“Clean, Environmentally Friendly Shale Gas?” – Consider the Source
July 2013 | Research & Analysis
Consider the Source (or, How to Swashbuckle Like a Pirate)
The American Gas Association (AGA), flush with cash from increased consumption of shale gas extracted through fracking, and all the political power that comes with it, makes no bones about wanting the repeal of Section 433 of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Section 433 requires new federal buildings and major renovations to meet the 2030 Challenge targets (no fossil fuel energy consumption by 2030). The AGA’s weapon of choice to achieve this is to add the Hoeven-Manchin Amendment, to repeal Section 433, to the Shaheen–Portman Bill (a.k.a. the 2030 Repeal). AGA’s ultimate goal is for the U.S. to increase its use of what it calls “clean, abundant and environmentally friendly” shale gas.
Clean, Environmentally Friendly Shale Gas?
The planet is currently at 396ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, way past the 350ppm danger point. The planet is warming at an unprecedented pace and we are now experiencing the dangerous effects of climate change. The following graph clearly illustrates why we must phase down fossil fuel use and emissions – before we reach the specter of more climate tipping points. As illustrated, fracking and burning even a fraction of available shale gas will be incredibly destructive and irresponsible.
Don’t let the AGA fool you: despite its handwringing over sensible (and flexible, as written in Section 433) targets, the organization is no “Mom and Pop” suffering from overregulation: the simple fact is that the AGA is one of the largest, most powerful special interest groups in the United States, with many lobbyists on its payroll. If it weren’t, Congress wouldn’t be listening.
Worth Fighting For
Section 433 is a “cornerstone” piece of legislation because it adopts the 2030 Challenge targets and sets a federal standard specifically for reducing the use of fossil fuels in federal building operations.
Section 433 is worth fighting for because:
It demonstrates the U.S. government’s capacity to be a world leader in addressing climate change and reducing CO2 emissions.
It supports the tremendous progress towards a low carbon future underway in the Building Sector.
It saves taxpayers billions of dollars in federal energy costs.
The Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill making its way through the Senate has, up to this point, enjoyed bipartisan support. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Architecture 2030, as well as most Building Sector and environmental firms and organizations, have supported the bill – but will firmly oppose it should Hoeven-Manchin’s “2030 Repeal” amendment be part of the deal.
Make no mistake: since its introduction in 2011, Shaheen-Portman has been so diluted by special interests that if the bill includes the 2030 Repeal, it won’t be worth supporting.
Slash and Burn
Now, the fossil fuel industry is holding Shaheen-Portman hostage in the Senate (so much for bi-partisan support) unless the 2030 Repeal is included in the bill. This past week, the AGA enlisted back-up from two environmental (efficiency) organizations, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). In a recent interview regarding its support for the repeal of Section 433, Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE, “argues that a compromise with the fossil-fuel industry was necessary for the bill [Shaheen-Portman] to move forward at all.”
Really? Just how many compromises must be made, and amendments added, to the Shaheen-Portman bill for it to be acceptable to the fossil fuel industry? And how many of these pirate raids on Shaheen-Portman will it take before ACEEE and ASE wake up and realize that the bill is being looted?
The Shaheen-Portman bill has already been gutted substantially from the original bill introduced in 2011. For example, the following Section for national building energy code update targets was completely removed:
TARGETS AND GOALS- Removed in the Reintroduced 2013 Shaheen-Portman Bill
(B) GOALS- The Secretary shall–
establish goals of zero-net-energy for new commercial and residential buildings by 2030; and
work with State and local governments, the International Code Council, ASHRAE, and other interested parties to achieve these goals through a combination of national model building energy codes, appliance and lighting standards, and research, development, and demonstration of new efficiency and clean energy technologies.
Not coincidentally, the only environmental organizations invited to testify on the Hoeven-Manchin amendment to the Sheehan-Portman bill were ACEEE and ASE. Architecture 2030’s Technical Review of Steven Nadel’s (ACEEE) Senate testimony is available here.
A Line in the Sand and an Unstoppable Tide
Building Sector and environmental leaders have drawn a line in the sand. The AIA, Architecture 2030, 350.org, the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Environment America, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, New Buildings Institute, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Chemistry Council, and over 350 other architecture, engineering, environmental, and building industry firms and organizations recently sent a letter to the Senate opposing the “2030 Repeal”.
What’s more, the Building Sector itself is engaged in a sea change. Since 2005, the Sector has dramatically reduced its projected energy consumption to 2030, saving American consumers over $4.5 trillion. There is every reason to continue moving towards meeting the 2030 Challenge targets, including additional massive savings to consumers, turning the tide on carbon emissions, planning for climatic changes, recovering from climate disasters in responsible and resilient ways, and remaining on the cutting edge of planning and design. In short, a massive wave of momentum led by architects, engineers, planners, builders, developers, and other Building Sector professionals is rumbling forward. This powerful movement will change the U.S. landscape and promises to scuttle even the largest pirate vessel, and Section 433 has an important place as its national flagship. To make your voice heard, use the AIA’s guide to contact your Senators.
So, Where Does the White House Stand?
Some believe the fossil fuel industry and American Gas Association have a vise-like grip on Congressional legislation. More than 350 Building Sector and environmental firms and organizations believe otherwise. To advocate for the 2030 Repeal and its fossil fuel reduction targets for federal buildings is not only shortsighted, but also irresponsible, given the environmental, climatic, and societal impacts of fracking and burning shale gas.
The President has vigorously supported Section 433 in the past by issuing Executive Order 13514 in 2009. The Executive Order requires federal agencies to meet federal building energy reduction targets, including implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement. And recently, the White House Blog posted the American Institute of Architects’ statement opposing the repeal of Section 433, usually an indication of their current position.
Meanwhile, the AGA continues to “Frack Frack Frack” and Shake its Booty for Congress, leaving the American public to pick up the pieces of a broken environment.
With the Building Sector determined to meet the 2030 Challenge targets, the AGA, on the wrong side of history, will eventually lose the pirate’s game.
Architecture 2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central solution to the climate crisis.