Last week I attended the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (MEEA) annual meeting for its members in Chicago. It was well worth my time and expense. As one might guess, it featured sessions of accomplishments, organization metrics, and feedback sessions for improvement – what’s important to members. I think many attendees would agree the premier session of the day was “Energy Efficiency Under Attack”, namely in the Midwest battleground states of Indiana and Ohio. What an irony, as this has been the subject of a couple recent posts, The Case for Energy Efficiency – That Our Mothers Understand and Failing Energy Efficiency – From Russia with Love.
Discussions featured lessons learned in the defeat of Indiana and the ongoing rhetoric in Ohio. Major elements in the fight to retain and grow energy efficiency programs include communication and messaging. As described in the “From Russia with Love” post last week, findings in Indiana and Ohio back my assertion that climate change is a kryptonite to super hero energy efficiency.
Why is this the case? The simple answer is, we’ve got it too good. We are victims of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparent’s sacrifices. When things are easy, the country unites behind very few things. Energy efficiency comes close to a universally favored policy unless we blow it and get embroiled in the political bomb throwing. This is what is happening in Ohio.
Jeff, you are a grumpy old man. You can’t just make these assertions and not back them up. Ok. I will.
By united, I mean pre-Vietnam days when the entire country, region, or local jurisdiction would support one another and dig in to solve problems because things were more urgent and a matter of survival. For example, we would never win another WWII. Were there protests for peace and environment impeding progress then? No. Protest and lose the country, or grab a shovel and get to work. That was it. Pretty much every single person in the country was affected by rationing of materials and food, and anyone not fighting the war directly was manufacturing stuff to support those who were.
Another example: In the summer of 1956, the Schoellkopf power station, a hydro-electric plant on the Niagara River, collapsed. This immediately threatened thousands of local and regional manufacturing jobs. The next year, congress approved construction of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant – a 2,400 megawatt hydro power plant (huge) which was the largest in the western hemisphere at the time. Consider what the construction of this behemoth entailed:
- Acquisition of 550 acres of an Indian reservation to build a giant reservoir
- Excavating two huge underground canals diverting water around the falls, requiring temporary bridges, traffic disruptions, and moving hundreds of homes and buildings out of the way for construction
- Total concrete and excavation volumes that are too large to comprehend
- 100,000 workers who would stop for nothing
The entire project was approved and built in barely four years. This was a little more than 50 years ago. Today, it would be tied up in the courts for 50 years and wouldn’t be built. Ironically, today the Niagara Falls manufacturing base is what one would think of when they hear the term rust belt. It is a sorry sight, not unlike Detroit. I have been to both cities multiple times in recent years, and I wish them the best – they are casualties of bad policy.
Civility and pragmatism left the political scene decades ago. Back in the day, there may have been personal attacks in politics, but I believe it was over fierce debates of what was best for the country and its citizens. Today, it is more about clobbering the other side and citizens get the collateral damage of this. This has escalated since the end of the Soviet Union – an emanate threat to everyone in the country is gone.
This brings us to climate change and why we need to steer clear of this argument to win the case for energy efficiency. The political right thinks this is a scam to knee-cap the US and subject us to United Nations control. The left thinks anyone who doesn’t think climate change is an immediate threat is a knuckle dragging, flat-earth Neanderthal. Let’s not get embroiled in this mess.
My take on the subject of climate change is similar to this guy’s post in Energy Trends Insider – whatever that’s worth. But the point is, if we start waving climate change around we lose half the country, and in these battleground states it is entirely counter productive. This was pointed out during the MEEA meeting in regard to Indiana and Ohio.
We ought to focus on the message of lowest cost resource (energy) and resource preservation.
Incidentally, the chief political bomb thrower in Ohio is a senator by the name of Bill Seitz, quotes of which are presented nearby, courtesy of Marty Kushler, ACEEE. How do we combat this? Answer: silence. Citing the likes of Stalin, socialism, and communism is self defeating. Go ahead. Make my day.
Apparently, Senator Seitz flip-flopped his view of energy efficiency – voting for it originally and now he virulently wants to destroy the policy. His excuse: the shale gas boom. This is more likely a political fig leaf for the real reasons, which include political donations, score settling, and the thrill of the kill.
We don’t need energy efficiency because we have >100 years of natural gas supply? Really? I’m glad our nation’s founders weren’t this short sighted and stupid.