As Earth Day comes around again, we remember the growing importance of addressing climate change. The good news is that we can address climate change, increase jobs and save taxpayers money with one simple solution: Put our money where our mouths are. We can and must invest in cost-saving energy efficiency measures like LED light bulbs, better air-handling systems, and other measures that pay for them.
We know that this approach works locally. After I was elected to the Dane County Board, I worked with other supervisors and staff to draw up a plan for all county buildings that cut energy costs by 18 percent and reduced greenhouse air pollution by almost 2.6 million pounds. Don’t you wish your retirement fund was making 18 percent returns on investment?
At the state level, an Energy Center of Wisconsin study estimates that investing $700 million would return a net $1.9 billion to Wisconsinites and create at least 11,000 jobs. That would help us improve from an unacceptable state ranking of 44th in the nation in job creation.
We know this approach works here in Wisconsin as our award-winning Focus on Energy program returns $2.30 for every $1 invested. Sadly, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans cut investment in this important program.
The cost of energy waste is substantial. In 2010, Wisconsinites spent $12.5 billion importing coal, oil and other fuels into our state. That’s an annual energy bill of over $2,000 per person and requires more than 300,000 people working at a typical $40,000 job to pay the bill. Cutting that energy bill keeps those dollars and jobs in Wisconsin.
The good news is that a recent Natural Resources Defense Council study showed that we achieve half of our pollution reduction goals with measures that actually save money, such as better lighting, better heating systems, and cleaner transportation.
McKinsey researchers found that investing $520 billion would yield more than $1.2 trillion in savings and reduce our energy demand by 23 percent, cutting more than a billion tons of CO2 and generating approximately 500,000 jobs.
The good news is that we are already starting to address this in Wisconsin. The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands lends out low-interest funds to units of government and has already saved our state millions of dollars.
Focus on Energy offers incentives that have saved Wisconsinites $2 billion since its inception and created 24,000 jobs between 2001 and 2011. If funding were expanded as recommended by the Public Service Commission, Focus on Energy could create between 11,700 and 14,600 additional jobs.
But we need to do more to address climate change in Wisconsin. Walker should support the Energy Jobs Fund and ensure we are saving all the tax money possible in our 9,000 state buildings, 3,000 schools, and other government buildings.
You can be part of the solution too.
According to the EPA, your home is the largest source of greenhouse air pollution. The solution? Caulk and weather-stripping around windows and doors can help. Focus on Energy has a great program that can help you conduct a home energy assessment and determine how you can reduce your energy bill.
State and local governments can cut their lighting costs by up to 90 percent with LED lights, helping reduce waste without cutting vital programs.
If we take these simple steps to reduce waste and pollution, we can create jobs and reduce the risks of climate change. Now we need to quit talking and start investing.