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One overlooked election tidbit: GOP gains in state legislatures (and governors’ offices) will throw a major wrench into efforts to slow climate change. What follows is an explanation on why and how.

Basically, it’s all about buildings. The energy used to power commercial and residential buildings is responsible for 38 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – emissions that worsen climate change.

Rulemaking is not sexy, but in this case, the rules behind how buildings are designed and run have a huge impact on climate change. And this is why, if you care about the environment, there is about to be a very big problem.

(Cross posted from my local blog)

One overlooked election tidbit: GOP gains in state legislatures (and governors’ offices) will throw a major wrench into efforts to slow climate change. What follows is an explanation on why and how.

Basically, it’s all about buildings. The energy used to power commercial and residential buildings is responsible for 38 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – emissions that worsen climate change.

Rulemaking is not sexy, but in this case, the rules behind how buildings are designed and run have a huge impact on climate change. And this is why, if you care about the environment, there is about to be a very big problem.

The efficiency of buildings is governed by rules written by an organization called ASHRAE. But those rules must be adopted separately be each state. And 17 stateshave energy codes for commercial buildings that are ten years behind the most current version.

The code has been updated four times since 1999. But failure by states to keep pace is causing a massive amount of energy waste and therefore worsening climate change. More numbers on this further on.

First, a look at where the rubber meets the road. The GOP gained control in 12 states with badly outdated energy codes. Republicans will no doubt do their best to freeze the energy codes once they take office in these states in January, or dramatically slow what is an already glacially slow adoption process. This means more coal burned, more carbon emissions and accelerated climate change.

Here’s the breakdown. (This covers commercial building codes only. The story is worse regarding residential building codes)

State and GOP Gain       Energy Code To Be Frozen       2009 Census Est.
Alabama House and Senate       1999 ASHRAE                                                4.7 million
Colorado Senate                                                1999 ASHRAE                                                5 million
Minnesota House and Senate                        2004 ASHRAE                                                5.2 million
Michigan House and GOV                              2001 ASHRAE                                                9.9 million
New Mexico GOV                                             2004 ASHRAE 2 million
North Carolina House and Senate              2004 ASHRAE                                                9.3 million
Ohio House and GOV                                    2004 ASHRAE                                                11.5 million
Oklahoma GOV                                                2001 ASHRAE                                                3.6 million
Tennessee GOV                                                2004 ASHRAE                                                6.2 million
Wyoming GOV                                                1999 ASHRAE                                                544,270
Wisconsin House Senate and GOV            2004 ASHRAE                                                5.6 million
The NY Senate may  flip                            2001 ASHRAE                                                19.5 million

Combined, the states in the chart above represent 27 percent of the U.S. population that may now go years without any further updates. This will have an enormous impact when it comes to climate change. The just-released 2010 version of the code is estimated to slash energy use by 30 percent compared to the 2004 version. For states like Michigan or Colorado that have an especially outdated code or don’t even have a statewide code, the energy savings are much, much larger.

Another eight states where Republicans gained power will likely see energy codes frozen at the 2007 levels. Put together the list above and below and energy codes will be frozen in states that represent 42 percent of the population —  some 130 million people.

State and GOP Gain               Energy Code To Be Frozen       2009 Census Est.

Florida GOV                                                            2007 ASHRAE                                    18.5 million
Indiana House                                                       2007 ASHRAE                                    6.4 million
Iowa House and GOV                                           2007 ASHRAE                                    3 million
Kansas GOV                                                            2007 ASHRAE                                    2.8 million
Maine House, Senate and GOV                           2007 ASHRAE                                    1.3 million
Montana House                                                       2007 ASHRAE                                    974,989
New Hampshire House and Senate                   2007 ASHRAE                                    1.3 million
Pennsylvania House and GOV                            2007 ASHRAE                                    12.6 million

It gets worse.

Falsely attacked by Republicans for all kinds of reasons, cap and trade is not the root of evil socialism, but a market-based approach to control pollution and in the case of CO2, signals energy users to reduce energy use. Fun fact Republicans don’t want you to know: Acid rain was largely eliminated as a pollution problem because of a cap and trade program.

Second fun fact Republicans don’t want you to know: There are actually already three regional CO2 cap and trade programs in various stages of existence in the U.S. Republicans are now poised to dismantle years of painstaking work that has been done at the state level to reduce CO2 emissions.

The oldest of the three cap and trade programs, RGGI, was launched in 2005. Since that time it has generated $775 millionthrough the sale of allowances to reduce CO2 emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.
That money is going back to member states and creating jobs. In Massachusetts, for example, some of that funding is expected to create 4,000 jobs over three years.

Three of the 10 RGGI member states — Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, saw the GOP gain control of state legislatures. A fourth, New Jersey, now has Republican Governor Chris Christie in control. Expect major political maneuvering by Republicans in these states to kill or slow the program in the coming years.

Why? Because it works. And because it works, it will be a dangerous counterexample to prove wrong the sham Republican arguments used in the last few years to try to obstruct climate change bills.

Meanwhile, the Midwest version, called the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, was only formed in 2007, and is not yet running. Member states are Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. If it was a nation, MGA’s emissions would be the seventh largest in the world.

MGA’s program to cut emissions will never launch. The math is simple: the GOP made major gains in nearly all member states: Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Finally, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) had planned to launch its program in 2012 after years of careful study. The GOP gained control of the legislature in partner states Colorado and Montana. And Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer has already removed her state from the program. What happens with WCI now is unclear.

So there you have it. How Republicans will obstruct climate change reform even further.

There are a few other big pieces too where change will no doubt come — states with Republican takeovers will probably have their renewable portfolio standards weakened. This means less support for clean energy and the jobs that comes with it.

And let’s not get started on utility efficiency programs in states (like Wisconsin) where Republicans gained and the state did not deregulate its energy market. That’s another subject entirely, but there will probably be change coming there too. Prediction: less money for energy efficiency and renewable energy, more deregulation.

It’s hard to say when all these different shifts will occur in the different states. What will be especially interesting is whether these changes occur quietly or whether opposition is mobilized to explain how badly these changes will put our environmental security at risk.

Originally posted to BWISC on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:09 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Won't be reversals (7+ / 0-)

    They will be adoptions of GOP policies. Which our President is more than willing to do. Because it will piss off those damn liberals, and that appears to make him happy.

    •  Exactly. If the Planet Wants to Join the Adult (6+ / 0-)

      conversation, it's going to have to stop hanging out with the hippies.

      If the climate will come back with a more sensible offer, say, 1c by century's end, maybe it can be included in policy discussions.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:18:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, like this . . . . (3+ / 0-)

      Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight

      In the name of job creation and clean energy, the Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus money to some of the nation’s biggest polluters and granted them sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found.

      The administration has awarded more than 179,000 "categorical exclusions" to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies, freeing those projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Coal-burning utilities like Westar Energy and Duke Energy, chemical manufacturer DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling are among the firms with histories of serious environmental violations that have won blanket NEPA exemptions.

      http://www.publicintegrity.org/...

  •  It is stunning how Conservatives (8+ / 0-)

    can be so opposed to energy conservation. A extra thousand dollars worth of air sealing and insulation in a new home can pay off in just 5 years and save a homeowner that amount many times over in utility savings.

    There should never be a tax benefit for companies that screw over American workers.

    by bear83 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:23:15 AM PST

    •  bear83 - they are not against conservation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greatdarkspot

      I have not heard or read anything that suggests that conservatives are against energy conservation. What they object to are laws that require individuals, or businesses, to conserve. In their view, if the economics of conservation are compelling, individuals, or companies, will make rational economic choices and conservation will happen without any government intervention. I don't agree with them that there is no role for regulations, but the key point of their argument is that the market will take care of this over time.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 10:19:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  RE: Conservation (0+ / 0-)

        Unlike the auto market, where the same person buys and operates a car and there is at least some centrality there, the building market does not encourage efficient energy use, because one party builds and designs, another buys or leases, and on down the line.

        •  BWISC - I understand that point (0+ / 0-)

          But the developers, or builders, make judgements about the market they are in and what buyers are looking for. Where I live, in the SF bay area, the builders and developers are creating energy saver homes and that is a big part of their marketing appeal.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:58:17 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  But that won't help the oil (0+ / 0-)

      and natural gas industries. Just like putting in efficient lighting won't help big coal.

      You've got to get your priorities right!

      Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

      by radical simplicity on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:07:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Republican victories on the state level (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, forester, A Siegel, hold tight

    definitely are a very troubling sign for both the environment and renewables in those states.

    Tipped and recced

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

    by Lawrence on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:37:16 AM PST

  •  The conservative plan to reduce energy and CO2 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, hold tight

    Rising unemployment. People without jobs drive less, cannot afford energy bills, and buy goods.

    Be radical in your compassion.

    by DWG on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:56:34 AM PST

    •  RE: The conservative plan to reduce energy and CO (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hold tight, DWG

      Of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner?

      •  The single largest drop in emissions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radical simplicity

        and oil consumption came in 2008-2009. With no extension of unemployment insurance benefits, we should soon see more reductions, particularly as energy prices climb because the global economy is picking up.

        It is really embarrassing that we live in country where we lack the political will and insight to see the need to transition to clean energy and improve efficiency. It should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately the no-brainers hold elected office.

        Be radical in your compassion.

        by DWG on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 09:08:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Couple things. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, rb137, radical simplicity
    1.  Very important issue.  Thank you for posting.
    1.  The tables are really messed up here (at least on my screen).
    1.  While I don't reject this as possible (or even likely), have the Rs directly stated in these states opposition to the updated codes?
    1. I recently put up a related item that you might find interesting:  Home energy efficiency: no surprise, very fast paybacks to be expected

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 09:21:09 AM PST

    •  RE: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Bob, PeterHug

      Apologies for the tables. I tried several times to get it fixed here, but the CMS just would not play ball. They are cleaner on the local blog I posted on.

      Regarding point 3, a whole host of climate change denying Republicans were elected to Congress. I have every belief that similar Republicans were swept into office at the state level.

      Such Republicans will be incredibly sympathetic to arguments made by wealthy real estate owners and builders that these updates are an expensive overreach that increase costs, make them less competitive and put jobs at risk. (None of which is true, but that's the line always used).

      Point 4: Good post.

  •  not just climate change ideology (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, radical simplicity

    Republicans (I refuse to call them conservatives anymore.) in state-level offices tend to oppose more stringent energy codes for reasons a lot simpler than denial of climate change. It has just as much to do with who funds their political campaigns.

    In state politics, the homebuilders’ trade association and real estate developers are the 800-pound lobbying gorillas. They reflexively oppose any change in construction codes, energy-related or not, that increase the initial cost of construction. They don’t care if the cost of a particular energy efficiency standard has a 5-year payback. They are done with the property the day it sells. Anything that makes a property more expensive makes it harder to sell, ergo they are against it.

    The real reason this is such a problem is that the people buying houses don’t value more efficient buildings to the extent they are willing to pay for them. You can tell them that over a five-year period their cost of ownership will be lowered more than enough to offset the higher initial cost...but most people just don’t get it or don’t care.

    There is no incentive for a spec home builder to construct something more efficient than code or support more stringent energy codes. If the buying public is ignorant or indifferent you can’t expect the builder to spend money on something that does little to increase the market value of what they’re trying to sell.

    I work in commercial construction, not residential, but I did hear this story from an acquaintance who is a home builder: He was selling houses in a ‘semi-custom’ development, i.e.: standard floor plans but with options the buyer could select. One of the options was insulation 20%  better than code or granite countertops. Of the 14 houses he sold all 14 went for the countertops.

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

    by Joe Bob on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 09:50:20 AM PST

  •  Added tags (0+ / 0-)

    note Ekos

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:40:08 AM PST

  •  Your tables, they burn the eyes. (0+ / 0-)

    I think your formatting got lost somewhere in the diary posting process.

  •  Here's the new tactic. (0+ / 0-)

    Progressives should never mention their beliefs or their goals.  Without their rudder--doing everything in their power to prevent the dfh's from getting their way--the GOP will begin to enact policies randomly.  In this way, progressives will win 50% of the time.

    Strong, generous men do not create victims; they nurture victims. -core value of Julian Assange

    by geomoo on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 09:16:39 PM PST

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