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Obama to talk home efficiency, jobs

President in Savannah today

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POSTED: March 2, 2010 9:24 a.m.
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President Barack Obama

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WASHINGTON - Consumers would collect on-the-spot rebates of $1,000 or more for buying insulation, water heaters or other equipment to make their homes burn energy more efficiently under a rebate program President Barack Obama is promoting.

Obama was traveling to Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday to outline the Home Star program. Obama called for energy rebates in his State of the Union address, and officials hope the plan will be as popular as last year's Cash for Clunkers money-back program for autos.

"We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities - and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which support clean energy jobs," Obama said in January.

He has said shifting the U.S. toward cleaner, renewable sources of energy and making homes - particularly older houses - more energy-efficient will help accomplish three goals: reducing America's dependence on foreign energy sources, creating much-needed jobs and saving consumers money on their utility bills.

Obama was stopping at Savannah Technical College to visit students who are learning how to install insulation and other equipment.

The new program has two levels of rebates. Various vendors, ranging from small, independent contractors to national home improvement chains, would promote the rebates, give the money to consumers and then wait for reimbursement from the federal government.

Some details of the program, including how long it will run and its total cost, remain to be worked out with Congress, according to senior administration officials who spoke anonymously Monday to describe the program before Obama's formal announcement.

The price tag for Home Star could be in the range of $6 billion, said one official.

Cash for Clunkers was a $3 billion program that ran for about a month last year, from July 27 to Aug. 25.

Under the first level of energy rebates, to be called Silver Star, consumers would be eligible for rebates between $1,000 and $1,500 for a variety of home upgrades, including adding insulation, sealing leaky ducts and replacing water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. There would be a maximum rebate of $3,000 per home.

Under the second level, Gold Star, consumers who get home energy audits and then make changes designed to reduce energy costs by at least 20 percent would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate. Additional rebates would be available for savings above 20 percent.

"The simple act of retrofitting these buildings to make them more energy-efficient - installing new windows and doors, insulation, roofing, sealing leaks, modernizing heating and cooling equipment - is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest things we can do to put Americans back to work while saving families money and reducing harmful emissions," Obama said in December while visiting a Home Depot in Alexandria, Va.

Once the program is enacted, the administration expects millions of households will boost demand for insulation, water heaters and the like - the same way consumers pumped up car and truck sales last year by trading in their gas-guzzling autos with more fuel-efficient models.

Senate Democrats included an energy rebate program in their jobs agenda.

 

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