17 Federal Policy Initiatives Could Save 50 Percent Of U.S. GHG emissions In 10 years

With all the hype surrounding the recently unveiled American Clean Energy and Security Act, it seems appropriate to reflect upon the policy framework Amory Lovins and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute put together a few months ago.

Based on rigorous analysis and modeling, Rocky Mountain Institute found the following 17 policy aims, if adopted, could reduce U.S. oil use and greenhouse gas emissions each by 50 percent in 10 years, while creating over three million jobs in the next four years, and rapidly generating economic benefit for the nation. See the 17 recommendations below: 1. Government incentives are strong enough to ignite retrofits for existing buildings.
Increase and streamline federal incentives for efficiency retrofits on technologies such as insulation, efficient appliances, and advanced windows. Current incentives are inadequate and are too bureaucratically cumbersome to spur significant demand.

2. All new buildings are constructed on a path to exceed the 2030 Challenge.
It is significantly easier and cheaper to save greenhouse gases by building them right the first time than by retrofitting them later. The 2030 challenge is a set of aggressive but achievable building energy use goals from Architecture 2030 Challenge.

3. Federal feebate legislation is enacted in conjunction with scrap-and-trade programs.

Inefficient vehicles incur a surcharge (FEE-), and efficient vehicles are granted a rebate (-BATE) based on how much less or more efficient the vehicle is than a given "pivot point." The pivot point can be based on fuel economy (mpg) or other metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions per mile.

4. All new U.S. vehicles get at least 50 MPG equivalent by 2020
RMI's research, including major work within the industry, has shown that it is economically and technically feasible for full-line original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to achieve a 50 mpg average fuel economy by 2020—without changing the size mix of the fleet—via a mix of conventional improvements plus electrification, and all with a significantly positive ROI equating to an "avoided cost" of gasoline below $2.00 a gallon.

5. An open-source national infrastructure for plug-in vehicles accelerates penetration.
Electrified vehicles both reduce demand (by increasing vehicle efficiency) and substitute cleaner energy supply. The federal government can support vehicle electrification by building charging infrastructure and incentivizing purchase of plug-ins. RMI recommends the federal government support local/regional actors to build out most of the enablers below in a manner that best fits their needs and habits, while maintaining national standards, where necessary.

6. New trucks get double the fuel economy of today's, and are on the way to triple efficiency.
The average fuel economy of a heavy truck has virtually flatlined for three decades. RMI's analyses of the heavy trucking sector found many opportunities to increase the efficiency of Class 8 heavy trucks (18-wheelers), at a cost of below $1.00 per gallon of diesel saved.

7. Distributed generation (including combined heat and power) competes fairly.
"Distributed" (decentralized) electrical resources such as small-scale solar panels, recapturing heat from industrial processes, and microturbines (natural gas) can save costs and reduce emissions from the electricity sector. Properly recognizing their economic benefit will require regulatory and policy shifts, and should include valuing improvements to system planning, utility construction and operation (especially of the grid), service quality, and avoided societal costs.

8. Industrial efficiency is incentivized, slowing off-shoring.
Industry is a large user of energy and generator of waste. We recommend shifting the industrial sector towards a model informed by Industrial Ecology and Life Cycle Assessment, focused on closing cycles for materials, water, and energy. European countries have taken great strides in this direction, to producers' and consumers' great advantage.

9. A stable market for renewables enables growth.
As with any industry, a consistent regulatory framework and market certainty is critical for rapid growth of the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.

10. Renewables and distributed generation are integrated seamlessly and cheaply onto the grid.

A host of options, including changes in operational or market structure, changes in utility planning and cooperation, and new technologies, would lead to the smarter, more efficient integration of renewables to maximize their energy, climate, and security value. The federal government has a unique responsibility and opportunity to achieve those benefits.

11. Energy efficiency competes fairly in the energy and capacity markets.
Efficiency is the most cost-effective energy resource, but perverse incentives currently hinder efficiency investment and implementation in both the energy and capacity markets. We recommend creating a concentrated investment in energy efficiency, which will keep US dollars in the US economy, encourage technology deployment, and stabilize electricity rates.

12. The United States only uses biofuels that do not degrade soil fertility.
Biofuels can quickly displace petroleum and, if grown appropriately, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from liquid fuels. Biofuel can also offer a use for agricultural waste products, and create new rural jobs.

13. The Smart Grid is installed, enhancing energy security, enabling distributed resources, and integrating electrified vehicles.
A Smart Grid brings the technologies and methodologies of the Internet to the electricity grid. It will enable two-way flows of electricity and information and support dynamic balance of supply and demand—simultaneously saving money, enhancing security and reliability, and reducing emissions.

14. Better electricity end-use data is made available.

In buildings, end-use data enabled by sub-meters and smart appliances let buyers or renters easily compare energy performance, incentivizing owners to improve it. Such data can also enable accurate and sophisticated billing and charge management for electrified vehicles.

15. A new corps of workers is trained to power the clean energy economy.
The market for energy-efficient improvements, sustainable corporate strategy, and renewable energy installation has been constrained by the lack of skilled workers, causing higher costs and lower growth. The federal government can and must help tackle this problem.

16. All energy subsidies are consistently reviewed, transparently displayed, and thoroughly addressed.

Current energy policies send large and pervasive subsidies, directly and indirectly, to the energy industry—many tens of billions of dollars a year through scores of programs, some dating back nearly a century. We recommend a goal of complete desubsidization, advanced through transparent and consistent scrutiny that exposes all subsidies for wide public consideration.

17. Government purchasing power spurs the clean energy economy.

Many of the above goals can be spurred if a market-making entity steps up to guarantee purchases, demonstrate technologies and methodologies, and make future demand more transparent.

For greater detail and a breakdown on how much carbon dioxide each measure could save--and how many jobs each measure could create--see the full report: RMI's Top Federal Energy Policies.

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