Obama promotes energy efficiency program

WASHINGTON - December 15, 2009

"Here's what's sexy about it. It saves money," the president said at a Northern Virginia Home Depot store. He was joined at the outlet by members of Congress representing Virginia and labor and business leaders involved in services to lower use of natural resources consumed by homeowners.

Calling insulation the in-thing, Obama's pitch was part of a broader administration push to lower the nation's 10 percent unemployment rate. And it marked the fourth time in less than two weeks that the president has presided over high-profile events that call attention to his efforts to curb joblessness.

Last week, Obama advanced a new spending plan that would provide tax breaks for energy-efficient retrofits in homes. The plan also calls for small business tax cuts and new spending on highway and bridge construction. The administration hasn't put a price tag on the plan, but it could total more than $150 billion.

The administration is hoping to tap into money paid back by banks or not needed from last October's emergency $700 billion bailout program that pulled the country's financial system back from the precipice of meltdown.

The White House hopes the appeal of the retrofitting program - which some administration officials have dubbed Cash for Caulkers - will be similar to the now-expired Cash for Clunkers program, which offered rebates for trading in used vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones. At a White House jobs forum earlier in the month, Obama told Home Depot chairman Frank Blake that home improvement companies would be key partners in this program.

Obama has also proposed expanding stimulus initiatives that promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs. Currently, about $8 billion of the $787 billion stimulus package goes toward energy-saving investments in homes. The White House has said investments like installing insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment will pay for themselves many times over.

In a memo for the president, Vice President Joe Biden said stimulus spending and other initiatives will lead to 1 million home energy-efficiency retrofits by 2012. The report also said the U.S. is on track to double renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and geothermal, in three years.

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