This week, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are once again reintroducing their energy-efficiency legislation. The measure has been floated around in one form or another since 2011, and despite the fact that it draws wide bipartisan support, the legislation has yet to move forward.
In the past, controversial amendments have bogged down the legislation, which has reached the floor twice in the last two years, only to die there.
"We have gotten bogged down in the dysfunction of Washington in the past," Portman told National Journal. "We're hopeful that we can now gain traction in this Congress."
Last year, the legislation became bogged down in the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline. Given that the Senate has already spent weeks on that issue, supporters are hopeful that the energy-efficiency language may actually have a chance to pass.
There are many other dangers aside from Keystone lurking for the legislation, such as the push by many Republicans to derail Environmental Protection Agency carbon-emissions rules, which would make the bill a nonstarter for the White House even if it somehow cleared the Senate.
Avoiding controversial amendments, however, would still not ensure the bill is opposition-free. Heritage Action, an influential conservative group, has opposed previous versions that came to the floor, taking aim at funding authorizations for the bill's programs and also arguing that the bill duplicates existing federal and state efforts.
The wide-ranging bill's various provisions include:
- New and enhanced Energy Department work with manufacturers to develop and commercialize efficient technologies and industrial processes;
- Stronger "model" building codes and assistance to help states and local governments adopt them;
- An initiative to train people for careers in efficient building design and operation;
- Provisions to boost energy efficiency in federal buildings;
- Language directing energy savings to be incorporated into federally backed mortgages to encourage greater efficiency, and more.
The two senators say the case for the bill is obvious. According to a summary from their offices, the measure would, by 2030, create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16 billion a year, and cut carbon-dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road. Supporters include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Business Roundtable, the Environmental Defense Fund, and a broad suite of other groups and individual companies, including corporate giants like Westinghouse and General Electric.