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Home Star Energy Retrofit Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Madam Chair, last year The Washington Post ran a story entitled ``Energy Costs Generating Light Bulb Solutions.'' And the story talked about how energy efficiency programs that are being employed by local governments and local utilities are working here in D.C. And many of the programs, actually, when you looked into the article, sound a lot like the program that we are creating here today on the Federal level.

For example, according to the article, in Maryland power companies at a local level began offering all customers energy home audits for free if they simply installed power-saving, energy-efficient light bulbs in the house. Later in that article, one of the persons who had taken advantage of the program, D.C. resident Elizabeth Fox, said this: She was thrilled to take advantage of this local program, an existing city program, to get a lengthy, free audit of a 100-year-old drafty house that she lived in in the northwest. She said, ``We got a written report we kept referring back to while we were renovating the third floor of the house.'' She added with that with the new insulation, a super-efficient washer, dryer, hot-water heater, and air conditioner, still her heating bills in the house stayed around $500. So she said, ``I can't say we've stopped the leaky air.'' As a matter of fact, with the third floor now in use for the first time ever because of all these efficiencies, she said, ``Our energy bills actually stayed exactly the same.''

So the article raises two important questions today for us here: the first question is if the State and local governments and local power companies have already taken the initiative to create these programs on a local level on their own, why are we creating a redundant program here on the Federal level to do the same thing? Think about it. No doubt, local companies and governments know to a much greater extent than we in Congress whether creating these incentives for energy efficiencies really work from a financial point of view.

But the article also makes a broader point, and this is it: when we improve energy efficiency, we lower the cost of using energy, and, unsurprisingly, this also increases the demand for the energy. This has been documented way back since 1865, and no one has ever refuted it. And as pointed out in this Washington Post article, when she put in all these energy-efficient appliances and what have you, her energy use still stayed the same.

Here is a chart over here which sort of points this out. From 1991 to 2005, energy consumption of major appliances, how much that each use, actually has been going down, down, down for air conditioners, refrigerators, clothes washers, and the like. But look at what U.S. per capita electricity consumption has been. It has basically been going up. And why is that? That's because when you get these appliances that are more efficient, you end up using more of them and for longer periods of time. So U.S. per capita energy consumption increases even though we get even more energy-efficient appliances.

If you try to achieve energy efficiency on the demand side of the equation, as this legislation would do, we also have to be successful at addressing the supply side. And that's why I approach this issue of ``all of the above'' when it comes to energy policy.

The Democrat majority may continue to rewrite the laws in this country, but one thing they haven't been able to figure out how to do is rewrite the laws of economics.

So needless to say, I remain skeptical about the benefits of this bill, and that's why I am proposing an addition to this bill, basically a little study by the GAO to conduct an audit of the program to find out one way or the other if the programs created by this bill really work. My amendment would direct the GAO to do a couple of things, do a study over the next 2 years to find out the following: How much money really have we saved after we have spent all this money for efficiency? How much energy was really saved by all this? And finally, putting those together, whether the savings exceeded the cost of implementing this program.

When you consider the claims by the proponents of this legislation that this bill will save money, will save energy, and create thousands of jobs, I hope they won't object to this additional study here. But at a time when we have a trillion dollars in deficits in this country as far as the eye can see, at the very least the American taxpayer should know if his or her dollars are being spent efficiently.

Madam Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.


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