Biden: States back on track for weatherizing homes

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Standing outside a New Hampshire home being insulated for winter, Vice President Joe Biden said today that after a slow start, states are on track to weatherize 600,000 homes by March 2012.

By March 2010 — a year after the economic stimulus pumped new money into the decades-old federal Weatherization Assistance Program — fewer than 31,000 homes had been retrofitted.

But Biden said the total has now jumped to 200,000, with 80,000 homes being retrofitted this summer alone.

“We’re picking up the pace. We’re weatherizing 20,000 to 30,000 homes each month, and at that pace, we’re going to meet our goal,” he said.

“Investing in weatherization is a no-brainer. If we keep up the current weatherization pace, will lessen our dependance on foreign oil by 1.5 million barrels, the equivalent of going out, waving a wand and taking 107,000 automobiles off the road permanently, and saving consumers a lot of money.”

Biden marked the milestone at the home of Lynn Dumont, a single mother who is expected to save $600 a year once energy-saving improvements are complete on her 50-year-old ranch-style home.

“Try being a single mother raising two kids, and tell me that doesn’t make a difference to you,” Biden said.

Under the weatherization program, states distribute federal money to local nonprofits that hire contractors for projects ranging from installing weather-tight windows and doors to spreading insulation in homes. Making those improvements in every home would save $40 billion a year, Biden said.

“We focus on cars, as we should and we are, but homes provide, along with automobiles, the quickest, fastest savings,” he said.

The $5 billion weatherization program is part of about $90 billion in stimulus funds targeted for clean energy and energy-efficiency projects. Biden said it has put more than 13,000 people to work installing insulation, upgrading appliances and improving heating and cooling system — or about 15 percent of the 87,000 jobs the Obama administration predicts.

In March, an Associated Press review of the program found that the weatherization program had retrofitted a fraction of the homes and created far fewer construction jobs than expected in its first year. In Alaska, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, it failed to produce a single job or help one home.

Republicans quickly reacted to Biden’s announcement with criticism that the stimulus has failed to create jobs as promised.

“With a record $13.3 trillion national debt, and 3 million jobs lost since the stimulus became law, Washington needs to start listening to the concerns of the American people rather than trying to force them to go along with more of the same,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said. “It’s time to take a different approach. It’s time to focus on creating lasting, private sector jobs.”

Biden countered that unemployment would have been 2 percent higher without the stimulus. He told reporters that saying the stimulus package shouldn’t have been passed because it hasn’t solved the whole problem is like telling a cancer patient who also has a broken arm that his arm won’t be fixed because he also has cancer.

“The stimulus package all by itself is worth every investment made in it in terms of jobs saved or jobs created, in terms of just making sure people didn’t fall in a black abyss by having unemployment extended and by the investment we’re making in the very things that are going to lead us in the 21st century,” he said.

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