House working with Obama administration to improve federal energy efficiency

In a rare bipartisan effort, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives are coming together for the country's energy efficiency. While the proposed Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, known as the Shaheen-Portman bill, continues to make its way through the Senate, the House has taken its own initiative in working with the Obama administration's Better Buildings Challenge.

The executive order, which the president issued in February 2011, initially aimed to make 20 percent of all commercial buildings energy efficient by the year 2020. The president urged business and community leaders to work with local and state governments to invest in green technologies while saving money and helping the environment.

The White House announced that the order, which was originally set to expire at the end of 2013, will be extended through at least 2016 with $5 billion in funding added to the already $2 billion financial commitment. It is estimated that federal agencies that have implemented the energy-saving measures have saved a total of $2.3 billion over the two years of the program's existence.

The bipartisan move to extend President Obama's order was led by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and included 118 House members and 28 senators. In addition, Welch and Gardner have introduced legislation that would direct agencies to enter into $1 billion performance contracts for five years to help boost federal energy efficiency.

While Rep. Welch was pleased that the president agreed to prolong the initiative, he told reporters that the actions of the executive branch need to be matched by the legislative body. Despite the contentious climate of Washington, D.C., Welch stated that energy efficiency has strong forward momentum at the moment.

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