The Alliance to Save Energy and ASE President Kateri Callahan hosted a lunch with Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY 2nd Congressional District) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY 21st Congressional District) at which the lawmakers offered policy perspectives on comprehensive energy legislation. Introductory remarks by Francis J. Murray, Jr., President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), lauded the two Congressmen for “seeing beyond their own districts” to formulate a national approach that would augment “the many wonderful things we are trying to do in New York in regards to energy policy.” Those at the AIA New York table knew, for example, that NYSERDA provided significant funding for our Center for Architecture geothermal system and has selected AIANY and Urban Green to conduct energy code training statewide.
Rep. Israel noted that he didn’t need his allotted eight minutes to describe the failures of the last 30 years of national energy policy: “missteps, back-steps, and half-steps.” He criticized the doubling of Persian Gulf oil imports over that time period and the slashing of research on energy conservation by 87%. He described three ways to change our goals. First is top-down investment, such as the $16 billion stimulus funding for energy in the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act. Second is a bottom-up return on investments, including energy bonds for energy retrofits of existing buildings. Third is the initiative to use new technology to find clean energy in trash recycling. He called this a “Sputnik moment” when Americans should “not take no for an answer.”
On the same theme, Rep. Tonko spoke of the need for investment in what he called STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to “embrace the American intellect.” He suggested that we encourage the “garage mentality” through support of a Sustainable Business Innovative Research Program (SBIRP) to more aggressively make “whiz kid ideas shelf ready.” He saw the big picture issues as being a new era of energy generation and distribution, a clean energy economy, and new concepts such as distributed technology wherein “energy efficiency is our fuel of choice.”
The interchange between the two distinguished members of Congress during the Q&A led Rep. Israel to conclude with a call for the political will to create $400 billion in new jobs, saying “the next generation of job growth is in energy efficiency — that’s the big issue.”