Yesterday, Sens. John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, urged the Bush administration to invest more resources to help small businesses become more energy efficient and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Although small businesses represent half of the nation’s economy and are responsible for half of the country’s energy consumption, the government spends less than two percent of the ENERGY STAR® program’s $50 million annual budget reaching out to help small businesses. Sens. Joe Lieberman [I/D-Conn.], Mary Landrieu [D-La.], Maria Cantwell [D-Wash.], Norm Coleman [R-Minn.], and Jon Tester [D-Mont.] joined Kerry and Snowe in calling for a larger commitment to helping small firms.
“There’s no greater threat to the Earth than global climate change, but by leaving small businesses out of the solution, the Bush administration shows they’re not serious about tackling the problem,” said Kerry. “Small businesses can lead the way toward a cleaner, greener future, so the least the federal government can do is dedicate $2 million -- just 4 percent -- of ENERGY STAR® funds to help entrepreneurs reduce their energy costs and foster green innovation.”
“As the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and as a longstanding steward of the environment,” said Sen. Snowe, “I am alarmed by the administration's lack of commitment to promoting small-business energy efficiency.
“According to a National Small Business Association [NSBA] survey, 40 percent of small businesses are still not familiar with the ENERGY STAR® product label and technical support programs that are available. And at a Committee hearing last year, the Environmental Protection Agency testified that it has only two full-time employees devoted to the ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program. I am pleased to join my bipartisan colleagues in urging the Administration to properly fund the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® small-business program.”
In a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], which implements the ENERGY STAR® program, the senators urged the Bush administration to increase funding for the ENERGY STAR® small-business program to $2 million a year, in order to provide technical assistance and resources necessary to small businesses.
Sens. Kerry and Snowe successfully secured provisions to aid small firms in becoming more energy efficient in the energy bill that the Senate will vote on in the near future. The provisions will:
* Require the Small Business Administration [SBA] to implement within 90 days an energy efficiency program that was mandated in the Energy Policy Act of 2005;
* Establish an audit program to increase energy efficiency, using Small Business Development Centers [SBDCs];
* Promote financing agreements between small businesses and utility companies to increase energy efficiency;
* Create a telecommuting pilot program at the SBA responsible for educational materials and outreach to small businesses on the benefits of telecommuting;
* Allow small businesses conducting energy efficiency or renewable energy research and development to be given priority consideration in the Small Business Innovation Research [SBIR] and Small Business Technology Transfer [STTR] programs; and
* Establish loans for small firms to invest in use of renewable sources of energy in their business.
The full text of the letter to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson follows:
January 2, 2008
The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Administrator Johnson:
The issue of climate change has moved front and center in the national dialogue about our environment, our security, and our economy. CEOs from several Fortune 500 companies are bringing big business into the discussion, joining with environmental groups and urging the federal government to pass legislation and require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that small businesses, which represent 50 percent of the nation’s economy, have just as big a stake in contributing to climate change solutions.
This year, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has paid particular attention to the effects of climate change and escalating fuel costs on small businesses, and the role America’s entrepreneurs can play in affecting change in these areas. Our committee has already devoted two hearings during the 110th Congress to these subjects.
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. At the same time, only 33 percent of those had successfully invested in energy efficiency programs for their businesses. In fact, only 60 percent of the respondents to the survey reported being familiar with the ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program at the Environmental Protection Agency.
We need to significantly improve energy efficiency investment by small businesses. To that end, we worked to include provisions in the Clean Energy Act of 2006 that take great strides in this direction. These provisions promote financing agreements between small businesses and utility companies to increase energy efficiency; allow small businesses conducting energy efficiency or renewable energy research and development to be given priority consideration in the Small Business Innovation Research [SBIR] program; and establish loans for small firms to invest in use of renewable sources of energy in their business.
The 26 million small businesses in the United States comprise 99.7 percent of all domestic employer firms, and consume approximately half of all the commercial and industrial energy in the United States. In each of the last five years, the ENERGY STAR® program has received approximately $50 million in annual funding.
Regrettably, of this $50 million appropriation, less than two percent has been allocated to the ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program, which is responsible for reaching the entire small-business community. Clearly, this inadequate percentage grossly underestimates the critically important role small businesses could play in improving our nation’s energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint.
We believe that the time has come for small businesses to play a leading role in combating climate change and reducing our carbon footprint in the future. To achieve these results, we urge the administration to fund the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program at a minimum of $2 million annually. This would provide small businesses with the funding, technical assistance, and resources necessary to improve small-business energy efficiency.
John F. Kerry
Olympia J. Snowe
GoodBiz113's take: Bravo! As the issue of climate change finally takes center stage -- environmentally, economically, socially and geopolitically -- we applaud Sen. John Kerry's Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship for its bold move to press the EPA and Bush administration for ENERGY STAR® program funding that incentivizes America's 26.8 million small businesses to do our fair share in optimizing global energy resources.
SOURCES: Library of Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
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