards for natural gas furnaces that were scheduled to go into effect in May and would have saved Americans an estimated $10.7 billion in lower heating bills over the next three decades.

By undoing these standards that were supported by manufacturers, consumers and efficiency advocates, states, and many utilities, American households are destined to waste more natural gas and money. In terms of energy, these standards would have saved 31 billion therms of natural gas over the next 30 years – enough to heat 62 million typical U.S. homes for a year. And the standards would have avoided the emission of somewhere between 81 to 130 million metric tons of global warming carbon pollution over the next three decades – that's equivalent to the pollution generated by thirty or so coal-fired power plants.

DOE couldn't have chosen a worse moment to turn the clock back on natural gas efficiency. Just last week, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration affirmed that 2012 was the hottest year ever in the continental United States, and the destructive impacts of global warming on communities and public health keep adding up, especially in light of Superstorm Sandy. Moreover, concerns over the environmental and public health risks of under-regulated fracking continue to multiply. [Climate Progress]

Dear President Obama,

I am disappointed that the DOE has withdrawn support for increased energy efficiency standards for natural gas heating systems. I would ask you to increase the efficiency standards for our natural gas heating systems.

Here in New England, the single largest energy expenditure homeowners have is heating their homes. Here in Lexington, MA we have set a goal of reducing the energy used in our buildings 20% by the year 2020. You have set similar targets for energy efficiency in your own Better Building Initiative. 

Lowering energy efficiency standards undercuts these efforts. Higher efficiency standards will save homeowners money, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollution of our air and water. 

Improved energy efficiency is a win-win-win as you have stated so many times regarding automobile efficiency - it is time to improve the energy efficiency of one of the largest users of energy in our country - our heating systems. 

Mark Sandeen

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