Tuesday, January 13, 2009

from today's Post-Dispatch


Start now on green jobs and energy efficiency
By Richard Reilly
Tuesday, Jan. 13 2009
There's no better time than now to start educating our municipal leaders about the benefits of going green.

President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration will mean changes in the distribution of federal funds to states, metropolitan regions and cities. The state of the economy requires new initiatives for job creation amid reduced tax revenue for all government agencies. The answers are green jobs and energy savings.

Our regional political leadership must be prepared to make educated decisions that will bring green jobs to the entire spectrum of the work force, as well as ensuring that government buildings operate at the highest possible levels of energy efficiency.

These opportunities and responsibilities are both bottom-up and top-down. To make real progress and be accountable, all levels of the community must be involved.

Grass-roots groups such as Missouri Votes Conservation are working in a nonpartisan way as advocates for pro-environmental legislation on a statewide basis. The St. Louis chapter of Architecture for Humanity is beginning to work with North & South County Tech to design and build a green curriculum.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association is in the draft stages of "The St Louis Climate Prosperity Project," which includes its support for businesses, organizations and cities to become more energy efficient and for the cultivation of a green-minded work force to make sure the St. Louis area is nationally recognized as a "Top Ten Green Region."

This can happen only with broad support at the municipal, regional and state levels for higher energy performance standards for all buildings, including new and renovated government facilities. If we do not begin to take these initiatives now, we will be following the herd again, instead of leading it.

We also should pay close attention to the "voice on the street," where our existing, wasteful energy practices hit families, individuals and businesses hard in the form of higher utility bills. It doesn't have to be this way. People living in Habitat for Humanity St. Louis 2008 homes — homes built with careful attention to energy efficiency — are spending 40 percent to 60 percent less on their utility bills than people in comparable housing units that lack improved energy efficiency.

The St. Louis chapter of the United States Green Building Council is going to begin working with the East-West Gateway Council of Governments to organize and present a series of seminars for mayors, city managers and county executives on the basics of energy efficiency programs and retrofits, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design programs for schools, neighborhood development and existing buildings.

Let's encourage these organizations to provide an excellent and flexible program that will allow as many political decision-makers as possible to attend. And let's encourage our municipal leaders to attend as many sessions as possible so they will be prepared to make informed decisions in the very near future on the environment, the bottom line of their municipal budgets and the long-term health of our region.

Richard Reilly, a native St. Louisan, is the chief operating officer of Boa Construction Company in St. Louis County and has been in the construction industry for more than 25 years.