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Obama Jobs Proposal to Include 'Cash for Caulkers' Legislation

President Obama last week called on Congress to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy efficient, "which we know creates jobs, saves money for families and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment." One proposal would expand "select" initiatives in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs that have been proven "to be particularly popular and effective."

Specifically, the president asked Congress to provide rebates for consumers who make energy efficiency retrofits that include caulking or replacing windows and doors, and installing insulation and more efficient appliances. Obama made the remarks last Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Earlier this month he gave a speech highlighting the nation's economy and employment situation through a jobs summit that was met with mostly positive reviews from the energy industry (see NGI, Dec. 7).

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch last spring wrote similar energy efficiency legislation (H.R. 1778), Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP). Welch's legislation became part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey climate change energy bill, which passed the House in June. Welch subsequently organized a group of 44 House members who urged the president to include a version of REEP in a jobs creation program.

Now the plan is to carve out Welch's REEP legislation to insert into a new jobs bill to spur economic growth.

"President Obama made clear...the job-creating potential of investing in energy efficiency retrofits," said Welch, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "His endorsement of efficiency retrofits is a vital boost to a program that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs that cannot be outsourced, reduce the energy use of millions of homes, and save billions in energy bills for homeowners."

Under the legislation, also called "cash for caulkers" and "Home Star," $20 billion would be provided over two years to help homeowners make their houses more energy efficient. Welch estimated that the legislation could save around $3.3 billion a year in energy bills and create up to 850,000 jobs over two years.

A bipartisan group of Senators last Thursday introduced legislation to expand jobs in the renewable energy technology manufacturing sector by extending the life of a tax credit first offered in the ARRA.

Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan joined GOP Sens. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Indiana's Richard Lugar to introduce the American Clean Technology Manufacturing Leadership Act (S 2857). The legislation would allow companies to write off 30% of the cost of creating, expanding or re-equipping facilities to manufacture renewable energy equipment that includes solar panels, wind turbines and advanced batteries.

At a White House meeting with Obama last Wednesday, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said "passing climate change legislation will give us the 'rules of the road' needed to invest in clean energy to put more people to work." Rogers joined the president and other energy, environment and labor leaders to discuss the role of climate change legislation in stimulating new energy technologies and jobs.

"This country needs major investments in new energy technologies, including clean coal, advanced nuclear, wind, solar, smart grid and energy efficiency," Rogers said. "The sooner we pass climate change legislation, the more rapidly Duke Energy and other electric utilities can make these investments and create jobs...Many more jobs can be created, and we stand ready to move ahead on all fronts."

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