Where do the presidential candidates stand on energy efficiency?

Aug. 16, 2012
By Elisa Wood August 15, 2012 We know that what a political candidate says during a campaign often differs from what the eventual office-holder does. We also know that candidates choose their words carefully to give themselves wiggle room for modifications in course. So we listen for innuendo and subtleties when candidates talk about our special […]
By Elisa Wood
August 15, 2012

We know that what a political candidate says during a campaign often differs from what the eventual office-holder does. We also know that candidates choose their words carefully to give themselves wiggle room for modifications in course.

So we listen for innuendo and subtleties when candidates talk about our special interests. What kind of qualifying language do they use? Are they truly against X, Y and Z, or only under special circumstances?

Below are some quotes on energy efficiency from President Barack Obama and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney. I’ll start with Romney since his stand is less clear, at least to me. Romney pushed a green agenda while Governor of Massachusetts, but recently attacked renewable energy as “imaginary.” He doesn’t, however, appear to direct the same criticism at energy efficiency.

Romney on energy efficiency

“I also want to see us become more energy efficient. I’m told that we use almost twice as much energy per person as does a European, and more like three times as much as does a Japanese citizen. We could do a lot better. I’d like to see our vehicles, and our homes, and our systems of insulation and so forth become far more efficient. I believe that we have a role in trying to encourage that to happen.”Think Progress, June 6, 2011 (See video here)

When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney proposed a four step energy plan, which began with increasing energy efficiency for homes, businesses, state buildings, and vehicles.

In contrast, Romney pushes an agenda of energy production, not savings, on his campaign website. He criticizes Obama’s green energy programs, and calls for alternative energy funding to be used on basic research. The energy issues page does not  mention energy efficiency or conservation.

Obama on energy efficiency

“The easiest way to save money is to waste less energy,” – Obama, January 24, 2012, State of the Union Address.

Obama has been unabashedly pro-energy efficiency. As I reported in February, Obama’s 2013 budget won accolades from energy efficiency advocates because it called for about $1.2 billion in spending for energy efficiency.

In addition, Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future pushes energy efficiency across all sectors: buildings, homes, factories, vehicles, and calls for export of US energy efficiency technologies.

Still, in the “Energy and Environment” section of his campaign website, energy production takes up most of the ink – wind, solar, oil and clean coal – as part of his “all of the above strategy.” The site does include a section on the fuel economy standards Obama negotiated with car manufacturers.

In Congress, Republicans and Democrats have both pushed energy efficiency legislation. It remains to be seen if the resource can remain free of the political fray in this election, where candidates seem determined to disagree on everything. If you have found other quotes by the candidates on energy efficiency, please post them in the comments here. Let’s keep watching what’s said.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer. Subscribe to her free Energy Efficiency Markets newsletter at RealEnergyWriters.com 

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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