By RYAN TRACY
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will propose $200
million in his next budget for a "Race to the Top" program
rewarding states that pursue energy efficiency, asking Congress
to put teeth on an initiative to help the US use less
Mr. Obama's mentioned the idea in Tuesday's State of the
Union address but didn't outline a dollar figure or other
specifics. The budget proposal is expected next month.
The proposal would be modeled after a similar effort that
gave states funding for implementing education reforms,
according to a summary provided by a White House official. That
program rewarded states who made policy changes in line with the
Obama administration's priorities.
The proposed energy-efficiency funding would "support state
governments that implement effective policies to cut energy
waste," specifically measures such as modernizing utility rules
and building codes to encourage efficiency and standardizing
financing for energy-efficiency upgrades, the summary said.
The White House official said Congress would have to vote to
fund the initiative, but the administration believes it can
work with lawmakers to implement the new effort under existing
law, without authorizing any new programs.
The idea is part of a wider push in favor of
energy-efficient buildings, which could help achieve Mr.
Obama's climate change goals by resulting in less greenhouse
gas emissions from burning coal or
natural gas to make electricity.
"I'm also issuing a new goal for America: Let's cut in half
the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20
years," Mr. Obama said Tuesday.
Susan Tierney, who helped author a series of recommendations
released last week by the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit
group that promotes energy efficiency policy, said the "Race to the Top"
funding could be attractive to states.
"Right now the energy efficiency opportunities are massive
within all of these states but they also have a lot of other
challenges around their economic conditions," Ms. Tierney
Business engaged in energy-efficiency retrofits applauded
the proposals, but said it was important to back them up with
"Mandates and requirements will be absolutely essential if
the administration is serious about cutting energy waste in
half," said Dave Myers, president of building efficiency for
Mr. Myers and others are also focused on another of the
president's goals: in December 2011, the White House directed
federal agencies to close $2 billion worth of contracts for
energy-saving upgrades on federal buildings within two
Paul Orzeske, president of the building solutions unit of
Honeywell International, said the administration was in danger
of falling behind that goal if it doesn't finish the process of
selecting contractors by this summer at the latest. The
president is sending "the right message," he said, "but at a
working level you have to get it through the system."
Dow Jones Newswires