A Personal Note
In a three-year period, I replaced the gas-fired heating system in my residence, my daughter’s residence, and two income properties. My guilt as an environmental engineer is that I could not find an alternative electric powered heating system. I won’t be changing out these new units for decades, long after the 2030 target our president has set for achieving a 50-52% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels. There should be an easy way.
Gas is a significant source of greenhouse gases. If I learned anything working with local governments during my career, local people can be trusted to do the right thing if they understand their options. The options are tangible and relevant and practical and contribute to a broader goal – in this instance, addressing climate change. My gift to the Biden Administration is an outline of a bottom-up approach to addressing global warming. It is vitally needed to engage and enlist the participation of ordinary people in our fight for survival.
Carbon Audit Program Overview
I propose a carbon audit program to build local public (political) support and participation for an aggressive and sustained national effort at achieving and sustaining carbon reduction targets to mitigate the adverse consequences of global warming. It prioritizes funding and CAP assistance to persons impacted by environmental justice sites and minorities in general.
This is a ground-up strategy that depends on a complementary top-down strategy administered by the Biden Administration. It is included in the epilogue of my book, but I share it here as part of “the way forward” — an attempt to help improve our lives on this planet we all share.
Objective # 1: To engage, educate and inform every American at the local level of relevant, tangible, and meaningful ways they can personally contribute to reducing carbon emissions;
Objective #2: To convert/retrofit every home and business to increase energy efficiency and achieve a carbon negative footprint simultaneously with the conversion of energy grids to clean alternatives;
Objective #3: Applicable federal and state institutions both public and private, programs and existing funding, training, technical assistance and research shall be organized to support the local CAP.
Objective #4: To give grassroots climate change advocates and institutions a purchase — ergo focus — to act locally in a structured local government program.
What is CAP and How Does it Work?
CAP is a local general-purpose government designed, administered, and operated program aimed at increasing energy efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint for homes and businesses, and farming and ranching operations. The portal to gain access to CAP is a single telephone number, email, and smartphone app. It begins with a home (farm/ranching) audit and recommendation from the local CAP administrator for specific steps a homeowner can take to: A) increase energy efficiency and B) lower the carbon footprint of homes and businesses based on a certification scale, A+, A, and B ratings. The CAP analyzes energy utilization and carbon sources in homes/businesses such as chlorofluorocarbons and other carbon or heat-trapping chemicals, refrigerants, oil and natural gas-powered heating systems, hot water heaters and other like appliances. It also examines energy-efficiency steps including wall and ceiling insulation, double-glazed window replacement, insulated doors or storm doors, appliances with high energy utilization, and potential offsets like solar, geothermal, and wind electric-generating onsite technologies.
Based on a uniform national-devised rating system, the administrator calculates the net increase in energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emissions. With alterations and improvements recommended, a ranking is assigned supported by a plan of action for each rank as follows: A+ is awarded for carbon reduction achieving Negative Carbon status; A is awarded for Carbon Neutral and Energy Efficiency status; and, B is Energy Efficiency status only.
The business/homeowner contacts a CAP Partner(s), to obtain preliminary cost estimates for each plan. The owner selects a Plan of Action for the rating selected and officially commits to implement the Plan. The rating is the CAP Certification assigned to the home or business that remains with the property, not its owners.
The CAP Certification entitles owners to a variety of packaged incentives including discounts, tax subsidies, tax credits, and a forward-pricing credit for resale of the home or business. Local development or building codes will be enacted by the CAP Administrator addressing new construction. All new construction will have to meet A rating. All resale of property not in the CAP program must either enter the program and complete upgrades before the sale or forward price the cost of CAP expenditures as a disclosed value on the MLS.
Each CAP administrator shall design the details of its own CAP through a local planning process (similar to the LWRCOG 208 water quality management planning in northern Colorado (see Gorilla in the Closet Part III) and funded by federal grants-in-aid, public donations, dividends or taxes from a Cap and Trade-type economic approach to conversion of the energy grid to renewable energy undertaken by state and federal government. The CAP shall be approved by the governor of each state and the lead federal agency. The Department of Housing and Urban Development shall be the lead federal agency for designated urban CAPs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Agency shall be the lead federal agency for rural/agricultural CAPs.
Who are the Parties to the CAP?
Local city and county general-purpose government shall be eligible for CAP funding for program planning and administration. They will devise a locally-designed plan for the CAP program and will carry out (administer) the functions of planning, management, operations, and regulation. Operations functions such as audits and the installation of equipment and upgrades according to the CAP ranking Plan of Action selected by the business/homeowner, may be delegated to CAP Partners, ergo other public and private entities.
The initial planning process shall include a local CAP citizens advisory committee consisting of a wide representation of stakeholders in the CAP planning area.
CAP Partners are any public or private local entity that supports the determination of the Action Plans and packages, and carries them out on behalf of the owners through a contractual relationship. This could include local lending institutions, equipment suppliers or vendors, local contractors, building material suppliers, community colleges that may serve to assist in holding workshops for owners who want to enter the CAP, and any individual or party that wants to understand how the CAP works, its benefits, and how it is administered. CAP Partners enter the CAP and are approved by the Administrator, and become preferred vendors/suppliers/contractors and may use this designation in their marketing and sales programs.
Critical Success Factors
- Create a standing New Environmental Federalism National Advisory Committee of state/local/business/civic nonprofits to guide and evaluate CAP success.
- Initiate demonstration projects based on existing successful case studies and willing participants (Demonstration Phase).
- Align federal and state agencies, the FED, banking institutions, real estate, trades, etc. to give full support to local general-purpose government. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture shall take the lead federal role in rolling out and administering the CAP in urban and rural areas respectively.
- Kick-start an ongoing funding assistance to local governments. Source of funding shall be existing sources where possible. From the Biden infrastructure bill, dedicate $1 billion to fund local city and county governments to engage in CAP set-up over a three-year program development term.
- Phase I
- CAP Development and Demonstration Phase:
- Develop Federal/State CAP Features, policies and programs in support of Local CAP Planning. Create CAP guidance and training elements. Identify and fund Local city and county government collaborations in both urban and rural areas that will serve as demonstration case studies for full CAP rollout.
- CAP Development and Demonstration Phase:
- Phase II
- Fund 200 local government collaborations to undertake a two-year planning phase and one-year start-up phase, at 100% finding for three years, 50% for a fourth year, and 33% for implementation. Funding shall come from existing federal grant-in-aid programs, from the Biden Infrastructure Plan (once funded) and from revenues from a new Cap-and-Trade economic approach for conversion to clean and renewable energy. Depending on the federal Cap and Trade structure, funds will be in the form of revenues or taxes on polluting energy producers.
- Phase III
- Ongoing implementation.