Narayan Lakshman

Washington: U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday 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.

Building supplies and systems that would save energy over time would be identified. Any homeowner putting in new windows, replacing a heating unit or redoing a roof would be eligible to claim from the store or the contractor 50 per cent of the cost of each upgrade up to $1,500, said Mr. Obama.

The scheme mirrors the Cash for Clunkers initiative launched last year — a $3-billion federal programme that created incentives for people to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.

HOMESTAR would create employment, said Mr. Obama, 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 efficient installations and that independent field audits are conducted to ensure that the upgrades actually save energy.

Mr. Obama's hopes 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 per house in energy costs while 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.”