Democrats painting the House GREEN …

As reported here at Ecotality, in the beginning of March, Nancy Pelosi tasked the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House on ‘greening the Capitol’ …

a critical initiative to address energy conservation, efficiency and cost savings for the U.S. Capitol and congressional office buildings

The House of Representatives should provide leadership to the nation in providing an environmentally responsible and healthy working environment for our employees.

Well, the Preliminary Report: Green the Capitol Initiative is out … and the initiative is real … the House will be providing leadership. Pelosi and the Democrats intend for the House to walk the walk when it comes to a new way forward for a sustainable and prosperous energy future.

“The environmental challenges we face are as local as our neighborhoods and as global as our planet. The House must lead by example and it is time for Congress to act on its own carbon footprint. Today, we announce our intention to operate the House in a carbon neutral manner at the earliest possible date with a deadline of the end of this Congress.” Speaker Pelosi, 19 April 2007

What are core recommendations in the CAO’s preliminary report:

  • Operate the House in a Carbon Neutral Manner
  • Shift to 100 Renewable Electric Power
  • Aggressively Improve Energy Efficiency
  • Adopt Sustainable Business Practices
  • Continued Leadership on Sustainability Issues
  • Offsets to ensure Carbon Neutral Operations

What do some of these mean and what are the numbers?

  • Renewable Power: Today, the House’s electricity comes from a mix that is composed of 61% coal/gas, 37% nuclear, and 2% renewable power. Shifting to 100% renewable/nuclear will cut the House’s carbon footprint by 57,000 tons per year.
  • Aggressively Improve Energy Efficiency: For example, 100% of the House’s light bulbs will be changed over the next six months to compact-flourescents and other other energy efficient lights. (Have to wonder whether Joe Barton’s office will have CFLs …) And, the report recommends that Energy Star/Federal Energy Management Program designated products be required for purchases. There will also be a longer term look at revamping the huge — and aged — Capitol steam-heat system.
  • Symbolic Leadership/Education: CAO recommends actions that have symbolic more than direct impact as well. For example, buying furnishings of recycled/sustainable forest products; holidng a Green Expo; and establishing an education program for House employees.
  • Offset Program: The report calls for a serious review of carbon credit programs to find a path for offsetting roughly 34,000 tons of carbon emissions from the Capitol Power Plant.

This is a clear step that the House leadership is seeking to walk-the-walk when it comes to how Congress conducts its business.

Will the Senate follow the House’s leadership?

3 responses to “Democrats painting the House GREEN …

  1. Wow.

    At least they have the integrity to call one of the four points ‘symbolic’, though they neglect to include that term in the other two that are also symbolic: renewable power and carbon offsets.

    Unless they’re going to cover the National Mall with solar panels and smack a turbine on the top of the House building, they’ll be “buying green power” the same way anyone other than microgenerators their green power — by using baseload coal/oil/gas/nuclear and salving their consciences with a monthly surcharge. Except the HoR will do it with tax dollars. Sweet!

    The CFs will probably make a difference. That part is good.

    Csrbon offsets? Betcha ten bucks they restrict logging in national forests and claim “carbon offsets” from that. My only question would be whether they will calculate the CO2 emissions of the inevitable forest fires that follow such policy and deduct that from their claimed carbon offsets — my preliminary answer is “not on your life”.

  2. Should read:

    “they’ll be “buying green power” the same way anyone other than microgenerators buy their green power”

  3. Darren:

    1. I am uncomfortable with carbon offsets.

    2. Done right, ‘buying’ green power fosters more investment to create new green power.

    3. The report suggests looking at converting the Capitol power plant to a CHP (combined heat power), which would significantly improve efficiencies.

    4. There are many elements to the energy efficiency, other than just lightbulbs, being suggested: energy efficient office equipment; different operating patterns; sealing air ducts to reduce losses; better fans & fan controls; replacing old pumps (and better controls); etc …

    There is an awful lot of substance here that, in my mind, merits credit. Energy efficiency investments should be ‘no brainer’ for all Americans. We pay, whether you like it or not, to heat/cool/operate the Capitol. We should all agree that it is in our best interest to have it being run (as a physical mechanism, at least) efficient. This saves money — and reduces pollution.

    Carbon offsets — well, this is a bit absurd, in multiple ways. What, we’re going to call some tree planting program in Haiti — that would have gotten some assistance anyway — the Hill’s carbon offset? Or, some other program will be cut to create a new ‘carbon offset’ fund?

    More importantly, for impact, is the overall leadership — including educating House staff about what they can do in their own lives.

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