We asked Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to explain the significance of today’s meeting of the Middle Class Task Force.
To rebuild and strengthen the middle class, Vice President Joe Biden wants Americans earning more money in enterprises that upgrade America’s buildings, increase their efficiency, save money, and at the same time, help to improve our environment.
A smart plan will ultimately save Americans billions of dollars in energy costs, while creating jobs and reducing the strain on our nation’s power grid. Reducing the load on our coal-fired power plants would, in turn, cut air pollution - letting our kids and seniors breathe a little easier.
At the same time, retrofitting American homes will also enhance their value - since energy efficient homes are more valuable than drafty ones. In other words, an aggressive program to retrofit America will create more work, more wealth, and better health for middle class Americans.
That is why today Vice President Biden asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to help the administration develop long-term, innovative proposals to begin weatherizing and retrofitting our nation’s building stock.
Fortunately, the Obama-Biden administration is already off to a great start! Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the administration made a significant investment in making America’s homes more energy efficient, dramatically increasing previous funding levels for weatherization and retrofit of buildings.
For example, the Weatherization Assistance Program was funded at only around $250 million in 2008. The Recovery Act boosted funding to $5 billion. That translates to jobs for professionally trained crews using computerized energy audits and advanced equipment to determine the most cost-effective measures. To meet this demand for workers, there will have to be a huge ramp-up in training workers. That's why the Recovery Act also includes $500 million for green job training through the Department of Labor.
Moving beyond those who are presently benefiting, the Obama-Biden administration wants to find ways to extend energy efficiency to the entire middle class. On average, a complete weatherization reduces a household’s annual gas heating consumption by 32 percent; that translates to an average of $350/ year, at current prices. Retrofitting and upgrading buildings so they waste less energy benefits the middle class in numerous ways: job creation; entrepreneurial and business opportunities; a healthier environment; and reduced home energy costs.
We don’t want the national drive to cut America’s home energy bills to come to an end when the Recovery Act funding is spent. So, over the next 90 days, we will review proposals that build on the foundation laid in ARRA to expand green opportunity and energy savings for the middle class. We at CEQ are happy to accept the challenge!