Architecture 2030 June 24, 2013
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BEWARE THE RETURN OF THE FOSSIL FUEL ZOMBIE

Just as we have seen a resurgence in popularity of Zombie movies, whose origins are in the now classic 1968 thriller “Night of the Living Dead” (photo above), so do we see a return of the fossil fuel industry’s desperate attempts to animate certain still-living (we believe) bodies in Congress to repeal Section 433 of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007) at this critical time in history.

Witness the following:

“The grim alternative [climate change] affects all nations – more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise. This is the future we must avert. This is the global threat of our time . . . We have to get to work.”
Barack Obama, June 19, 2013. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin.

We agree with the President. Notable climatic changes have been happening for over a decade now. But the truth is, we have been working all this time – and the results are stunningly impressive:

The Building Sector has effectively imposed a market-based moratorium on the need for new power plant generating capacity in the U.S.

How is this possible? Even though we plan to add over 60 billion square feet of new buildings to our building stock (a 23.3% increase) over the next two decades, and renovate as much or more, Building Sector operational energy consumption – which accounts for 75.7% of electricity use – will be low enough to prevent the need for any new power plant capacity in the U.S.

Further encouragement is reflected in the following graph. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) reference case scenario, illustrates that the demand for new electricity generating capacity doesn't reach 2013 levels until about 2025. In the other two scenarios, assuming the Building Sector makes either modest or strong improvements in energy efficiency, we will not need new power plant generating capacity into the foreseeable future.

In fact, if we incorporate the “best available demand technology” in our building designs, which is roughly equivalent to meeting the targets set in Section 433 of EISA 2007 (the 2030 Challenge targets), we can eliminate the need for 178 Gigawatts of electricity capacity, or about 356 large (500 megawatt) power plants. This scenario is looking increasingly likely if Section 433 remains in effect, as the EIA’s projections for building energy efficiency have been consistently underestimated (graph below).

As a Result, Americans are Projected to Save Trillions of Dollars

Since 2005 (after the 2030 Challenge was issued), the entire U.S. Building Sector has steadily become more efficient even though we’ve added roughly 3 billion square feet of building stock each year. In fact, the EIA projection increases to the year 2030 clearly illustrate that estimates of residential and commercial building energy use have been dropping dramatically since 2005 – by 89.1%, or 15.6 quadrillion Btu’s in 2030. To put this in perspective, the Keystone XL pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of heavy tar sands oil per day (303 million barrels/year), enough to supply the energy for over 38 million cars, or the equivalent of 1.8 QBtu annually.

In its most recent estimate, the EIA 2013 forecasts that American consumers will spend $4.5 trillion less on energy between 2013 and 2030 than was originally projected in 2005. If, by 2030, we embrace the most efficient building technologies available, consumer savings will top $6.6 trillion.

This puts disposable cash into the pockets of families, homeowners, renters, small businesses, and building owners. Money that, in this tight economy, would be largely spent or invested locally and would cycle through the economy several times, generating much-needed tax revenue for critical infrastructure and community services.

Meanwhile, the Fossil Fuel Industry Wants Zombies and Your Cash

In 2007, Congress wisely passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007). EISA 2007 contained Section 433, one of the most important pieces of legislation to be put into law in decades. Section 433 requires that all new federal buildings and major renovations meet the 2030 Challenge targets – reducing fossil fuel energy consumption incrementally to carbon neutral by 2030.

With the Building Sector consuming almost 50% of all the energy produced in the U.S., Section 433 is intended to provide federal leadership for addressing climate change and moving the country toward energy independence*.

Section 433 puts the weight of the federal government squarely behind the 2030 Challenge targets, along with the American Institute of Architects, U.S. Conference of Mayors, the state of California, and numerous cities, counties, states, Building Sector firms, and professional organizations.
* Building Operations account for 43.1% of U.S. energy consumed today, while construction and building materials account for an additional 5.6%.

This good news for the rest of us, is bad news for the demand-based fossil fuel industry. Not surprisingly, the AGA, and its proxy in Congress, Senator Hoeven of North Dakota, wants to repeal Section 433. If the AGA and Hoeven are successful in passing the Hoeven-Manchin bill, or attaching it as an amendment to the modest Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, it will be a slap in the face of the U.S. Building Sector for its energy reduction achievements made to date.

Rejecting the Hoeven-Manchin bill, or amendment, to repeal Section 433 is critical because of the negative message it would send to the entire Building Sector, which is moving quickly to meet the 2030 Challenge targets.

In other words, the AGA needs Zombies, bereft on consciousness, to repeal Section 433 and suck trillions of dollars of cash out of citizens’ pockets.

So, if our Representatives Really Care ...

If Senators really care about their constituents, as they profess, they will soundly reject the Hoeven-Manchin bill or amendment.

If congressional Republicans really care about business, economic growth, wasteful government spending, and an America That Leads, as they profess, they will soundly reject the Hoeven-Manchin bill or amendment.

If congressional Democrats really care about the environment and addressing climate change, Moving America Forward, and putting Americans back to work, as they profess, they will soundly reject the Hoeven-Manchin bill or amendment.

And, if the President is serious “about making it [climate change] a second-term priority... he knows this is a legacy issue” as Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant for Energy and Climate Change recently said, he will make it clear that he will not sign any legislation that would repeal Section 433.

On behalf of the American public, the entire Building Sector is demanding no less.

 
           
 

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