GOP shows conservation is a conservative cause
Energy and environmental policy is in the headlines. The new Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy gave her first major policy speech this week, while congressional committees held hearings on a host of energy bills.
Whatâ€™s clear is that, for at least the next two years, the White House, Washington Democrats and TV commentators will continue to portray Republicans as anti-environment. All while promoting policies that would cut gross domestic product and kill jobs. Yet Republicans at the state level are implementing innovative policies that reduce emissions, while saving taxpayer dollars.
Consider North Carolina. It has been the focus of national news with protests held at the state capitol in Raleigh every Monday since mid-April, which have made the state a political tinderbox. North Carolina Republicans took control of state government for the first time in over a century last November. Liberal critics now paint them as ill-intentioned troglodytes who want to pollute the state.
This narrative, however, is detached from reality. Last month, for example, the Republican Governor Pat McCrory announced that the University of North Carolina school system was going to make its campuses more energy efficient. The oldest public university system in the nation has contracted with private companies to retrofit all university buildings and facilities.
Most important, the UNC system energy efficiency initiative means significant savings to taxpayers. McCrory said the project will save the state $25 million over the next seven years. More than 100,000 energy-efficient lighting fixtures are going to be installed, the Associated Press reports, in classrooms, dormitories and other facilities across the 13 university campuses, the North Carolina Arboretum, and the state Department of Commerce Energy Office.
Johnson Controls Inc. is signed to lead this initiative. The company, as opposed to taxpayers, will front all the costs. This arrangement, using LED fixtures from Cree Lighting, demonstrates how public-private partnerships â€“ which have funded major highway projects across the country — can also be used to build, maintain and renovate core infrastructure outside of transportation, such as government buildings.
Johnson Controls is also working on projects with eight other state governments throughout the Southeast, all controlled by Republicans. It is estimated that the efficiency improvement projects being undertaken in these solidly red states — designed to upgrade schools, airports and hospitals throughout the region — will save taxpayers more than $580 million.
Tar Heel State Republicans have even taken meaningful steps in their own offices. House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is now a U.S. Senate candidate, last year announced a shift to a paperless legislature. No longer is every amendment and bill printed out for members and staff, only to sit stacked outside of offices and on wooden racks, as was the practice for decades.
During floor debates, North Carolina legislators now follow bills and amendments on laptops, iPads and other devices. The change will cut back on a lot of paper and save the state $75,000 in printing costs every two years, according to Tillis. Given the tens of thousands of bills filed in state legislatures across the country every year, if all state houses went paperless it would save both many trees and taxpayer dollars.
In her debut speech this week, the EPAâ€™s McCarthy said the Obama administration wants to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the White House continues to interfere with states that are successfully reducing emissions with pro-growth, private-sector solutions, such as increasing natural gas production with hydraulic fracturing technology.
The Bureau of Land Management is now weighing national regulations for fracking-related oil and gas operations that would further disincentivize production on federal lands. A recent economic analysis of the BLMâ€™s proposed rule estimated that compliance would cost $345 million per year. The regulations being considered would prevent states from reaching their full emission-reducing, deficit-reducing and job-creating potential through increased natural gas production and use.
If the White House is serious about reducing carbon emissions and also improving the economy, it should get out of the way of states that are providing leadership on both and proving that the goals do not have to be mutually exclusive.
PHOTO (Top): A light-emitting diode (LED) street lamp is illuminated in Langen, Lower Saxony, May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
PHOTO (Insert A): REUTERS/University of North Carolina
PHOTO (Insert B): An exploratory well drills for oil in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson