by Dan Burgess, Boston GreenScene's Policy Corner Commentator
In a slew of clean energy policy news this past week, the most intriguing idea I’ve heard is that of a ‘Cash for Caulkers’ program. This initiative, as explained by David Leonhardt in the New York Times, would provide federal subsidies to encourage home weatherization in the United States.
Much like how the Cash for Clunkers program helped buoy the automotive industry by encouraging car owners to purchase more energy efficient vehicles, the Cash for Caulkers measure would provide incentives for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. Household energy efficiency would be gauged through energy audits and money would then be provided by the federal government to homeowners to help offset the overall costs of the weatherization. There are numerous benefits to this idea and it should be enacted as soon as possible.
This program would undoubtedly reduce energy use immediately. In the article, Leonhardt mentions that the consulting firm McKinsey estimates there could be a 28% reduction in energy use over the next decade with proper weatherization in the United States. This reduction not only would make our country less reliant on unclean energy sources, but also would provide immediate financial relief for struggling families in Massachusetts.
Cash for Caulkers would also create jobs in every corner of the United States immediately, and at a fixed cost. As the Massachusetts unemployment rate nears 10%, Deval Patrick’s administration is desperate to find ways to create new jobs. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth is currently running one of the highest state deficits in the country and is unable to make the type of investments required to fund major employment projects that are common during recessions. Patrick needs aid from the federal government, and this weatherization program would certainly help improve employment numbers in Massachusetts.While the details of the Cash for Caulkers plan will evolve over the next three to six months, the basic idea is sound and would have enormous and immediate benefits for Massachusetts residents.
It should be noted that Massachusetts, through the Department of Energy Resources, already has numerous projects focused on helping residents save money through energy efficiency. A thorough list of resources can be found on the DOER website. One such program is MassSAVE, a private/public partnership that provides support for Massachusetts residents looking to make their homes more energy efficient. Additionally, nonprofit organizations, like the Home Energy and Efficiency Team in Cambridge, have begun taking up the cause and are a wonderful examples of the effects home weatherization can have.Without question, the energy efficiency and home weatherization programs in Massachusetts are critical to a more sustainable future. However, only with a strong federally-funded and promoted effort can these efforts be truly successful.