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Ed Markey Speaks Up


Interview By Jane kolleeny

Congressman Edward J. Markey has been a Democratic member of the House of Representatives since 1976, representing the 7th District of Massachusetts. In 2007, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed him chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Since then, the Select Committee has held more than 50 hearings, authoring the first increase in fuel-economy standards in three decades. The newly created Energy and Environment Subcommittee has unprecedented jurisdiction over national energy policy and is playing a central role in drafting energy and climate legislation.

Congressman Ed Markey is the third-longest serving member of Congress from New England, behind Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Photo © Sean McCabe
Congressman Ed Markey is the third-longest serving member of Congress from New England, behind Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
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GreenSource: You chaired the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming long before President Obama was in office. What compelled you to become so passionate about the environment? Since Obama’s taken office, how has your job changed?

Ed Markey: I’ve been passionate about renewable energy for over thirty years. Moving from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration is akin to moving from a kerosene lamp to a compact fluorescent light bulb. During the past eight years, there was no significant environmental action. This President understands the challenges and solutions needed to reform energy policy. Instead of fighting a constant current of climate change denial and distraction, Congress is sailing toward legislation for clean-energy jobs.

GS: What actions can we expect from your committees?

EM: This has been a tremendous year for both committees. Eight weeks after President Obama took office, Congressman Waxman and I introduced draft legislation to transform our energy economy. This legislation, titled the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) recognizes the importance of the built environment to energy reform. ACES creates a voluntary labeling system to inform potential owners about the energy efficiency of a building. It motivates states and localities to update their building energy codes to be 30 percent more efficient than current IECC and ASHRAE standards. And it mandates a national renewable energy standard to support wind, solar, and geothermal energy for residential and commercial buildings. In the next few weeks, that legislation will be up for approval before the entire House of Representatives.

GS: What are the primary hurdles facing the energy bill?

EM: We faced skepticism that Congress and the public were ready for a new outlook toward energy independence and clean energy jobs. But the struggling economy and wildly fluctuating energy prices served to generate support for the legislation. We want to generate jobs that cannot be outsourced, whether it’s building and maintaining a renewable energy infrastructure or weatherizing homes. It’s unacceptable that people are spending more and more of their paycheck to fuel their cars and heat their homes. We need more people make the connection between hometown problems and global energy solutions, and we are heartened by the other Members of Congress and citizens who want to see real change happen through this energy legislation.

GS: Our readers are members of the green-building design community, consisting of owners, builders, architects, engineers, consultants, and designers focused on a sustainable built environment. What words would you share with us?

EM: One of the largest sources for U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is the energy used to heat, cool, light and operate buildings. Yet I want people to understand that buildings aren’t a climate problem, they are a solution to climate change. Our legislation seeks to reinforce the sustainable building community by financing energy retrofits of older buildings and maximizing energy efficiency for new buildings. By doing so, this legislation will save consumers the monthly costs of poor energy efficiency.

Today, members of Congress are more aware of how important the built environment is to energy reform and climate change. There are numerous bills before Congress that seek to maximize building energy efficiency, and we have already passed measures in the Energy Bill of 2007 to promote net zero carbon buildings. I recently recommended that the National Architecture Accreditation Board empower all architects with the ability to design carbon-neutral or zero-energy buildings in its core curriculum. The building community will be an important partner as Congress seeks to maximize energy efficiency.

GS: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the speed at which this country is moving to respond to the imperatives of climate change?

I am very optimistic about our recent progress to fight climate change. For the past eight years, our energy policy was distorted at best and nonexistent at worst. But eight weeks after the ACES draft legislation was introduced, it was approved by the Energy and Commerce committee. In the next few weeks, that legislation will be up for approval before the entire House of Representatives. And in less than 6 months, President Obama will stand before other world leaders in Copenhagen to work on a global solution to reduce heat-trapping emissions. ACES will let the rest of the world know that the United States is finally committed to becoming a part of the international fight against climate change.

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This article appeared in the July 2009 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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