Energy Issues Regain Spotlight as Prices Soar

May 24, 2005

Washington, D.C. - With no end in sight to rising gas prices, Congress appears poised to pass an energy bill. Meanwhile, federal agencies and industry groups are also getting involved to keep consumers focused on conservation.

Though unsuccessful in the last two sessions of Congress, the House of Representatives took a step forward toward enactment of a national energy strategy. After the House Energy and Commerce Committee completed its mark-up and passed draft legislation by a vote of 39-16 on April 13, Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) formally introduced the legislation (HR 6) on April 18, combining his committee’s work with the energy tax title passed by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) drilling language passed by the House Resources Committee. Though the Democrats had little or no input in the drafting of the legislation, nine of 26 Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee and eight of 21 in the Resources Committee joined Republicans to pass the measures.

On April 21, the House of Representatives passed HR 6 by a vote of 249-183. The final bill includes many extremely controversial provisions, such as immunity from tort lawsuits for refiners of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and the White House-backed plan for drilling in ANWR.

At press time, the Senate was expected to begin action on its own bill in May or this month. Republicans in the Senate have thus far included Democrats in the process to draft a joint bill. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is committed to producing a bipartisan bill in an effort to avoid a filibuster. The Senate version will not include immunity from product liability lawsuits for MTBE manufacturers, leaving the House and Senate to work that out in a conference committee later this summer. In the last session of Congress, it was the MTBE issue that ultimately killed the bill when senators could not overcome a filibuster on the conference report.

BOMA Intl. is working with Congress to ensure that the final version includes tax incentives for energy-efficient upgrades in commercial buildings. BOMA supports language for incentives totaling $2.25 per square foot for upgrades that result in performance exceeding the ASHRAE 90.1 Standard by 50 percent. Partial credit of up to $0.75 per square foot would also be available for upgrades to the building envelope, HVAC, and/or lighting.

Despite the lack of a national energy policy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues its push to advance an energy conservation agenda. On March 14, BOMA Intl., on behalf of its membership, accepted the EPA’s challenge to commercial and institutional building owners to improve energy efficiency by 10 percent or more to conserve energy, save money, and protect the environment through the agency’s Energy Star® assessment and rating system. BOMA endorsed the Energy Star program in 2001, and has actively worked with the EPA to promote the voluntary program to its members.

According to the EPA, commercial and institutional buildings use about $80-billion worth of energy each year and contribute about 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The agency estimates that if each building owner met the challenge, in 10 years they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions from 15 million cars while saving about $10 billion in energy costs each year.

“Improved energy efficiency provides one of the greatest opportunities for cost-effective reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases and improvement in energy security,” noted Jeff Holmstead, EPA assistant administrator of air and radiation. “With the Energy Star Challenge, we want to repeat and increase these successes at thousands of businesses and institutions across the country.” BOMA Intl. encourages all building owners, managers, and tenants to do their part to accomplish the goal.

At the Energy Star luncheon, held as part of a symposium by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), BOMA President and COO Henry Chamberlain also gave the audience an overview of the BOMA Foundation’s new Building Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP). In partnership with Energy Star, BEEP is a multi-year, national campaign focused on teaching property owners, managers, and operators important no- and low-cost strategies for optimizing equipment, people, and practices. In addition to teaching property professionals about the financial and environmental benefits of improving energy performance, BEEP will develop best practices for operational excellence, document success through recognition programs, and communicate those successes to the community, industry, and stakeholders.

The 6-course curriculum - taught via live training sessions and Web-supported audio programs - provides an introduction to energy performance, information on how to benchmark energy performance, energy-efficient audit concepts, no- and low-cost operational adjustments to improve and enhance energy performance, valuing energy enhancement projects and financial returns, and building an energy awareness program.

Energy represents the single largest, controllable operating cost for office buildings, typically one-third of variable expenses according to BOMA Intl.’s Experience Exchange Report. BOMA believes that a 30-percent reduction in energy consumption is readily achievable by improving building operation standards.

Make the commitment today to take the energy challenge!

For more information on these and other issues, contact BOMA Intl. by calling (202) 408-2662 or visiting (www.boma.org).

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