Mark Pryor Touts Arkansas as Potential Green State

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Business Leaders for Clean Energy Economy and the City of Fayetteville hosted a panel of go-to leaders in a discussion about the future of Arkansas in a "green" economy.

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; Gil Sperling, a senior policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Energy; and Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, and about 80 state and city government officials, business leaders, and educators gathered at the Fayetteville Public Library Tuesday for the event.

ABLCEE is an informal network of business leaders that support the transition to a low-carbon clean energy economy. Its goal is to help the Arkansas business community influence public policy to that end.

Pryor promoted the Building Star Energy Efficiency Rebate Program of 2010, legislation introduced by himself and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on March 4 to create jobs by promoting the installation of energy-efficient renovations in commercial and multi-family residential buildings. The program will offer rebates to building owners as incentives to make the buildings more energy efficient.

Jobs will be created as workers retrofit residential and commercial buildings, he said. As many as 25,000 jobs could be created nationally per $1 billion of federal investment, according to document supplied by the groups.

"Buildings represent 40 percent of the energy used in the United States, and many have old equipment that waste energy and money," Pryor said in a prepared statement about the legislation. "Investing in energy efficiency retrofits for industrial, commercial, and multi-family buildings can drive economic recovery by saving small businesses money, spurring construction and manufacturing, and creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs across America."

Building Star is similar to Home Star, a parallel program that offers energy-efficiency assistance to homeowners. Home Star has been supported by President Barack Obama.

The Building Star program could spur as much as $24 billion in market activity with a $6 billion federal investment.

"Efficiency is like a new fuel," Pryor said. "If you apply it throughout the economy, you can make a huge impact. We need to be maximizing that natural resource."

"If the state will take a serious look [at the green economy], it could improve GDP by $1.2 billion," said Sperling, who works with the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

At a break, the ABLCEE's Eddy Moore, told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal that there is a great economic opportunity for Arkansas "if we will take it up."

Many of the attendees stayed to network and participate in another panel session about sustainable practices.