Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW

U.S. needs energy standards

Gary Hirshberg Nov 18, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: Just ’cause the super committee doesn’t have enough things to worry about, energy policy is apparently also now in play. There’s a bipartisan request that’s been made to the Gang of 12 to not cut funding for renewable energy.

Commentator Gary Hirshberg says the bigger question isn’t about what to cut or not, it’s about what energy standards we want.

Gary Hirshberg: There’s an argument in the U.S. Congress that says America doesn’t need to update its energy efficiency rules and standards. That gets my inner businessman boiling because my company is a living, breathing example of what America’s economy has to gain from greater efficiency.

I run America’s biggest organic yogurt company, Stonyfield Farm. And I can testify that energy efficiency isn’t just about the environment — it’s about American competitiveness.

Stonyfield’s been working for decades to cut costs and emissions in energy, transportation, and waste. And today efficiency has saved us more than $18 million since 2006.

How have we used those savings? To create or preserve jobs — 84 of them, or more than 15 percent of our New Hampshire workforce. America needs new energy efficiency rules — everything from appliance standards to building retrofit incentives to rules that reward utilities for selling less power.

But we also need new rules to cure a huge market failure: Right now, markets don’t include the price of pollution and other costs of inefficient and dirty energy. So naturally most business people can’t move to efficiency or cleaner energy and give their competitors a cost advantage.

Some in Congress are fighting efficiency as an issue of “choice.” Americans should have the choice to buy inefficient incandescent light bulbs — a technology that dates back nearly to the Civil War. They say that’s what freedom is. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on new bulbs that use one-fifth the energy of ancient incandescents. Does Congress really want obsolete technology to trump U.S. competitiveness and our environment?

That’s why so many big businesses — like Nike, Starbucks, eBay, Target and Stonyfield — are promoting a level playing field of new national energy efficiency policies. Some politicians are listening. There’s a bipartisan bill in the Senate that would greatly strengthen America’s energy efficiency incentives and rules. Other countries are already seizing this competitive advantage, America needs jobs — so what are we waiting for?

Ryssdal: Gary Hirshberg is the CEO of Stonyfield Farm. What are you waiting for? Write to us.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.