Obama Announces $4 Billion Initiative to Upgrade Energy Efficiency of Nation's Buildings

Progress Ohio Via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

This is a pleasant surprise: President Obama announced today that he's launching a $4 billion private-public initiative to upgrade the energy efficiency of the nation's buildings. Bill Clinton joined Obama today in making the announcement, which shouldn't be surprising--the former president has been pushing the very idea that comprises the backbone of the initiative for some time now.

According to an independent analysis, this effort to retrofit inefficient buildings will create tens of thousands of jobs, and will cost the taxpayer a grand total of nothing.

How's that? The statement issued from the White House explains: (emphasis mine)

The $4 billion investment announced today includes a $2 billion commitment, made through the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum, to energy upgrades of federal buildings using long term energy savings to pay for up-front costs, at no cost to taxpayers. In addition, 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders today committed to invest nearly $2 billion of private capital into energy efficiency projects; and to upgrade energy performance by a minimum of 20% by 2020 in 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community college and school buildings.

This is one of the rare examples where you actually have a genuine win-win-win situation: It's good for the individuals it puts to work, good for business who cut costs, and good for the environment as a result of less energy consumption. Which is why Clinton has been vocally pushing it; first at his annual Clinton Global Initiative, which actually laid the groundwork for Obama's program, and then in his latest book, Back to Work.

When I met with Clinton a few months ago, he breathlessly discussed the prospect of putting people to work with energy efficiency building upgrades:

"It's a no-brainer," he said. "In all this building retrofit work, if you let the building owner pay the loan off from utility savings, they've already got a guarantee from the contractor." And that seems to be exactly what Obama is doing.

This initiative won't create millions of jobs; it's perhaps not to the scale that Clinton deems possible. But it's a step in the right direction, and if executed properly, such initiatives should proliferate.

"Usually when things sound too good to be true, they are," Clinton said at the time. "They aren't here. This is one thing where you can finance 1 million jobs in America on a 'just say yes' system."

Tags: Barack Obama | Bill Clinton | Energy | Energy Efficiency