A Federal Role in Energy-Saving Buildings

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The June 7 editorial "Buried Code" questioned the wisdom of a federal requirement for higher energy efficiency standards for new buildings, one of the efficiency measures in the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill before Congress. It shouldn't have. As the lead member for energy and the environment on the Montgomery County Council, I think this is one "matter of local concern," as the editorial put it, that should be federalized.

Fully two-thirds of the Washington area's greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. We no more need to set different efficiency standards for buildings at the local level than we need to set different fuel economy standards for cars at the local level. Regrettably, the editorial ignored the fact that the building industry controls the process of setting efficiency standards, which is why the voluntary standards are so pathetic. Moreover, the editorial glossed over the fact that the bill doesn't even establish a mandate: It requires state governments that want federal dollars for energy efficiency efforts to have picked the low-hanging fruit first. That is hardly unreasonable.

Finally, the editorial asked why a mandate is necessary in a cap-and-trade, market-oriented approach to reducing greenhouse gases. The reality is that we need every tool, including a mix of mandates and market measures, if we are to have any hope of saving our planet.


Vice President

Montgomery County Council


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