Every now and again, an idea or concept or product comes along, spreads out all over the place and sets a new standard. Take, for example, ATM machines or UPC Barcode or even the internet; looking back, it’s hard to imagine those innovations not being ubiquitous and ever-present. We just accept them today as being an integral part of the modern landscape, like wallpaper or furniture, cars.
“Energy efficiency” is quickly becoming the latest standard centering around new retrofit construction techniques reducing the energy consumption of homes, offices and buildings.
- Energy efficiency generates multiple benefits:
- Massive job creation and domestic economic stimulus
- Homeowners save money on energy bills
- Increase American energy independence
- First step in diversifying the US energy sector; renewable energy and smart grid rollout
- Good for the environment
Last week, Efficiency First organized over a 100 small business contractors from across the nation to travel to Washington DC to champion the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act in the US Senate, which had previously passed the US House with bi-partisan support. Home Star is a jobs bill, but it doesn’t stop there. It also supports the development of smart energy strategies and jump starts the energy efficiency industry. Home Star has sometimes been called “Cash for Caulkers” loosely named after the well-known “Cash for Clunkers” program. But whereas Cash for Clunkers often went to purchase foreign cars, just about Home Star’s whole kit-and-caboodle stays in the US.
Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT.), who had authored the US House version of Home Star, addressed the contractors, saying,
“We want to build up manufacturing in this country and 90% of the materials that are used in this work are manufactured in this country — so even without the whole debate about ‘buy American’ — it will be bought in America. This work will be done in America.”
Representing Missouri as chair of the Missouri Association of Accredited Energy Professionals (MAAEP), I advocated with other efficiency business owners to the offices of eight US Senators, including personal exchanges with Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Sam Brownback of neighboring state Kansas. I applauded Senator Brownback on recent Kansas City successes with the number of energy efficiency retrofits leading the Midwest, including Kansas City Missouri’s Green Impact Zone.
Sen. Brownback indicated his support for Home Star, and said,
“Let’s try to find a way to get this done.”
Many potential solutions to get Home Star passed were talked about in the offices of Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK.), Tom Harkin (D-IA.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX.), Kit Bond (R-MO.) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL.) , to name a few our group visited (there were 8 Efficiency First groups).
Matt Golden, President of Recurve, Inc. and policy chair of Efficiency First had a lot to say about the struggling construction trades; how Home Star acts as a ‘shot in the arm’ building up a new industry that puts underemployed workers back on the job.
“For hundreds of thousands of American construction and manufacturing workers who have been sidelined by the recession, the proposed Home Star program – which now awaits Senate approval – represents a lifeline to good jobs with living wages in a growing 21st-century industry. While much of our economy appears to be on the road to recovery, the outlook for American construction workers is truly grim. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2 million construction jobs dried up between December 2007 and January 2010, leaving around one in five experienced construction workers unemployed. And with demand for new buildings stalled at historically low levels, there’s little hope that these workers will be rehired in traditional construction jobs any time soon.”
This is where Home Star comes in.
Slated to begin creating 168,000 jobs the moment President Obama signs into law, Home Star is not just throwing money at a wall to see what sticks, it builds a market-driven rebate model that rewards home owners who reach higher levels of efficiency performance, which is good for our nation as a whole. Home Star also leverages private investment giving more bang for the buck. Home Star is a $6 billion program, so a state like Missouri is pro-rated to receive a potential $120 million dollars.
For details on the Home Star rebate program click here.
As I’ve said in the past, I believe in less than ten years, an energy audit and retrofit for an existing home or office will become as commonplace as the safety and emissions test for your car. It will be a new standard and this is a new industry taking hold the nation. Efficiency is about jobs, and domestically manufactured products like weather-strip, insulation and caulking. Estimates fly around about the size of this national revolution of retrofits, from 1 trillion dollars of economic activity to a recent figure I heard from the Department of Energy roadshow in Kansas City, a gargantuan 6 trillion dollars coast-to-coast! (presumably including commercial Real Estate)
In an era of incessant dismantling of entire legacy industries stateside, all Americans should lower their shoulders to help launch the energy efficiency industry into the mainstream–and all Americans can participate in its rollout. These jobs are quality American jobs that are insulated from outsourcing and as job creation is the prevailing social issue of the day, our collective support of this emerging new standard becomes the moral, patriotic and smart thing to do.
Rep. Welch on Home Star with Efficiency First in DC