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Lobbying against energy-efficiency measures draws criticism: 'Nobody is asking you what the payback is on your fancy cabinets'

"It strikes me funny that we're measuring improvements to houses by this simple payback calculation."

"We do need to wrestle with the issue of cost."

Photo Credit: iStock

Lobbyists are dismantling green energy initiatives in the name of affordability, disrupting our potential for a greener future in the process.

The Washington Post reports that a multitude of lobbyists from the home-building industry are consistently opposing measures that make new houses more energy-efficient. The outlet notes that houses account for about 20% of all greenhouse gas pollution in the United States, yet these builders maintain their climate-unfriendly positions so they can argue for affordable housing.

Affordable housing is a noble cause, but the Post details how its advocates often over-inflate the costs of clean energy infrastructure when arguing against policies that will create a greener future. 

Anti-energy efficiency lobbyist Liz Thompson argued that "these measures provide little benefit to the consumer but come at significant cost and increase the price of homes," despite the Post's reporting that the costs pay for themselves in energy bill savings.

For example, North Carolina developer Ron Jackson says that he opposed the state's proposed plan to reduce the carbon pollution of new homes because they'd add over $20,000 to costs per home, as estimated by lobbying group the National Association of Home Builders. However, the Post notes that a federal study found that the NC code would only add $6,500 in costs, and that those costs across a 30-year mortgage would actually be less per year than the yearly energy savings. In other words, they would quickly pay for themselves and then some.

At the heart of the issue, it seems, is one side willing to prioritize a long-term vision of cost savings and environmental benefits while the other is focused on short-term upfront and perceived cost savings, even in the face of data from builders of similar projects who have demonstrated the projects actually put more money in homeowners' pockets. The only real increase would be to the sticker price of the home, with the energy-saving modern features able to serve as selling points.

Federal, state, and local governments have introduced and implemented policies that will save homeowners money in the long run — and simultaneously help curb carbon pollution — by regulating energy efficiency in the construction of new homes. These measures sometimes include requirements for wiring for EV charger installation (which strongly benefits any homeowner who wants to save money on refueling their car) and thicker insulation to help reduce heating and cooling costs.

When lobbyists oppose these kinds of measures, they ultimately cost homeowners money in the long run by encouraging policies that can make energy bills more expensive. Lower energy-efficiency standards also have a negative impact on the planet, as they allow new buildings to emit more carbon pollution than is necessary, thus contributing to the dangerous overheating of our planet.

"We do need to wrestle with the issue of cost, but it strikes me funny that we're measuring improvements to houses by this simple payback calculation," green builder Rob Howard said. "Nobody is asking you what the payback is on your fancy cabinets or flooring. But energy efficiency always comes down to that debate."

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Certain states like California still maintain stronger building codes that make their new homes more energy-efficient. 

And even if state measures are successfully upended by anti-clean-energy lobbyists, individual cities can still implement measures that make construction more climate-friendly — for example, Chicago's mayor has proposed a plan to help make new buildings more efficient. Seattle has also set ambitious carbon-neutral goals that include increasing energy efficiency in new construction projects, and Los Angeles has outlawed inefficient gas power in construction, too.

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