Energy Efficiency and Environmental JUSTICE&#8230 Essay

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Individuals and program and policy developers must consider the nature of the consumer/supplier relationship that is inherent in the renter/owner transaction and develop policy accordingly. A last note on the issue of the consumer/supplier relationship between renter and owner; the renter who has limited resources is at a disadvantage in both high and low demand markets as he or she is driven by the immediate need to find housing he or she can afford and is not always likely to have serious concerns for the long-term issues of affordability or even comfort in some cases, the rent is often the only known factor in consideration.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Energy Efficiency and Environmental JUSTICE… Assignment

Gardner & Stern as well as many others contend that the missing link between property owners and renters is significant in every sector with regard to upgrading homes for optimal energy efficiency (Gardner & Stern, 2008, p.13). The missing connection, between the property and the renter is substantial, and poorly researched but extremely logical. The property owner in most cases owns the property to produce an income from its rent. Though property owners, especially those who accept public housing monies also have altruistic reasons for owning the property and providing it to low-income households they are still fundamentally in a business to support their own families. They also are often either not aware or not concerned about the cost associated with heating especially, due to the fact that such utility bills are solely the responsibility of the renter. Owners likely only have limited knowledge regarding costs and by virtue energy efficiency with regard to the cost of keeping such utilities going when properties are in vacancy between families, and possibly being worked on or cleaned. These costs do not reflect the real cost of providing energy to the home or apartment. The owner is also burdened with a great many other issues of safety and integrity with regard to the home, especially when Section 8 (the public housing voucher system) is accepted. Short of seeking to further burden the property owner, at risk of potential loss of willingness to rent to section 8 qualifiers the current laws regarding environmental justice should be expanded, first in the low-income housing sector, as the federal and state government have some control and jurisdiction there and later in all properties to be let to a secondary family, i.e. not inhabited by the homeowner.

Transition from Incentive Only to Mandate With Incentive Plans

Federal laws and tax credits have been in place for several years that support this energy efficiency transition by offering owners tax credits to upgrade property or install efficient appliances in newly constructed homes but these programs do not go far enough as they do not answer the renter/owner conundrum. The owner of the property has a conflict of interest in that their desire is to have the home occupied, with the least possible out of pocket expense for the property. Therefore installing energy efficient appliances is not on the top of the list, as the cost of running appliances, heat and other energy using devices falls on the occupier (Gardner & Stern, 2008).

Environmental justice is an essential element of change for those disproportionately affected by polluting and other environmental impact activities. This connection to energy efficiency may seem secondary but the use of energy by households is significant in the U.S. And must be addressed as an aspect of environmental justice.

U.S. households account for about 38% of national carbon emissions through their direct actions, a level of emissions greater than that of any entire country except China and larger than the entire U.S. industrial sector. (2) By changing their selection and use of household and motor vehicle technologies, without waiting for new technologies to appear, making major economic sacrifices, or losing a sense of well-being, households can reduce energy consumption by almost 30% -- about 11% of total U.S. consumption (3), (Gardner & Stern, 2008, p.13).

The less energy we as consumers use and the more effective and efficient our utilization of energy production the lesser the burden to produce new, often polluting and harm producing systems to produce more energy. Existing laws and especially 12 U.S.C. § 1701t: U.S. Code - Section 1701T, and other laws pertaining to "decent homes and suitable living environments" can and should be amended to reflect the growing federal recognition of sustainable, holistic community environments. Low-Income households are disproportionately likely to be renters and are also likely be pressured to rent subpar housing. Section 8 and other programs attempt to mitigate these risks utilizing high standards of condition, yet they have yet to address the owner/renter disconnect regarding energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable housing. It must also be mentioned that these programs only respond to the needs of a very limited number of people in the very bottom income brackets and are only rent related subsidies. This connection in environmental justice needs to be made and laws that govern such issues need to be changed to address environmental justice. Low income housing benefit programs are a good place to start bridging this gap. The reason for this is because there is an established level of control, already in place in this area for both the state and federal governments. Congress should begin by adding language regarding energy efficiency to all legislation that pertains to low-income housing provision. Secondly, state charters for low income housing provision programs should be altered to expand the responsibility, over a succinct timeline and with supportive funding and broadened tax incentive for owners who supply low income housing under Section 8 to upgrade properties for energy efficiency. Broadening the focus of environmental justice to include energy efficiency, and changing policy and legislation governing low income housing provision may begin the process of bridging the gap among all owners and renters and is essential for a future with lower energy usage patterns. The changes should be made with the intention of altering energy efficiency legislation to a broader level and switching it from an incentive plan to a mandate with incentive plan for the general public in the future. Special attention should be paid to broadening such legislation to mandate with incentive programs for property owners in non-owner occupied buildings possibly as a first step toward altering the policies to demand rather than simply encourage energy efficient considerations and upgrades.

Conclusion

Clearly the incentive programs have served as a good starting point and are fundamentally in line with the traditional federal and state desire to limit mandates and retain individual choice, yet they are reaching their limit of influence, especially with regard to the renter/owner gap. The current proposal to invest in policy change in an area of established control, i.e. Section 8 regulations and enforcement. Should serve as a manageable starting point, and could even be focused in the timeline initially on publicly owned Section 8 options with the inclusion of privately owned Section 8 offerings at a later date in the timeline. Then the expansion to a mandate with incentive program should ensue in the general population, first with owner occupied homes (as there is a current incentive plan to expand) and second with non-owner occupied properties. These efficiency standards and policy changes, if done appropriately and with evidentiary standards, will save the nation extensively and individuals proportionally over the long-term. According to one source: "The United States has the potential to save more than $1.2 trillion in energy costs and cut consumption by 23% by 2020, according to a study by McKinsey & Co., co-sponsored by Sempra Energy and 11 other organizations" ("New study finds…," 2011, p. 4) These statistics include changes wrought only by incentive-based legislation, energy provision upgrades and manufacture/technology standards improvements. If one were able to also include mandate with incentive plans for the public and businesses the potential savings number would likely increase exponentially. Disenfranchised individuals, as a result of low socioeconomic status are far more likely to be renters that others and this is clearly an issue of environmental justice as they should not be forced to shoulder the burden of energy efficiency or live with the consequences of others not acting responsibly in this manner. Clearly there are potential drawbacks associated with a switch from incentive only plans to mandate with incentive plans, such as cost but mainly the barriers will revolve around a legislative shift that too many might seem fundamentally contradictory to U.S. history, in this regard yet the issues of energy efficiency, energy security and environmental justice are clearly incentive enough to expand and shift programs to mandate with incentive plans.

References

12 U.S.C. § 1701t: U.S. Code - Section 1701T: Congressional affirmation of national goal of decent homes and suitable living environment for American families. FindLaw Database. Web. 9 Dec. 2011.http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/12/13/1701t

Belli, B. (2011, July-August). Washer in red. E, 22(4), 38.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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