Late last month, President Barack Obama issued an executive order intended to spur job creation in manufacturing. “Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency” recognizes that energy costs can substantially limit a company’s ability to be productive and grow and that there has been “an under-investment in industrial energy efficiency.” This order seeks to aid manufacturers nationwide, but the politics and policy of the order provide an opportunity for the Mountain West region that state and local leaders must seize.
The executive order requires that federal agencies bring together state and local officials, private sector leaders, and others to help address the problem of energy efficiency and motivate private investment in manufacturing. The Obama administration wants to “provide technical assistance to states and manufacturers” and mount a public information campaign about the cost-saving benefits of making industry more energy-efficient. Part of the order also directs federal agencies to “use existing federal authorities, programs and policies to support investment in industrial energy efficiency.” In effect, the president wants more funding funneled to manufacturers and he has told his hand-picked appointees to begin delivering that funding.
Specifically, the executive order will mean that existing energy- and manufacturing-related federal grant programs will support Combined Heat and Power, an energy system that captures excess or emitted energy (such as secondary heat) and converts it into usable energy on site for factory climate control. With CHP, manufacturers will not need to purchase additional energy to heat or cool their facility, a savings that drives down production costs and provides opportunities to expand employment and productivity.