By Travis Walters
President Obama took the stage before a crowd of some 300 invited guests at Savannah Technical College today to announce his plan for an estimated $6 billion home retrofit program. His HOMESTAR program would give families immediate rebates ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on what type of retrofits are performed.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, Mayor Otis Johnson, and Congressmen Barrow, Kingston, Bishop and Johnson were among the invited guests in Ekburg Auditorium.
Before the president spoke he took a tour of Savannah Tech to see students who were learning about clean energy. “They’re learning about solar cells; they’re learning about efficient heating and cooling systems. You’ve got young people here who, through the YouthBuild program, are gaining job skills that will help them the rest of their lives,” said Obama.
The president talked briefly about jobs and the Recovery Act before outlining his HOMESTAR program. “Unemployment in Georgia is still above 10 percent. That doesn’t include folks who have had to accept part-time jobs or, in some cases, have given up finding a job altogether,” said Obama.
“That’s why we’ve invested in roads and railways so that our economy has room to grow and we’re laying the infrastructure for the future. In fact, because of the Recovery Act, there are more than 300 transportation projects underway in Georgia right now,” said Obama.
The president cited a loan guarantee to begin construction on the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades in Georgia. The project is expected to create more than 3,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs when it’s finished.
The Recovery Act provided a grant to YouthBuild to provide training in creating advanced batteries for hybrid cars, modernizing our electric grid, and doubling our capacity to generate clean energy. “Because I’m convinced that the country that leads in clean energy is also going to be the country that leads in the global economy. And I wanted America to be that nation,” said Obama.
The president devoted the second half of his speech to the HOMESTAR program. It takes the concept of the Energy Star program and applies it to the home. Instead of a sticker identifying which appliance uses energy efficiently and would save the buyer money over time, HOMESTAR identifies building supplies and systems that save homeowners energy over time.
Not only will this plan save homeowners money, says the president, but it will also create jobs in the United States because energy-efficient windows or insulation are manufactured in the United States.
A homeowner can go to any store to purchase the windows, heating unit, insulation, roofing, or other energy-saving material and instantly receive a rebate of 50 percent of the cost of the item up to $1,500. And, if the homeowner retrofits their entire home they’re eligible for a rebate up to $3,000.
The entire economy would benefit from this program because the retrofits require materials to be manufactured and many projects will require a contractor. “So the fact is that they’re nearly 25 percent unemployment in the construction industry so far, so construction companies, hardware stores, contractors, manufacturers — they faced a rapid decline in demand in the wake of the mortgage crisis,” said Obama.
Congress must now approve the program, “and working stuff through Congress is more than a notion,” said Obama, “But by taking these steps we’ll help foster the kind of broadly shared growth that will serve us in the years and the decades to come.”
The president ate at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, and visited Chatham Steel and Meddin Studios before returning to Washington D.C.Contact Travis Walters.