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Helping American Families Make Good Choices and Cut Energy Bills

Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, writes about how the President's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future will help families with their energy costs.

One important component of our energy policy is to provide American families with the tools that they need to make choices that will reduce costs and save energy.  Every time families fill up their gas tanks or look at their energy bills their pocket books feel the pinch. That’s why we are looking toward new and innovative solutions to secure America’s energy future, solutions that will be good for our economy, good for our environment, and good for our families.

Although our economy relies on oil, America only controls about two percent of this resource. And rapid economic growth and demand for oil in China and India makes it certain that prices aren’t likely to fall to levels that will bring relief to American families. That’s why we need more efficient vehicles – and electric vehicles that can be charged at home.  Just think how many families we can touch by reaching the President’s goal of putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

American families are not only feeling the weight of high prices at the pump, but also in their home electricity bills. Renting families are often stuck with high-energy-consuming appliances while other families looking to update their homes face high purchase prices for new efficient equipment. That’s why the Administration is also committed to helping American families make their homes more energy efficient.  Through investments that we’ve made through the Recovery Act, we’ve already helped weatherize about 350,000 projects that are helping lower income Americans reduce energy bills at home. We are also committed to passing “HOMESTAR” legislation that will help families finance home energy improvements by delivering rebates directly to consumers at the point of sale. 

You can learn about these and our other energy policies in our Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future (pdf) or see some quick facts below:   

Reduce Consumer Costs at the Pump with More Efficient Cars and Trucks

  • Better Mileage for Our Cars:  The historic national fuel standards announced by the Obama Administration for model years 2012 – 2016 will …
    • Raise average fuel economy to 35.5 mpg by 2016, while maintaining consumer choice. The 2012-2016 standards alone are estimated to…
    • Save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles covered
    • Save the average driver roughly $3,000 over the life of their vehicle(model year 2016).
  • Getting away from gas costs by putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015
    • A consumer driving an electric car would save over $630 per year powering the car with electricity generated in American power plants instead of gasoline.
    • We’ve proposed to make electric vehicles more affordable with a rebate up to $7,500—which would transform an existing $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles into a rebate that will be available to all consumers immediately at the point of sale.
    • And, we’re investing in making the electric vehicle technology more affordable for consumers.  As a result of the investments that we made through the Recovery Act, advanced battery costs (the biggest cost of electric cars) are expected, by 2013, to drop by half of what they were in 2009 and continue dropping from there. 

Cutting energy bills at home by passing HOMESTAR  

  • HOMESTAR Program of Rebates Delivered Directly to Consumers: The Administration has continued to advocate for the consumer-friendly HOMESTAR program.  Like the Cash for Clunkers program, consumers would be eligible for direct HOMESTAR rebates at the point of sale for a variety of energy-saving investments in their homes. A broad array of vendors, from small independent building material dealers, large national home improvement chains, energy efficiency installation professionals and utility energy efficiency programs (including rural utilities) would market the rebates, provide them directly to consumers and then be reimbursed by the Federal government.
  • $1,000 - $1,500 Silver Star Rebates: As part of the HOMESTAR program, consumers looking to have simple upgrades performed in their homes would be eligible for 50% rebates up to $1,000 - $1,500 for doing any of a straightforward set of upgrades, including: insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. Under Silver Star, consumers can chose a combination of upgrades for rebates up to a maximum of $3,000 per home. Rebates would be limited to the most energy efficient categories of upgrades—focusing on products made primarily in the United States and installed by certified contractors.
  • $3,000 Gold Star Rebates: Consumers interested in more comprehensive energy efficiency projects would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate for a whole home energy audit and subsequent energy improvement project tailored to achieve a 20% energy savings in their homes. Under HOMESTAR, consumers could receive additional rebate amounts for energy savings in excess of 20%. Gold Star would build on existing whole home energy efficiency programs, like EPA’s successful Home Performance with Energy Star program.

Melody Barnes is Director of the Domestic Policy Council