- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Saying he wants the U.S. to lead the world in clean energy technology, President Obama on Tuesday proposed a new government program he said would create jobs and help the environment by giving consumers financial incentives to make their homes more energy-efficient.

Like last year’s “Cash for Clunkers” rebate, Mr. Obama’s $6 billion “Homestar” program would provide consumers rebates of up to $3,000 per home for upgrades that include insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, windows, roofing and doors. Separately, consumers could get a $3,000 check for performing a home energy audit and a subsequent retrofit.

“The country that leads in clean energy is also going to be the country that leads in the global economy,” Mr. Obama told an audience at a technical training facility in Savannah, Ga. “I don’t want us to be in second place or third place when it comes to the new energy technologies; I want us to be in first.”

Though his cap-and-trade climate bill has stalled in the Senate after passing the House last year, Mr. Obama has continued to focus on clean energy technologies, touting home weatherization in his State of the Union address. Last month, he announced $8 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of the nation’s first nuclear power plant in 30 years.

The Homestar program would offer two types of rebates at the point of sale — a “silver star” rebate for simple upgrades and a “gold star” rebate for comprehensive renovations. Gold star rebates would provide $3,000 off an audit of the entire home and renovations that achieve energy savings of at least 20 percent.

Mr. Obama said consumers who take advantage of the Homestar program could save hundreds of dollars each year in energy costs. It would require contractors providing the efficiency upgrades to obtain special certification.

The White House predicts the proposal, if passed by Congress, could reduce energy use by the equivalent of the entire output of three coal-fired power plants each year.

On the same day as Mr. Obama’s announcement, House Republicans circulated a memo highlighting what they describe as waste in existing energy programs that were included in Mr. Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill. For example, only 47 homes have been weatherized in Texas, where the government allocated $327 million to update as many as 56,000 homes, meaning that each home to date has been renovated at the cost of nearly $7 million in taxpayer dollars.

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