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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s ‘Smidgen’ of Truth on Energy Efficiency

President Obama criticized “the other side” for failing to provide “a smidgen of an idea” for energy efficiency. But it turns out, there is only a smidgen of truth to the president’s criticism.

The president was speaking in New York at a March 1 fundraising event when he brought up his energy policies — which have come under attack by Republicans of late because of rising gasoline prices. Obama said: “You don’t hear just a smidgen of an idea from the other side about how we might want to enhance energy efficiency, how we might want to develop new sources of energy, how we might want to restore our buildings so they’re energy-efficient, or create more energy-efficient cars — not even a mention of it.”

That’s not entirely true. There are Republicans working with Democrats on energy-efficiency legislation. Here are just two examples:

The Smart Energy Act seeks to make federal buildings more energy efficient. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, among other things, would provide for $400 million in loan guarantees through 2021 “to reduce financing risk for commercial and institutional buildings’ energy efficiency projects.” Both bills are contrary to Obama’s claim that the “other side” has no ideas on “how we might want to restore our buildings so they’re energy efficient.”

Portman’s press release on the bill linked to a letter of endorsement from more than 100 businesses and organizations — including the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as big corporations, such as Dow Chemical, Johns Manville and AT&T. The letter says the bill would “help make us more competitive globally and reduce our dependence on imported sources of energy at a critical time.” The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee overwhelmingly approved the bill 18-3.

In fact, the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council’s list of top 10 House and top 10 Senate “green building” bills in the current congressional session included six bills sponsored or cosponsored by Republicans. Two in the House and four in the Senate. Yes, the Democrats sponsored more of those bills. But the “other side” provided more than a smidgen.

It’s true that Republicans want to end Obama’s program for renewable energy subsidies, which we wrote about when the conservative Crossroads GPS launched an ad campaign urging that the program be shut down. The president’s program has become a victim of the Solyndra scandal, now under investigation by House Republicans.

But the fact is that some Republicans have some ideas on how to improve energy efficiency, even if they oppose some of the president’s ideas or don’t go as far as he would like.

— Eugene Kiely