Don’t let homebuilders lag on energy-efficiency codes

(Regarding article, “Efficiency codes give heartburn to Realtors, builders,” June 4.) Let’s get this straight: Homebuilders have always opposed mandatory energy codes. Their statement that they support efforts to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses, but believe that the codes are better left to local and state officials, is hard to reconcile with the massive nationwide effort state homebuilder groups are mounting this very moment to keep legislatures from adopting the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. Apparently, homebuilders only want to oppose energy efficiency at the state and local level, not in Congress too.

Their opposition isn’t about timing, as they claim. Homebuilders opposed better energy codes even when they were selling every home they could build at a premium. Think about it: Is there ever a bad time to invest in a better built, more efficient and comfortable home that saves homeowners money over their home’s life?

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It isn’t about prices either — if price hikes knock potential buyers out of the market, how can we account for the tens of millions who clamored to pay skyrocketing home prices throughout most of this decade? If buyers are willing to pay speculative premiums (which recent experience tells us aren’t always reliable investments), why won’t they pay energy-premiums, which invariably are?

Finally, it certainly isn’t about available building technologies. Every day, green homebuilders profit from building homes, even low-income homes, that are 30 percent, 40 percent, even 50 percent above current codes.

When homebuilders say that anything that gives the perception of additional costs could be detrimental to them, shouldn’t someone ask why they aren’t at all concerned that inefficient homes give homeowners the reality of unnecessary energy costs that last over those homes’ 60-, 70-, even 80-year lifetimes?

Because homes have long lives, they consume a monstrous amount of energy. The clean little secret is that energy-efficient homes begin paying dividends, through lower utility bills, from day one.

The fact is that the energy efficiency of our homes is about more than homebuilders. It’s about Congress, which sets national energy policy and can’t afford to turn a blind eye to the homes and commercial buildings that constitute America’s largest user of energy (over 40 percent) and electricity (over 70 percent) and its largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions (37 percent). It’s about governors and mayors struggling to meet the energy supply needs of individual and business constituents. And it’s about homeowners who know that simply buying a home doesn’t mean they’ll be able to afford to make the utility payments to keep it.

Washington

Gas-price spikes right on schedule


From Denny Freidenrich, First Strategies LLC

Some things, like Senate filibusters and earthquakes in California, are as inevitable as death and taxes. So too is the rising cost of gasoline at the pump starting Memorial Day weekend.

This year’s increase is right on schedule. Earlier this spring, we experienced price creep.  Now, with summer looming on the horizon, the cost of gas has begun to skyrocket. Last week, the price at the pump jumped nearly a dime a gallon. That’s on top of an 18-cent increase the week before.

Energy analysts consider spikes in the price of gas common this time of the year, as retailers switch to their summer blend of fuel and as demand increases. But speculation on the international commodities market has driven the cost of crude to $70 per barrel which, in part, is responsible for the price increases at the pump.

According to Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman for the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “The confluence of these market forces is prompting the sudden spike.”

Thankfully, Cogan doesn’t believe the increases are likely to approach the national average of more than $4 a gallon we were paying last July. But what’s interesting to me is the fact that six weeks ago EIA was predicting a largely stable price for gas this summer.

Happy motoring, everyone.

Laguna Beach, Calif.