Senators Portman and Shaheen Discuss Energy Efficiency Bill in Bipartisan Appearance Before The Ripon Society


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Republican Senator Rob Portman (OH) and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) appeared together at a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society yesterday morning to discuss bipartisan legislation they have co-authored that would promote energy efficiency in the United States. The legislation is called The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 761). 

Introduced by Portman and Shaheen both in this Congress and in the last, the bill would spur the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of our economy, while also fostering job creation. According to Portman, the legislation would also help speed the transition to a more energy efficient economy, something that would not only increase America’s economic competitiveness, but send a signal that energy consumption is as important to America’s future as energy production. 

“That’s something I think we really need to focus on as Republicans and as members of the business community,” the Ohio Senator stated. “We need to talk not just about producing more energy, but about using less. It’s entirely consistent with the conservative tradition of conserving. I talk to you as somebody who has the only hybrid pickup truck in the state of Ohio. I live in a LEED-certified house. I really do believe in it … I think this is an opportunity for us as Republicans to not just get out front on an important energy issue that we’re not usually associated with, but to get something done that’s great for the country in a bipartisan way.” 

Portman was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving in the House of Representatives and as OMB Director and U.S. Trade Representative in the Administration of President George W. Bush. In his remarks, he credited his Democratic colleague for her efforts in pushing the legislation, and touched on some of the political obstacles that still lie ahead. 

“I partnered with Jeanne and she was willing, quite frankly, to make some adjustments to the energy efficiency bill that she had been working on that enabled me to get more Republicans on board and achieve something in the committee that is very rare – which is a bipartisan vote. Twice now we’ve got it through the Energy Committee – in the last Congress and this Congress. The vote this Congress was 19 to 3. That’s not bad … But we’re going to have some opposition from some Republicans who just believe this is not something the federal government ought to be involved with. I respect that, but I disagree with it, because I think it’s an important leg to our energy strategy.” 


Referring to one of the key goals of the legislation, Portman continued: “It basically says to the business community that we’re going to partner with you to make you more competitive in a global environment. In my job as Trade Rep, I saw this. Everyone gets it, and they’re moving ahead. It’s not just our European counterparts who have been ahead of us on energy, or the Japanese and some emerging economies. They understand that if they can produce something for less cost in terms of energy, they are at a competitive advantage … And many businesses are quite interested in it and are interested in the federal government providing research and development and best practices incentives that we have in other areas — including, frankly, in technology for renewables. 

“This is for the efficiency side. And we think it’s gotten shortshrift at the Department of Energy – that’s one reason we have this legislation. It gets the private sector more involved with technologies, but does not have mandates on businesses. We have over 200 businesses supporting us, which is one of the reasons we’re excited.” 

Shaheen echoed Portman’s sentiments on the legislation, and touched on her own background on the issue, as well. 

“Rob talked a little bit about his own experience with energy efficiency,” the New Hampshire Senator stated. “And I sort of came to the issue in the same way. Having lived through the Arab oil embargo in the early 70s, my husband and I built our home in the middle of the Iranian oil crisis in 1979, and so we did a number of energy efficiency kinds of things in our home. We didn’t have LEED-certified buildings at the time, but we made it an envelope house and we put in solar panels to heat our hot water, and a furnace that burns wood and oil and garbage if we needed to. And we’ve saved, as the result, thousands of dollars — tens of thousands of dollars over the years. And then when I became governor, I became really interested in the issue, because … the reality is energy costs in New Hampshire and the New England area are among the highest in the country. 

“And so, as I was looking at ways to address those high energy costs, obviously, looking not just at the supply side, but looking at the demand side, energy efficiency is one of those ways we can address those high costs. Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest way to deal with our energy needs. We do need a comprehensive energy policy in the country that not only supports existing sources of energy, but also looks at alternatives and looks at energy efficiency. So that’s what this bill will really do. It would put in place a comprehensive energy strategy for the country.” 


Shaheen, who was elected to the Senate in 2008 and is the only woman in U.S. history to be elected both a Governor and a United States Senator, also discussed the support she and Portman have received from their colleagues in the Senate and the possibility that the measure will make it to the President’s desk and be signed into law. 

“We’ve had a lot of help from the chair of the Energy Committee, Ron Wyden and ranking member, Lisa Murkowski,” she said. “They both know how important this legislation is. And this will be the first energy bill to come to the floor since 2007. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of pent-up demand to look at amendments on other energy issues to go in the bill. So one of the things we are doing is working hard to get some kind of agreement on what amendments people can agree to. We have about a dozen that have bipartisan sponsors that we think are relevant to the bill that we can hopefully get some agreement on. And then we’re going to have an open amendment process. 

“We don’t know how many amendments we’re going to be able to agree to yet. But Senator Reid has said he’s committed to that, so I think that’s good news. We will work together and, with the help of Ron Wyden and Lisa Murkowski, I think we’re going to get this bill through the Senate. And there’s actually a similar bill in the House that’s been introduced — a bipartisan bill as well. So we really think there’s a great opportunity to get this bill through and get it signed by the President.” 

To read more about The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, please click here.

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.