By Seth Richardson
Most of the focus on the “Cap and Trade” House energy bill now headed to the Senate has been on how carbon credits will be traded, bought and sold, but there is a more draconian component of the bill that has so far escaped public notice.
Deep within H.R. 2454 lies Title II –Energy Efficiency, Subtitle A –Building Energy Efficiency Programs.
This section, found at page 320 of the bill, sets out a plan for the federal government to dictate building codes and energy efficiency standards for both private residences and commercial properties that gives the Secretary of Energy and his underlings essentially plenary control over how you use energy in your home. Combined with the Smart Grid Advancement provisions in section 141 of the bill, these new rules federalize how homes are built and remodeled and will inevitably permit the government to both monitor your energy usage and control how much energy you are allowed to use through the mandatory use of “smart appliances.” And that’s ignoring the massive economic impact of energy-efficient building and having to have federally-certified inspectors certify that your home meets the standards, which could potentially add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home.
This sort of mandatory imposition of remotely monitored and controlled appliances like heating, air-conditioning and other electrical systems in the home was proposed in California in 2008. The New York Times reported in January, 2008 on a proposed regulation to require homeowners and businesses to install thermostats that could be remotely controlled by the utilities in order to help deal with brownouts and power shortages.
Public outrage was so immediate that by February, the mandatory plan had been abandoned. But expect it to come back on a national level if Obama’s energy bill passes the Senate unchanged, and expect it to be not just mandatory and not just for use in the event of power shortages. Expect it to be used to pry into your personal affairs by monitoring every watt of energy you use.
The bill requires a 70 percent reduction in residential energy use by 2029, with a mandate for a 30 percent reduction in energy use for all new homes beginning immediately. The Secretary of Energy is empowered to create not just rules, but a whole new bureaucracy and enforcement arm to track every new home built, and every renovation to an old home, in a federal database. Every new home will have to not just be built to federal standards, but it will have to be individually physically inspected and tested and certified to the federal government that it meets the applicable federal energy standards.
States are required by the bill to amend their building codes in compliance with the new federal mandates, and the typical carrot-and-stick approach of denying federal funding if a state does not comply within four years of the enactment of the law. And if a state simply refuses to comply and the economic sanctions are not enough, the bill states that the new federal energy code “shall become the applicable energy efficiency building code for such jurisdiction.”
This usurpation of state’s rights will be enforced by legions of federal building enforcement officials, one might call them “energy cops,” who will be empowered to enforce whatever rules the Secretary of Energy makes up to effectuate the law. These federal energy cops will have the power to invade your home or business and inspect it, and presumably shut your business down or throw you out of your home if your structure doesn’t meet the requisite standards.
And the federal government will be keeping track of your energy usage. The bill calls for a “Residential Energy Consumption Survey” and database that covers 90 percent of the residential market. This survey will require all new private homes to be assessed, rated and “labeled” as being in compliance with federal energy regulations, and this rating will have to be attached to the title paperwork for the home.
The Secretary of Energy is authorized to make whatever rules he deems necessary to achieve this objective, and the opportunities for intrusive, overreaching and tyrannical control are all but uncountable.
With Smart Grid technology in place, the simplest way for the government to keep track of your energy use is to mandate that your electric meter report to the federal government on a regular basis. Because the law will require a database of all new homes that will include their specific location and other details about the construction, the energy use can be appended to such data and, at the Secretary’s pleasure, you can be sanctioned for using too much energy automatically, by computer-generated notice.
Just imagine the federal energy cops coming around to your home with a tactical team in tow to check your home for illegal incandescent light bulbs. Don’t think it can happen? Well, just recently, machine-gun armed federal agents raided numerous homes in Utah, kicking down doors, pointing guns a people and placing them in fear of their lives. Were these violent drug offenders? Nope, they were pot-hunters, people who had been illegally collecting pottery and other archeological artifacts from federal lands.
There is no reason to believe that federal energy cops seeking to audit your home’s energy usage would be any more reticent to use massive paramilitary assaults to ensure that they adequately terrorize you into compliance.
Beyond cap-and-trade and all the chicanery going on at high levels with the energy companies and Congress, this massive intrusion into our personal privacy and the unconscionable intrusion into the state’s right to determine building codes within a state, not to mention the enormous costs of compliance that will result, is one of the issues of our generation, and it must be defeated in the Senate. Call your Senator today and demand that he vote against the bill.