By Robert Bradley Jr. — January 24, 2022
“The adage ‘if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu’ is alive and well within The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The same goes for legislation and elections which have sanctioned EERE’s regulatory biases.” (Krebs, below)
Q. Mark, you have been a tenacious voice for free consumer choice to use natural gas in the face of government “deep decarbonization” intervention to substitute electricity under the guise of “energy efficiency.” Tell us about your activism today.
A. I am now independent, having retired from the gas industry. My statements are solely intended to serve the best interests of energy consumers, and not necessarily the gas industry, or any one of its parts, or any other energy sector.
Q. In November 2020, you wrote a three-part series that reviewed the legal highs and lows of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology (EERE) during the Trump window of opportunity.
- Energy Efficiency Policy Under Trump (Part I: A Mixed Bag in the Swamp)
- Energy Efficiency Policy Under Trump (Part II: EERE’s Process Rule & Overhaul)
- Energy Efficiency Policy Under Trump (Part III: Litigation)
I reviewed the progress and where a free-market approach fell short under Trump. I also predicted the changes at EERE under the newly-elected Biden Administration.
Q. What were the major themes?
- A petition submitted by the “gas industry” to Trump’s EERE to recognize the illegality of prohibiting non-condensing gas-fueled appliances
- Modifications of the “processes rule” that DOE is supposed to follow in establishing more stringent minimum efficiency standards for appliances
- Status of an appeal challenging NRDC’s successful lawsuit to force EERE to publish a Final Rule effectively banning non-condensing commercial boilers.
Q. And what has happened since?
A. EERE under Biden is following a “scorched earth policy” to reverse all things Trump for ostensibly stopping the “existential threat” from catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Such policies were initiated by a series of early Biden’s Presidential Executive Orders (starting on day one) that quickly enabled EERE to accelerate what previously had been done incrementally to eliminate alternatives to electricity.
Q. Tell us about the previous vs. current approach.
A. The historically slow/incremental processes for more stringent “energy efficiency” mandates have metastasized into a faster and systematic “all electric all the time” policy using environmentalist buzzwords of “deep decarbonization” through a “virtuous cycle” of “beneficial electrification.” In the process, EERE has become the “poster child” for regulatory capture.
In essence, “improving” energy efficiency (as we once knew it) is rapidly transitioning under the Biden Administration to carbon efficiency. The following graphic illustrates what this means for fossil-fuels relative to renewable electricity in buildings and vehicles:
Notes: This graphic was extracted from page 31 of the above presentation. It depicts how much the traditional electrical energy efficiency program of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) could grow by transitioning to promoting electrification-based carbon efficiency. Since natural gas is a carbon-based energy form, the self-serving result would be eliminating the competition from the direct use of fossil fuels (i.e., natural gas, propane and oil) in buildings. This obviously appeals to mainstream environmentalists and electric utilities— EERE’s well-entrenched preferred clientele.
Q. There are more threats too with Biden all-in against fossil fuels, natural gas in this case.
Also note from DOE’s updated org chart, there are several other highly electro-centric offices within DOE. I haven’t yet researched their budget requests, but regardless, these are staggering amounts for what could ultimately destabilize the electric grid and eliminate consumer alternatives to electricity; all the while making consumer costs and general inflation massively increase in the name of fighting the existential threat of anthropogenic global warming.
Q. Can you summarize how appliances that directly use gas have been disadvantaged?
A. EERE (like other DOE offices) has “preferred clients.” That is at least tantamount to regulatory capture. These clients are primarily environmentalists and electric utility interests. They now share the objective of forced electrification via renewables. See Warring Against Natural Gas: Joint EEI/NRDC Statement to NARUC (crony environmentalism at work) for a prime example.
Sometimes, manufactures collaborate too. A perfect case-in-point was an attempt to mandate regional appliance efficiency standards during the Obama Administration. Rather than revisit that history, search for the term “regional standards” in MasterResource.
Q. Explain some of this backstory.
A. Federal minimum appliance energy efficiency standards are still the domain of EERE. DOE itself was established in 1977, in significant part as a reaction to the Arab oil embargo (despite the fact that relatively few appliances are oil fired). In 1978, the National Energy Act consolidated several former agencies into the DOE and created an office that focused on energy efficiency and renewable fuels.
Since 1978, the office has been renamed several times to reflect its expanding scope, including the Office of Conservation and Solar Applications (CSA), the Office of Conservation and Solar Energy (CSE), and the Office of Conservation and Renewable Energy (CRE).
The current name, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, was adopted in 1993 under Secretary Hazel O’Leary. Secretary O’Leary came to DOE from Northern States Power Company, now part of Xcel Energy. This move further opened the door for catering to electric utilities. As EERE’s full name implies, its mission integrated the regulation of appliance minimum energy efficiency standards and the development of renewable energy. “Sustainable transportation” also found a home there (now with a near-exclusive emphasis on electric vehicles and, to a far lesser extent, hydrogen).
Q. This is classic bootleggers and Baptists with special business interests benefiting from regulation teaming up with a believed-to-be special interest.
A. Yes, EERE has long been an opportunity for vested interests to influence regulatory agendas. And they did, in true bootlegger & Baptist fashion; especially in the case of appliance minimum efficiency standards. Testimony by Brian Mannix of George Washington University before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy back in March 2019 is very clear about this.
A good example would be the establishment of energy efficiency metrics; specifically, the controversial site versus source metric. Even now, EERE considers electric resistance appliances to be 100% efficient on a site basis (hence no room for “improvement,” whereas common gas appliances are always far less efficient (hence justification for more stringent regulations).
Q. And back to the history?
A. Yes. Another watershed event for EERE was the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA, aka., Pub. L. 110-140) signed on December 19, 2007 by President Bush. EISA was originally named the Clean Energy Act of 2007 with its stated intentions to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, develop renewable fuel production, and improve vehicle fuel economy. EISA also better defined EERE’s goals and objectives as shown by 42 USC 16191 in terms of “clean” (primarily electric) energy. Regardless, nothing in 42 USC 16191 can legitimately be interpreted as Congress justifying the elimination of fossil fuels.
Q. And then the Obama Administration accelerated its pro-electric biases?
A. Obama’s mission statement for EERE was “transition to a global clean energy economy.” Still, not exactly a directive for electrification, but well on its way.
Q. And then Trump and now Biden.
A. Under Biden, EERE’s fully “woke” and “net zero” mission statement is:
ERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050, and ensure the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating good paying jobs for the American people—especially workers and communities impacted by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution.
Q. And with all of these threats, where is the gas industry? Less demand is bad news for producers, for pipelines, for utilities ….
A. Unfortunately for natural gas-fueled appliances, the American Gas Association (AGA), effectively delegated its responsibilities to the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), very early on. GAMA soon thereafter merged with the Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) to become the Air-Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Consequently, natural gas (and propane) advocates never had much say-so in how EERE’s business was conducted relative to other “stakeholders,” especially EERE’s “preferred” clientele.
The adage “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” is alive and well within the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The same goes for legislation and elections which have sanctioned EERE’s regulatory biases.
Mark Krebs, a mechanical engineer and energy policy analyst, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than thirty years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of State energy efficiency proceedings, has been an advisor to DOE, and has submitted scores of Federal energy-efficiency filings. Mark’s first article was in the Public Utilities Fortnightly, titled “It’s a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric ‘Efficiency’” (December 1996).
For more about Mark, see his MasterResource archive.