House Lawmakers Aim to Slash Energy Consumption

The U.S. House aims to slash its energy consumption by 50 percent in 10 years under a "Green the Capitol" initiative.

A final report Thursday by the House's Chief Administrative Officer also pledges that the chamber will operate in a carbon-neutral manner by the end of next year.

The report outlines a series of environmental initiatives such as purchasing electricity generated from renewable sources, installing energy efficient lighting, reducing the use of coal at the Capitol power plant and switching to hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.

"Global warming and climate change are formidable issues that the entire world is confronting, and the United States Congress must lead by example," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who directed Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Beard in March to prepare the report.

The House side of the Capitol complex generated some 91,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in fiscal 2006, the equivalent of the emissions of 17,200 cars.

The report found that two-thirds of those emissions could be cut by using renewable fuel sources for electricity and increasing use of natural gas at the power plant, which does not generate power but does provide steam for heating and cooling. Currently, more than half the electricity Congress buys is generated by coal. Only 2 percent comes from renewable fuels.

The remaining 24,000 tons of carbon emissions would be dealt with by buying carbon offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The pending Fiscal 2008 budget for Congress includes $95,000 for the carbon offsets, $520,000 for the switch to more expensive renewable sources for electricity and $2.75 million to revamp the power plant.

The budget also provides for installation of an E-85 ethanol fueling station.

The greening project was initiated by the House, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., attended a news conference to add their endorsement. "We want to make this 19th century building a 21st century example," Durbin said.

Reid noted that a major energy conservation bill now on the Senate floor would require a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency in existing federal buildings around the country and stipulate that 15 percent of energy used by the Capitol be renewable by 2017. Reid also has asked Senate officials to buy more energy-efficient computers and other products.

The House is in some disagreement with the Senate over the use of coal at the power plant, with several coal state senators backing a proposal to test clean coal technologies at the plant, the only coal-burning facility in the District of Columbia.