Thinking Globally, Acting Locally on Energy Use: U.S. States Push Bold Fuel-Conservation Programs

Article excerpt

Impatient with the U.S. federal government's lackluster conservation efforts, many states are moving to cleaner energy policies and practices on their own.

According to the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environment, community, and social-justice leaders, states from Oregon to Florida have embraced portions of the Alliance's New Energy For America plan and hope to reap the rewards of greater energy independence and improved public health as a result. The plan calls for a national commitment of more than $300 billion over the decade in order to produce 3 million new jobs and an additional $1.4 trillion in U.S. gross domestic product. The 10-point plan is intended to highlight the best and most feasible policies to reach energy independence within a decade.

Below is the Alliance's framework and some examples of how different states are leading the fight for cleaner energy and the development of alternative energy sources.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

1. Promote Advanced Technology and Hybrid Cars. According to the Apollo Alliance, Massachusetts is getting a handle on this issue in a number of ways. Corporations with fleets of more than 50 vehicles receive tax credits if at least 10% of their fleet runs on alternative fuels. Private citizens who own a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle receive an income tax deduction and the right to travel in carpool lanes.

2. Invest in More-Efficient Factories. Pennsylvania established a special authority to finance clean, advanced energy projects in that state. Solar energy, wind, low-impact hydropower, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, fuel cells, coal-mine methane, and demand-reduction measures all qualify for special funding.

3. Encourage High-Performance Buildings. Utah recently updated state building codes for both residential and commercial buildings to meet with International Energy Conservation Code standards. Meanwhile, New York--where consumers spend $32 billion on energy annually--has enacted its own more stringent codes that experts predict will save New Yorkers up to $80 million per year in energy costs.

4. Increase Use of Energy-Efficient Appliances. According to the Apollo Alliance, "California's appliance standards are the oldest and most extensive in the United States. They cover 43 different commercial and consumer appliances, 12 of which are not covered by federal law. These standards have saved Californians at least $3 billion a year since they were implemented in 1978."

5. Modernize Energy Infrastructure. Under current pricing schemes, utility companies generate more profit when they sell more units of energy, which provides little incentive to adopt conservation measures. To address the issue, Oregon has established a "revenue cap" for utility companies. "In this way," according to the Apollo Alliance, "the utility's revenues are disconnected from the amount of electricity it distributes, eliminating any reason to discourage customer generation or energy conservation efforts. …