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Waxman-Markey takes first step towards a cleaner, more efficient energy economy

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Friday’s passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) signaled a definite shift in US policy towards energy use and climate change. Though the bill had its detractors — most notably Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and even progressive Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) — ACES, or Waxman-Markey, set new standards for clean energy adoption, energy efficiency, and, most notably, greenhouse gas emissions. Among the bill’s provisions:

  • a requirement that “electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020″

  • a $190 billion investment in “new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).”

  • mandated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (“17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels”), and the implementation of a “cap and trade” system for curbing these emissions.

Of course, the House bill is only the first step in making these standards law. The Senate takes up the measure next, and while the New York Times claims that “political divisions and regional differences are even more stark” in the Senate then in the House, Environmental and Public Works chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has already noted that “You might see a little bit of a stronger bill [than the House version] come out of our committee.”

There’s no doubt that any bill that would come out of the Senate would need to be reconciled with the House version before President Obama could sign it into law. That means there’s still time to ensure that energy and climate legislation incorporates scientifically-accepted standards for emissions limits, renewable energy production, and energy efficiency.

Want to make sure that efficiency, the lowest of low-hanging fruit for reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, receives the attention it should from our policy makers? Join Earthjustice and Sundance’s efforts to declare our country THE UNITED STATES OF EFFICIENCY. Add your signature to a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu pressing for “the strongest achievable standards” of energy efficiency for consumer products — after all, efficiency is “the fastest, cheapest and cleanest source of new energy.” The technology is available; we just need the political will to implement it on a large scale. Show Secretary Chu that you’re committed to practical solutions for our energy and environmental challenges: become a citizen of THE UNITED STATES OF EFFICIENCY.

Image credits: Dano and Rob Crawley at Flickr under a Creative Commons license