The Senate's passage of a bipartisan energy bill Wednesday repeals a little-known measure that would phase out the use of fossil fuels in federal buildings, a move that is upsetting those looking for strong U.S. leadership in tackling climate change ahead of the signing of a major climate deal on Friday.
The measure in question was signed into law by former President George W. Bush in the last energy bill passed in 2007. It calls for the phasing out of fossil fuel use at all new and renovated federal buildings by 2030.
The White House said it would recommend that President Obama veto any energy bill that includes repealing the measure.
Among the hoopla of Wednesday's bill passage, which many industry group's supported, the American Institute of Architects stood out as one disappointed in its passage.
The bill's repeal of section 433 of the 2007 energy bill "makes no public policy sense," says Institute President Russell Davidson, because cutting fossil fuel consumption by 2030 is clearly something builders can achieve.
He said buildings are now being constructed that produce as much energy as they consume through the use of renewables and other technologies, called "net-zero" buildings.
Instead, Congress chose to "cave in to the oil and gas lobby and kill [the] requirements," Davidson said. He notes that residential and commercial buildings account for nearly 40 percent of both the nation's energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists say is causing the Earth's temperature to rise at an alarming rate. Obama, with nearly 200 nations, committed to reducing the planet's carbon footprint at a Decmeber meeting in Paris. The deal will be signed in New York on Friday.
"Uncle Sam must continue to be a leader worldwide in energy conservation and reduced dependence on the use of fossil fuels," Davidson said. "Yet we are effectively abrogating this role with this short-sighted vote, which will continue to hold federal taxpayers hostage to the whims of global energy markets."
He hopes the measure is stripped out before it makes its way to the president's desk.