September 28, 2009

"Restoring America's Manufacturing Leadership" - who is the current leader?

"Restoring America's Manufacturing Leadership through Energy Efficiency Act of 2009." That is the title of a bill (S.611)currently drifting through Congress. Everyone I know supports energy efficiency whenever possible, but is the title of this bill really accurate?

Does this mean that someone else needs to "lead" American manufacturing, or does it mean that America is not the world's leading manufacturer? I guess I would like a little more clarity about what Congress considers manufacturing leadership.

Here is the bill in a nutshell:
Restoring America's Manufacturing Leadership through Energy Efficiency Act of 2009 - Amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to require the Secretary of Energy (DOE) to provide funding for a revolving loan program that enables manufacturers to implement commercially available technologies or processes that significantly reduce systems energy intensity and improve U.S. industrial competitiveness. - Congressional Research Service

It's great that Congress wants to provide energy efficiency assistance to American manufacturers, but please don't insult our industrial partners that are already advancing energy efficiency every day. According to a 2004 US Commerce Department report, Manufacturing in America: A Comprehensive Strategy to Address the Challenges to U.S. Manufacturers, American industrial leaders recognized the need for energy efficiency long ago. Today it only takes 56% of the energy required to produce one dollar of the GDP as compared to that amount in 1970.

This report, compiled following a series of roundtable discussions with American manufacturers, went on to point out that the energy issue is even more compounded by rising energy costs in the public sector. Higher public energy rates reduce consumers' disposable income, thus limiting their ability to purchase manufactured products. Increased public energy usage also skews the energy supply-demand formula toward higher energy rates for manufacturers.

It is good to see Congress has responded to these true manufacturing leaders by initiating one of their recommendations outlined in the 2004 report:
The problem may also merit a hard look at increased federal funding for research and development of renewable energy resources and energy-saving manufacturing techniques and products, tax incentives for the development of new technologies, and greater coordination among the various levels of government involved in the approval and development of new energy supplies and infrastructure. - Manufacturing in America

Bill S.611 may have good intentions for American manufacturers, but I think that a more appropriate title may be "Empowering America's Manufacturing Leadership through Energy Efficiency Act of 2009."

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