Manufacturers Give Obama An Energy-Saving Gold Star

Photograph by Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

A Caterpillar tractor moves salt in Guerrero Negro, Mexico.

As President Barack Obama has moved to address climate change, curb pollutants from power plants and tackle emissions at paper plants or cement mills, the National Association of Manufacturers has proven a reliable critic.

Today there was a truce.

The Washington-based group, which represents companies such as Caterpillar Inc. and Arch Coal Inc., did something out of the ordinary: It praised the president for one of his signature energy policies.

Back in late 2011, Obama ordered government agencies to contract with outside companies such as Honeywell International Inc. or Siemens AG, to upgrade the energy efficiency of their buildings using a long-term contracting program. Obama gave agencies a goal of $2 billion in these projects over the next two years, calling it a cost-effective way to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions while spurring employment.

“We have a responsibility to lead by example, reduce our energy use, and operate our buildings efficiently,” Obama said then.

The federal government didn’t quite hit Obama’s goal, with $1.3 billion in contracts signed and another $1 billion in the pipeline, according to NAM.

Still, the group calls the initiative a success, and “we wanted to applaud the administration for a job well done,” Ross Eisenberg, the manufacturing group’s vice president for energy and resources, said in an interview. “This is the kind of smart idea that rarely gets used.”

Eisenberg now wants more. He urged the administration to set a new five year, $5 billion goal for these energy-saving performance contracts.

“It’s no secret that on energy and environment, we don’t always see eye-to-eye with the administration,” Eisenberg said. “But this is something we agree on.”

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