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Firms urge Obama to offer consumer energy info

Apr 7 , 2010 - Deborah Zabarenko - Rueters

Almost 50 U.S. firms and organizations, including Google, General Electric and AT&T, urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to let consumers know how much energy they use so they can decide where to cut back.

This could "unleash the forces of innovation in homes and businesses ... reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers billions of dollars," the group of 47 companies and organizations said in a letter to Obama.

Carol Browner, director of the White House office of energy and climate change, speaking at a forum at Google's Washington office, said the White House is committed to providing energy data for consumers.

"The issue of the consumer's right to know is important in this administration ... and we certainly share your commitment to giving consumers access to (information on) real-time energy use," Browner said.

Browner said repeated studies during the 1990s, when she headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, showed that "in each and every instance when we were able to give people access to information it changed behavior."

She said providing real-time feedback on how much energy costs will start to modify behavior and drive demand for more energy-efficient appliances.

The firms and organizations said technology already exists to let consumers see their power use. They also said consumers should have access to information about pricing plans and on the different ways electricity can be generated.

"If all U.S. households saved 15 percent on their energy use by 2020, for example, the greenhouse gas savings would be equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road and would save consumers $46 billion on their energy bills, or $360 per customer each year," the letter said.

The 47 companies and groups that endorsed the letter also include Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, Whirlpool as well as the Alliance to Save Energy, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Environmental Defense Fund.