The program's job creation benefits would be threefold.
First, the bill would put back to work construction trade workers -- including contractors, carpenters and HVAC technicians -- all reeling from the industry's 25 percent unemployment rate.
Second, energy efficiency rebates would trigger a wave of consumer spending at local hardware stores and lumber dealers throughout the country, creating jobs at struggling retail businesses hit hard by the drop in construction-related spending.
Third, it would jump-start manufacturing by increasing demand for American-made insulation, roofing materials, storm windows and heating systems.
The potential for Home Star to create jobs is proven and real. In Vermont, our statewide energy efficiency utility, Efficiency Vermont, created more than 430 jobs in 2007 and 2008, generating more than $40 million in income. It has also laid the groundwork for an energy efficiency industry that will continue to create jobs and save homeowners money in the coming years.
But the benefits of Home Star go far beyond job creation. For an economic recovery program to be effective, it must not only create a short-term economic boost but also generate lasting value. Home Star would accomplish that by breaking down the key barrier between homeowners and money-saving retrofits: upfront costs.
Leveraging private capital, the rebates would enable the renovation of 3 million homes for a fraction of the federal investment. The savings for homeowners -- between $200 and $500 a year in reduced energy bills -- would be invaluable to families throughout the country.
Investing in efficiency is also a critical step toward addressing our nation's growing energy crisis. Homes and buildings, many of which are old and drafty, eat up 40 percent of the energy America uses. Such inefficiencies perpetuate our reliance on foreign oil, imperiling our national security and increasing our contribution to climate change.
Vermont has proven that efficiency works. In its first seven years, Efficiency Vermont cut our energy use by 7 percent, reducing costs for homes and businesses by $31 million annually. Expanded nationally, Home Star would save as much energy as taking three coal-fired power plants offline or hundreds of thousands of cars off the road.
In every city and town, builders and contractors need work, homeowners need to save money, and leaking buildings need to be plugged. By empowering families in every state in the country to follow Vermont's lead, we will succeed in creating quality jobs throughout America, helping homeowners save money and reducing our contribution to climate change.
This article was cross-posted from the Huffington Post.