- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

House Democratic leaders yesterday adopted an “aggressive” blueprint for making the U.S. Capitol carbon-neutral, including a recommendation to buy up to $1 million in carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, announced that the House office buildings have begun switching out 12,000 light bulbs as part of the “Green the Capitol” initiative.

“Global warming is one of the biggest challenges of our time. … It’s time for Congress to act on its own carbon footprint,” she said, pointing to the glare emitted by the new fluorescent bulbs in her conference-room chandelier.

The Democrats said the Capitol complex can be carbon-neutral by the end of the 110th Congress in 2008 by:

c Buying 100 percent of the Capitol’s electric power supply from renewable sources such as wind power.

• Improving the efficiency of the distribution of heating and cooling by plugging leaks in heating ducts.

• Encouraging Capitol Hill staffers to use mass transit instead of driving to work.

• Replacing all of the light fixtures and turning off lighting in the evening when the House is not in session.

“We believe we had to get our own house in order before we launched a sweeping global warming and energy independence agenda for the rest of the nation,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Florida Democrat, detailed the preliminary report with Mrs. Pelosi.

Daniel P. Beard, the chief administrative officer who wrote the report, said in an interview that his recommendations would cut the carbon footprint by two-thirds but that lawmakers would need to spend $100,000 to $1 million to purchase carbon offsets.

“We are going to be reducing our energy consumption, we’ll reduce our operating costs and we will save the taxpayers money,” Mr. Beard said.

He said the Capitol complex generates 91,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year, and noted that taking action to become carbon-neutral would be like taking 17,000 cars off the road.

Staffers for the Architect of the Capitol today will start to switch out 2,000 light bulbs. The other 10,000 will be changed over the next six months after an inventory of the bulbs’ wattage.

The House complex has a $10.3 million yearly electric bill for lighting, Mr. Beard said.

A broader project is the replacement of the estimated 12,000 lamps throughout the Capitol hallways, committee rooms and House office buildings, many of them ornamental. That will take a few years to complete and will cost $13 million, “but will repay for itself in savings within eight years,” Mr. Beard said.

He said the electric bill for the Capitol — funded in the House budget — will decrease each year, and noted that fluorescent bulbs are four times more efficient.

Carbon offsets just “push the problem off” on someone else, said Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

“The notion of carbon offsets has been aptly described as modern-day dispensations; the wealthy can purchase them to make themselves feel good, but they don’t change anything or solve any problems,” he said.

Green efforts are “absolutely essential for our health and for our survival,” Mr. Hoyer said.

Other ideas that are likely to be part of Mr. Beard’s final report to be released in June include:

• Putting a sod roof on the Rayburn House Office Building.

• Finding a more energy-efficient way than the existing floodlights to illuminate the Capitol at night.

• Recycling rainwater and developing policy on when to shut down computer systems.

The recommendations will apply only to the House side of the Capitol and member offices, but the Senate is working on its own initiative with eight offices increasing energy efficiency with dimmable lights.

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