Rep. Jay Inslee Keeps Stimulus Package Green

By Chris Kissel January 27, 2009

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA, 1) brought his green sensibilities to last week's House debates on Obama's stimulus package. Rep. Inslee, taking the microphone on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, helped beat back a Republican effort to exclude money for an energy-efficiency program.

Thanks to Inslee's green ally on the committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the stimulus package included a plan to hand out grants to states that practice "energy decoupling." Energy decoupling is a policy that creates a disincentive for companies to profit off gluttonous energy customers and creates an incentive for consumers to conserve. It works like this : Utilities tell regulators how much revenue they need to operate, based on estimated usage; the State guarantees that amount of revenue; if customers use less energy—meaning operations aren't as expensive as projected—the utility still gets the projected revenue; if customers use more energy, the utility eats the loss in operational costs.

A decoupling system is in play in Rep. Waxman's home state, California. Californians are very proud of this, claiming that their energy usage per capita has remained flat over the last three decades, while the average usage per capita in the United States has increased by 50 percent.

The ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), tried to strip the stimulus package of the decoupling grants, arguing that consumers would have to pay a steady amount, even as their energy consumption dropped. 


During the committee meeting, Inslee took center stage, taking on Barton. "Decoupling has been the single-best policy in [energy efficiency] ... proven without question to reduce the amount of wasted energy," he said, adding that giving companies incentives to conserve would spur green technology innovations and thus, new jobs. 

Barton's anti-decoupling amendment was voted down 20-33.
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