My Turn: Tell legislators that you care about energy efficiency

For the Monitor
Published: 2/11/2020 6:15:18 AM

At last, New Hampshire will be increasing investment in programs to improve energy efficiency in buildings. Sharing costs with owners, such programs can produce reduced fuel consumption, lower electric bills, greater building comfort and utility, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and new jobs. They can also conserve our wealth while helping to protect our children’s future by reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

New Hampshire had joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by 2009, which yields funds meant to reduce CO2 emissions via energy efficiency. But in 2012, Americans for Prosperity’s New Hampshire state director worked to get the state to quit RGGI altogether, pressing forcefully in a public Senate hearing before having to settle for a compromise wherein New Hampshire would stay in RGGI but starve efficiency programs of funding by giving most of it away as “rebates” on electric bills, which presumably a later Legislature would soon redirect back to the originally intended investment.

Somehow, several years later, that funding has still not been restored, and energy efficiency work has thus been very slow.

Just last August, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill that would have ended the rebates, citing the so-called compromise and saying the bill would hurt low-income residents by raising rates. Meanwhile, the oil billionaires that employ AFP are no doubt pleased to continue receiving the actually accelerating millions of New Hampshire dollars that they see as “avoided lost revenue” while we experience it as a harmful waste of our wealth.

Thankfully, we can soon end that rebate without harming anyone, because LED bulbs are cheap enough and so efficient that just one or two can almost immediately “earn back” the rebate amount and then pay for more LEDs. Obviously we should be distributing LED bulbs just once to low-income households instead of rebates every month to everybody. Obviously we should invest the RGGI funds as originally intended.

It’s said that money talks in politics, but it’s not always the way we may think. According to Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money, AFP will sometimes spend whatever it takes to end careers of uncooperative legislators, intending thereby to intimidate others. This would be a very good time for all concerned citizens to phone our legislators and reassure them of our support for competent legislation favoring investment in energy efficiency and other climate-protecting actions.

(Rep. John E. Mann of Alstead represents Cheshire District 2 in the N.H. House of Representatives.)

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