California is known as a leader on a variety of environmental issues. I’m proud to work in an industry helping the state to meet its goals to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
At the American Chemistry Council, many of our member companies work on sustainable technologies that are revolutionizing the way we generate and store energy – solar cells, wind turbines, rechargeable batteries and more. A groundbreaking study by McKinsey & Company found that chemistry products save twice the greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted making them.
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed setting new guidelines to double energy efficiency in existing buildings by 2030. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is also making it a priority to achieve these objectives, a theme he will highlight in his keynote address Tuesday at the Green California Summit.
Building products such as energy-efficient windows and spray polyurethane foam insulation can help California meet those goals. We will be showcasing different energy- and water-efficiency products in an event at the Capitol on Tuesday in partnership with others in the building industry.
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It’s a fact that a well-insulated home or office requires less energy to heat or cool than a similar building that is not insulated. With electricity prices in California among the 10 highest in the nation, the $900 savings per year from foam insulation is significant. Furthermore, homes with foam insulation could reduce 800,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of removing 2,700 cars from California’s roads each year.
Unfortunately, as one part of state government encourages energy-efficient home and building standards, we get a seemingly different message from another state agency, the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
Last year, the DTSC put at risk the future use of foam insulation in California by selecting it as one of the first products under its Green Chemistry Initiative, a regulatory effort aimed at reducing or eliminating exposures to hazardous chemicals and encouraging the use of potentially safer substitutes. The department has yet to fully justify why foam was selected since there have been no documented cases of health concerns related to the product in California.
The foam insulation industry is more than willing to continue to work with the DTSC, Cal-OSHA or any other agency to ensure its product is installed properly and safely by trained workers. Despite more than 40 years of safe and effective use as a proven building material, a cloud is hanging over the product while the DTSC determines what regulatory action, if any, it may take.
The state shouldn’t be saying to double energy efficiency in buildings by 2030 on the one hand but not to use one of the most proven and effective materials to meet that goal on the other.
California can and should continue to lead the way for the nation with its aggressive energy-efficiency goals. American Chemistry Council members are prepared to help achieve these goals through the use of innovative products such as spray polyurethane foam insulation. But until state agencies speak with one voice, it will be difficult to succeed.
Tim Shestek is a Sacramento-based senior director of the American Chemistry Council.