Last Friday the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy & Security Act by a vote of 219-212. President Obama called the passage “a bold and necessary step that holds the promise of creating new industries and millions of new jobs, decreasing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and strictly limiting the release of pollutants that threaten the health of families and communities and the planet itself.”The bill, if signed into law, will require a 30-percent reduction in energy use relative to a comparable residential structure constructed in compliance with the baseline code, effective January 1, 2015.

Effective January 1, 2017, and every three years after, a 5-percent additional reduction in energy use will be required, up until 2030.

If passed, the legislation also will impact the ENERGY STAR program, and calls for the establishment and implementation of a rating system for products identified as ENERGY STAR products “to provide consumers with the most helpful information on the relative energy efficiency, including cost effectiveness from the consumer’s perspective, and relative length of time for consumers to recover costs attributable to the energy-efficient features of those products.” This would be developed within 18 months of the enactment of the bill, “unless the Administrator and the Secretary communicate to Congress that establishing such a system would diminish the value of the ENERGY STAR brand to consumers.”

The bill also would require for a review of the ENERGY STAR product criteria for the 10 product models in each product category with the greatest energy consumption at least once every three years, and, based on this review, the criteria would be reviewed, updated and published for each category as necessary.

H.R. 2454 also would require periodic verification of compliance with the ENERGY STAR product criteria by products identified as ENERGY STAR products.

The legislation requests the allotment of $5,000,000 for fiscal year 2010 and each fiscal year thereafter for these changes.

The bill also would establish incentives for financial institutions that “develop loan products and flexible underwriting guidelines to facilitate a secondary market for energy-efficient and location-efficient mortgages on housing for very low-, low- and moderate-income families, and for second and junior mortgages made for purposes of energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements, or both.”

The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D. – Calif.) and Edward Markey (D – Mass.), now will move to the Senate.

The House’s passage of the H.R. 2454 has met numerous responses, both positive and negative, throughout the industry.

The Aluminum Association, based in Arlington, Va., has applauded the passage of the bill, calling it an important first step in protecting the environment and potentially creating thousands of new green jobs.

“We look forward to working with members of the Senate on this important issue to further enhance the language of this bill, particularly as it pertains to energy-intensive industries like ours,” reads a statement from the association.

However, the housing portion of the legislation has garnered criticism from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“The hard truth is that we can’t build our way out of this problem,” says NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a builder and developer in Tulsa, Okla. “We need to make sure our utilities more efficiently generate and transmit power. We need to make our existing housing stock more energy efficient. We need to reduce our ‘plug load’-home appliances, televisions and computers- and make these products more energy efficient. This bill’s focus on new home construction won’t get us very far at all.”

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