Weatherize One Million Homes Each Year

Promise Honored President Obama is keeping the following promise:

"Will make a national commitment to weatherize at least 1 million low-income homes each year for the next decade, which can reduce energy usage across the economy and help moderate energy prices for all."

Source: http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf

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UPDATES:

Updated: February 18th, 2009

Obama keeps weatherization promise

Barack Obama started talking about wanting to weatherize more low-income homes long before the economic crisis. During the campaign, he mostly talked about it as a way to reduce the country's carbon footprint, reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut energy costs for low-income families. When the economy turned sour, he then emphasized that it also could create thousands of green jobs. That's how it got included in the economic stimulus package he signed on Feb. 17.

The weatherization program provides money to qualified homeowners for such things as insulation, smoke detectors and furnace and air conditioner repair or replacement. The WAP estimates that residents save about $400 to $500 on energy costs in the first year following the weatherization improvements.

Although Obama was criticized by some Republican leadership for including weatherization in the stimulus bill - House Republican leader John Boehner said it had "no place in a bill designed to get our economy moving again" - the final $789 billion stimulus package included $5 billion to massively expand the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The original House version of the stimulus bill included $6.2 billion for weatherization; the Senate version countered with $2.9 billion. House and Senate negotiators settled on $5 billion.

Will this be enough to reach Obama's goal of one million homes a year?

"It'll get close," said Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, which represents state-run low-income energy assistance programs.

To give you some perspective, the WAP got $447 million from the federal government this year, and expects to weatherize about 150,000 homes.

The agency that runs the program says it can, but it will take some time. According to a WAP estimate, the stimulus money will allow the program to reach 500,000 homes by the end of 2009; and then get to a capacity of 1 million homes a year by the end of 2010.

Provided Congress adequately funds the program beyond the stimulus package's two-year reach, the production could be maintained and increased for the next six years – averaging 1,250,000 homes for Years 3 through 8, the WAP report states. Those projections are predicated on the stimulus bill providing $4.5 billion in 2009 and $9 billion in 2010, and $10.5 billion a year in subsequent years.

While the stimulus money falls below that, it should still allow the government to weatherize about 800,000 or 900,000 homes a year, Wolfe predicted.

"They stuck with it," Wolfe said. "The administration really pushed it. They could've taken $3 billion, but they didn't. The whole weatherization community was in amazement. This will really help people."

Although it's difficult to predict if the stimulus bill will fully translate to 1 million weatherized low-income homes a year, there's no question it will significantly expand the program and get in the range of 1 million, and it lays the foundation for meeting that benchmark in the future.

Should the program fall well short of its goals, or should Congress decide in future years not to continue funding the program at levels that will allow the weatherization of one million homes a year, we reserve the right to revisit this rating.

Sources:

Weatherization Assistance Program, Economic Stimulus Expansion Plan
Discussion Paper

AP, "Billions for weatherization in stimulus questioned," by Andrew Miga, Feb. 14, 2009

U.S. Department of Energy, Weatherization Assistance Program


Updated: January 15, 2009

Weatherizing included in stimulus bill

Democrats in the U.S. House released a broad outline of what they hope to include in the 2009 stimulus bill and it contained many ideas Obama promised during the campaign, including $6 billion to weatherize "modest income" homes. Typically, weatherizing a home means improving its insulation and window seals so the home retains heat or air-conditioning better. This usually means utility bills drop.

Certainly no one is happy that the U.S. economy is in such bad shape that policymakers are talking about a stimulus plan that could cost more than $500 billion. But an unintended benefit for Barack Obama is that the bill gives him a chance to make good on a number of his more expensive campaign promises.

Obama discussed the broad outline of his hopes for the bill in a speech at George Mason University on Jan. 8, 2009.

Sources:

New York Times, Barack Obama speech on the economy at George Mason University, Jan. 8, 2009.

U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Web site, American Recovery and Reinvestment, Bill Text, (pdfs) published and accessed Jan. 15, 2009.


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