Thursday, May 24, 2007

House Committee Approves Bill to Help Small Business Cope With Rising Energy Costs

Rising energy costs have hit small businesses especially hard over the past few years, impacting their daily operations and forcing many to alter their business models. To help small businesses cope with climbing energy prices, the House Small Business Committee approved legislation, H.R. 2389, the Small Energy Efficient Business Act [SEEBA], to provide loans, education, and investment to small firms for energy efficient buildings, fixtures, equipment and technology.

"Small businesses nationwide are struggling as energy becomes increasingly expensive," said Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez [D-N.Y.]. "It is clear that swift action is needed to help firms deal with the record gas and energy prices. One way to do this is ensuring entrepreneurs are educated and aware of the assistance available to them, as well as helping them to remain the top producers of alternative sources of energy."

Addressing these challenges, the committee approved legislation yesterday that modifies existing Small Business Administration [SBA] programs to better assist small companies with adapting to today's changing energy environment. SEEBA, introduced by Congressman Heath Shuler [D-N.C.], gives small firms that are acquiring or developing energy efficient technologies more flexible loan terms.

SEEBA requires SBA to develop a strategy for educating small firms about energy efficiency, and establishes an energy efficiency program for the Small Business Development Centers [SBDCs]. The bill effectively spurs investment in the production of alternative sources, such as biofuels.

H.R. 2389 also promotes development of energy efficient technology by expanding the Small Business Investment Company [SBIC] program, increasing investment in small producers. Creation of the Renewable Fuel Capital Investment [RFCI] program, an initiative designed to help small firms develop renewable energy sources and new technologies, is also included.

Collectively, these measures benefit consumers and producers, thus reducing costs and increasing competition in the market for energy efficient goods and services.

"Small businesses are the first to be affected by rising energy prices, and small businesses will be the first to find the solutions," said Shuler, chairman of the Subcommittee on Rural and Urban Entrepreneurship. "This bill gives them the tools they need to lead our nation to energy efficiency and independence."

SEEBA will make new, energy efficient technology more affordable and accessible. As consumption grows an anticipated one percent annually over the next 25 years, costs for traditional energy sources will continue to increase.

H.R. 2389 will provide technical assistance to help small business owners implement strategies to mitigate energy costs. It also launches a comprehensive plan to disseminate energy efficiency information through programs that are already positioned around the country.

SEEBA will not only help small businesses cope with rising costs, but will also increase investment in small firms that are developing renewable energy solutions, recognizing the leadership of entrepreneurs in the alternative-energy sector.

This bill provides both business development resources and injections of capital that will contribute to creating the next generation of technologies. Simply put, SEEBA is essential to helping small firms cope with rising energy costs and, thus, reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

"Small businesses have proven themselves to be flexible and nimble, adapting to changing to market conditions," said Chairwoman Velázquez. "The legislation approved gives entrepreneurs the tools to implement energy efficient strategies and develop renewable-energy technologies."

H.R. 2389 has garnered support from a wide array of small-business organizations, including: Independent Electrical Contractors, Air Conditioning Contractors of America, National Roofing Contractors Association, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, National Small Business Association, and Small Business Majority.

GoodBiz113's take: Four months into his new job in Congress, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler is already scoring on behalf of small businesses -- and everyone else who seeks sustainable energy technologies and energy independence. He's to be commended for taking far-reaching initiative. Congresswoman Velázquez deserves kudos, too, for empowering him to, well, "run with the ball."

Sources: Library of Congress, PBS [photo], U.S. House Small Business Committee

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