This mission of Food and Water Watch includes “standing up to corporations that puts profits before people,” recently released a report titled: Building Climate Justice Investing in Energy Efficiency for a Fair and Just Transition.
There are plenty of stats, but the bottom line is simple. Energy efficiency is the key to achieving the goals of:
- Reduce energy consumption.
- Save money.
- Create jobs.
- Protect the viability of the planet.
What is energy efficiency? It’s how much energy is needed to perform a specific work task. It is the delivery of improved energy to perform the same function while reducing consumption.
Example: The most efficient light bulb needs less energy to generate the same amount of light.
Food and Water Watch outlines what a $500 billion investment in upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings, over a fifteen-year time span, would achieve. They qualify it in terms of economic benefits, job creation, achieving environmental justice parity, reducing energy usage, saving money, and reducing emissions. Results would include:
- A 36 percent decline in building energy use from current projected demand.
- 3 million jobs created annually, which is 20 percent more than current job creation rates.
- $1.3 trillion in savings on consumer utility bills.
- 300 million metric ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from current projections. This amount equals what would be emitted from nearly 80 coal-fired power plants.
Of greatest import, the study shows that these initiatives would totally eliminate the need to build any new fossil fuel power plants.
Buildings use the greatest amount of total energy consumed in the country — 40 percent. This exceeds both the industrial and transportation sectors. The types of buildings that would be targeted are offices, schools, and housing.
Currently, there is both developed technology to achieve these goals, and technology that is being advanced. The top ways to attack the problems include:
- Weatherize buildings by preventing the escape of either heated or cooled indoor air.
- Upgrade efficiencies in temperature systems.
- Upgrade efficiencies in home appliances and electronics.
Looking at the employment component, the majority of created jobs would fall into the sector of “high-quality construction and manufacturing.” Targeted sites would be “energy inefficient buildings,” most of which are situated in low-income areas and communities of color.
This is where occupational innovation feeds into the economic justice piece of the equation. There would be recruitment and training in these sectors to carry out the upgrades. In addition to tapping workers from the lower end of the economic scale, there would be outreach and retraining for those who were previously employed in the fossil fuel industries.
Pro-labor policies, unions, and a commitment to upholding safety and environmental rules would be a prerequisite for participating companies.
The report emphasizes that if the road to energy efficiency is actively pursued, by 2035, a potential 20.8 million jobs could be created.
Reduce Energy Consumption
Reducing energy consumption cuts down on air pollution caused by methane leaks, a major negative by-product of the oil and gas industries. By 2035, energy efficiency upgrades would reduce these leaks by almost 440 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
It’s time to reformat the national thinking process. Americans use 20 percent of all global energy. China comes in second, but they have a billion more people than we do.
Oil, gas, and electric companies don’t want to see a reduction in their sales. The “low-cost fossil fuels” agenda is being pushed by those with vested interests. It is not to the benefit of the American consumer.
I reached out to Mitch Jones, Climate & Energy Program Director at Food & Water Watch to ask about this:
Where do you think the opposition to this proposal resides? (Other than from the fossil fuel interests).
“Usually it’s the utilities. Utilities make money by selling people energy, so having more efficient homes cuts into their profits. But the homebuilders also often oppose tighter efficiency standards for the same reason. Profits.”
Why do you believe elected officials are not getting on board? Is it up to the public to demand they take action?
“It’s always up to the public to demand action no matter the issue, but especially when powerful interests like the homebuilders and gas and electric industries are opposed. Elected officials do tend to like building efficiency because it can create jobs, but scaling their willingness to act to what’s required to help stave off the worst of climate chaos is a heavier lift. It’s not that most of them want to take no action, it’s that the action they want to take isn’t sufficient.”
Here’s how to make energy efficiency a national and state priority:
- Ask your Congressperson to support fully funding the Weatherization Assistance Program by 2035.
- Ask your elected officials to make sure that investment monies cover frontline communities, low-come people, and people of color.
- Support the federal government upgrading all federal building to the highest level of energy efficiency. Same for those who lease to federal agencies.
- Push Congress to implement regular upgrades to mandatory energy efficiency standards.
- Create incentives for landlords to upgrade appliances, equipment and their rental properties.
- Have landlords retrofit properties while preventing rent increases.
- Get states involved in the process via tax credits, deductions, and rebates.
We all need to be in this together to protect the next generation.