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Poll: Americans Want Energy Efficiency, but Will Congress Listen?

Franz Matzner

Posted March 3, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Not only do Americans overwhelmingly want energy-saving products – and energy efficiency to be part of our national energy solution – a new national survey shows the majority are more likely to support a member of Congress who voted for energy efficiency policies.

But will Congress listen to this powerful evidence to deliver concrete, pro-efficiency policies like reinstating and expanding the tax incentives that can help foster energy savings in our homes and communities, jettisoning counterproductive provisions like the infamous “light bulb rider” and finally passing a bipartisan bill to increase America’s energy efficiency ?

We know that energy efficiency in our buildings and appliances is putting Americans to work and improving the air we breathe. It’s also powering our economy with American-made products that combat climate change. And every home, building, and appliance we make more efficient cuts carbon pollution and moves the nation closer to a more stable and prosperous future.

Yet, some in Congress have been standing in the way of energy efficiency progress.

That’s why the poll from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Association of Electrical Manufacturers (NEM), which shows support for energy efficiency across demographic and political lines, could be so powerful.

By the Numbers

The manufacturing associations’ recent polling of 1,000 likely voters showed nine in ten respondents (a whopping 94 percent) support using energy efficient products and of those, 70 percent said they “strongly” support them. 

Nearly 70 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports energy efficiency policies.

Meanwhile, 90 percent said they believe it’s important to include energy efficiency – which NRDC often describes as the cleanest, cheapest resource -- as part of America’s energy solutions. This overwhelming sentiment is evident among Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (99 percent) and Independents (88 percent). Meanwhile, according to the survey, 66 percent of those polled disapprove of how Congress is addressing energy issues and meeting our nation’s energy needs. 

And here are some powerful numbers that weren’t in the survey: A McKinsey & Company analysis has shown that efficiency alone could reduce projected U.S. energy consumption by 23 percent; save consumers $1.2 trillion; and create up to 900,000 jobs by 2020, just six years away. 

American Manufacturers, Businesses Support Efficiency

It’s also significant that it was two important manufacturer trade associations – the National Association of Electrical Manufacturers (NEMA) – whose four hundred members manufacture lighting, electrical and other types of equipment -- and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) – the largest manufacturer trade association in the United States -- that undertook this poll. 

“The results prove that energy efficiency is a winning topic with consumers. An investment in energy efficiency returns significant cost savings,” said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis, in a release. “Energy-efficiency policies for the residential, commercial and industrial sectors should be a central component to any national energy policy.”   NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons added:  “Energy efficiency will continue to play a critical role in our nation’s ability to succeed economically, and commonsense energy-efficiency legislation is a win-win that means savings for manufacturers and their communities,” “These results show that consumers from across the political spectrum agree that energy efficiency is a key part of our nation’s energy future.” 

Now, the big question is will members of Congress heed the poll’s findings and:

  • Reinstate and expand upon four critical energy efficiency tax incentives for home and business property owners and manufacturers that Congress let expire on Dec. 31 while the 100-year-old suite of fossil fuel giveaways keeps lining the pockets of Big Polluters while pumping carbon and other dangerous pollution into the air? 

    If Congress were to reinstate and enhance the four energy efficiency tax incentives it let expire,  ACEEE estimates they could add $8.3 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product through 2030 and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, while averting  16.4 quads of fuel use. (about equal to 16% of total US energy use in one year)  and 3.2 million gigawatt hours of electricity (for comparison, total electricity sales in 2011 were 3.7 million gigawatt hours) cumulatively over 15 years.
  • Approve the commonsense Shaheen-Portman approach to cutting energy waste in buildings, industry, and the federal government? Or will they once again add poison pill amendments to torpedo the measure? (For details on the bill, see NRDC fact sheet here.)
  • Drop the outrageous budget “rider” that bans enforcement of federal light bulb efficiency standards, risking harm to the American manufacturers who support efficiency and are on board with the standards.  NEMA, to its credit, has joined NRDC, other efficiency advocates and consumer groups in opposing this rider. 

For the sake of our children and the country, we hope current and future members of Congress will listen to what their constituents want when it comes to energy efficiency, which holds the promise of helping create a cleaner energy future, increase energy security and reduce the carbon pollution that’s driving dangerous climate change and hurting our health.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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