Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kerry-Snowe Bill Provisions Help Small Businesses Increase Energy Efficiency

Today, as the Senate debated a comprehensive energy bill, Senators John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Olympia J. Snowe [R-Maine] introduced legislation to press the Bush Administration to take action to help small businesses increase their energy efficiency.

The bipartisan bill also holds the Bush administration accountable for failing to implement an energy-efficiency assistance program enacted into law in 2005, and provides tools that will help small businesses reduce their dependency on fossil fuels.

As GoodBiz113 previously reported, in March, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing that revealed the federal government needs to play a more aggressive role in assisting small businesses in becoming more energy efficient.

Then, in April, Kerry and Snowe wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], seeking details on the Bush administration’s progress in implementing the ENERGY STAR Small Business Program. They also wrote to the Small Business Administration [SBA], asking for information about how the agency has implemented the energy-efficiency program mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 [EPAct].

“Improving energy efficiency isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for the bottom line,” declared Kerry, chairman of the committee.

“Many small businesses want to be part of the solution to addressing climate change -- one of our generation’s greatest challenges," he noted. "But we need leadership from this administration to promote and provide resources to help small firms that want to take the next step and reduce their energy use and costs. I am working to get provisions passed in the energy bill that will help small businesses achieve this goal.”

“As the ranking Republican on the Small Business Committee and as a longstanding steward of the environment," Snowe noted, "I firmly believe that small businesses have a pivotal role to play in forging a solution to global climate change and rising energy prices.

“According to a recent survey conducted by the National Small Business Association, 75 percent of small businesses believe that energy efficiency can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And, yet, only 33 percent of those respondents had successfully invested in energy-efficiency programs for their businesses. Our measure will help to incentivize small businesses to make a smaller carbon ‘footprint.’”

The Kerry-Snowe bill:

* Requires the [SBA] to implement, within 90 days, an energy efficiency program that was mandated in EPAct -- passed in 2005 to ensure jobs for our future with secure, affordable and reliable energy;

* Establishes an audit program to increase energy efficiency, using Small Business Development Centers [SBDCs];

* Promotes financing agreements between small businesses and utility companies to increase energy efficiency;

* Creates a telecommuting pilot program at the SBA, responsible for educational materials and outreach to small businesses on the benefits of telecommuting;

* Allows small businesses conducting energy-efficiency or renewable-energy research and development to be given priority consideration in the SBA-administered Small Business Innovation Research [SBIR] and Small Business Technology Transfer [STTR] programs; and

* Establishes loans for small firms to invest in use of renewable sources of energy in their business.

GoodBiz113's take: Despite myopic, misguided and purely nonsensical arguments to the contrary, climate change is real. We're pleased that Sens. Kerry and Snowe are leading this bipartisan effort to simultaneously hold America's 26 million small businesses accountable and incentivize us to do our part to help reverse the far-reaching and devastating effects of global warming.

Sources: Library of Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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