President Barack Obama today announced a new multi-pronged policy to reduce the United States’ dependence on oil consumption and create new jobs after the worst recession in a generation. 

Speaking at a training facility at Savannah Technical College, Georgia, Mr. Obama described the policy, called HOMESTAR, as aiming to create jobs by encouraging American families to invest in energy-saving home improvements. 

After identifying building supplies and systems that would save energy over time, Mr. Obama said, the scheme would make any homeowner putting in new windows, replacing a heating unit or redoing a roof eligible for a rebate from the store or the contractor for 50 percent of the cost of each upgrade up to $1,500. 

In this regard the scheme mirrors the Cash for Clunkers initiative launched last year, a $3 billion federal scrappage programme that created incentives for individuals to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles. 

Domestic employment would result from HOMESTAR, Mr. Obama explained, as “energy-efficient windows or insulation… are products that are almost exclusively manufactured right here in the United States of America”. It is very hard to ship windows from China, Mr. Obama quipped. 

With a focus on quality retrofitting, the government will insist that contractors be certified to perform efficiency installations and independent field audits are conducted to ensure that the upgrades actually produce energy savings. 

Mr. Obama’s hope is that this scheme will reduce energy use by an equivalent of the output of three coal-fired power plants per year, saving $200-$500 per year in the residential energy costs, while at the same time creating “tens of thousands” of jobs. 

Touching on the importance of building up the nation’s environmentally sustainable infrastructure he said, “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 want America to be that nation”. With 25 percent unemployment in the construction industry, demand has declined rapidly since the onset of the mortgage crisis. 

Alluding to some business leaders in the construction industry who were present at the meeting, Mr. Obama said, “These are companies ready to take on new customers; they’re workers eager to do new installations and renovations; factories ready to produce new building supplies.  All we’ve got to do is create the incentives to make it happen”. 

This is neither a Democratic nor Republican idea but common-sense, he argued.

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