Mr. President, in March of this year, I convened a hearing in the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to look at what small businesses can do to confront global warming. In February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put forward a report that has been referred to as “the smoking gun” on global warming, written by more than 600 scientists, reviewed by another 600 experts, and edited by officials from 154 governments, the report provides indisputable evidence that the ice caps are melting, the sea level is rising, and the earth’s surface is heating up at an alarming and potentially catastrophic rate.

Senator Snowe and I have worked together on a number of initiatives to combat global warming, including introducing the Global Warming Reduction Act of 2007, an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by the year 2050. Today, we continue this partnership as chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship by introducing the Small Business Energy Efficiency Act of 2007.

There are nearly 26 million small businesses in this country, nearly 26 million business owners that are focused on keeping their doors open and putting food on the table for their families. And while climate change and national energy security sometimes seem like distant threats compared to rising health care costs and staying competitive in an increasingly global economy, small business owners are telling us that energy costs are indeed a concern. The National Small Business Association recently conducted a poll of its members, asking how energy prices affected their business decisions. Seventy-five percent said that energy prices had at least a moderate effect on their businesses, with roughly the same number saying that reducing energy costs would increase their profitability. Despite these numbers, only 33 percent have invested in energy efficient programs.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that small businesses consume roughly 30 percent of the commercial energy consumed in this country, that is roughly 2 trillion kBtu of energy per year, and it is costing small business concerns approximately $29 million a year. Through efforts to increase energy efficiency, small businesses can contribute to America’s energy security, help to combat global warming, and add to their bottom line all at the same time.

The Small Business Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 seeks to assist small business owners in doing all of these things. First, the bill requires the Small Business Administration, SBA, to implement an energy efficiency program that was mandated in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. To date, the SBA has dragged its feet in implementing a program that could help small business owners to become more energy efficient. Administrator Preston should implement this important program today, and this bill directs him to do so.

Second, the bill establishes a program to increase energy efficiency through energy audits at Small Business Development Centers, SBDCs. The Pennsylvania SBDC currently operates a similar program, and has successfully assisted hundreds of businesses to become more energy efficient. As a result of the program, six of the eight winners of the 2006 ENERGY STAR Small Business Awards given by the EPA went to Pennsylvania businesses. This program should be replicated so that small businesses across the country have the same opportunity to cut energy costs through the efficiency measures.

In addition, this bill authorizes the Administrator to guarantee on-bill financing agreements between businesses and utility companies, to cover a utility company’s risk in entering into such an agreement. The federal government should encourage utility companies to pursue these agreements with businesses, where an electric utility will cover the up-front costs of implementing energy efficiency measures, and a business will repay these costs through the savings realized in their energy bill.

This bill also encourages telecommuting through a pilot program at SBA. The Administrator is authorized to establish a program that produces educational materials and performs outreach to small businesses on the benefits of telecommuting. Finally, the bill encourages increased innovation by providing a priority status within the SBIR and STTR programs that ensures high priority be given to small business concerns participating in energy efficiency or renewable energy system research and development projects.

As a Nation, we have much to do to secure our future energy supply and to solve the international crisis that is global warming. This bill represents one step in that process—to engage our small business owners in this effort, and to assist them in becoming more aware of what is possible. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I thank Senator Snowe for her work in this area.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.