In an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric on Wednesday, President Obama was asked about spending measures in the House version of the stimulus package that have been criticized by Sen. Mitch McConnell and others, including $6.2 Billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program. President Obama makes the case for the weatherization program as a means to jump start the economy by creating jobs immediately, saying “We’re going to weatherize homes, that immediately puts people back to work and we’re going to train people who are out of work, including young people, to do the weatherization. As a consequence of weatherization, our energy bills go down and we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What would be a more effective stimulus package than that?”
The President is correct.
As a paper by the Federation of American Scientists demonstrates, the Weatherization Program is the longest running, and perhaps the most successful US Energy Efficiency Program. The program, which underwrites a portion of the cost for improving the energy efficiency of low-income homes, reduces heating costs by an average of 31 percent, resulting in significantly lower energy bills that are so important in trying economic times like these. The program also creates roughly 52 jobs for every $1 million of federal investment. The stimulus package’s investment of $6.2 Billion into the Weatherization program will result in roughly 300,000 jobs created.
The program carries a great potential to alleviate both the economic and energy woes our country currently faces. Investing in weatherization through the stimulus bill also provides the opportunity to create a more modern, streamlined and effective system for improving residential energy efficiency in the future. To do so, and to ensure the best use of stimulus funds, the weatherization program needs to improve the software tool that weatherization centers use to determine which retrofits are cost-effective, upgrade and standardize the training for energy auditors and weatherization crews, and start collecting data from the field about the real energy savings and costs of different weatherization measures to continuously improve the program.
FAS applauds President Obama and the members of congress for recognizing the potential of the Weatherization Program, and we look forward to seeing this potential realized.