National

Obama proposes energy rebates

SAVANNAH, Ga. —Sounding a familiar clean-energy theme, President Obama on Tuesday announced details of a proposed energy rebate program he hopes will spur demand for insulation and water heaters — and jobs for hurting Americans.

Obama said the administration's Homestar program would reward people who buy energy-saving equipment with an on-the-spot rebate of $1,000 or more. He cast the idea as one that would save people money on utility bills, boost the economy and reduce American dependence on oil.

The plan would take the approval of Congress.

"When it comes to domestic policy, I have no more important job as president than seeing to it that every American that wants to work and is able to work can find a job," Obama said at Savannah Technical College, in a state where the unemployment rate tops the national average of 9.7 percent.

The administration is hoping the energy rebate plan could become as popular as last year's Cash for Clunkers money-back program for autos. Consumers would collect immediate rebates for buying insulation, water heaters or other equipment to make their homes burn energy more efficiently.

Various vendors, ranging from small, independent contractors to national home improvement chains, would promote the rebates, give the money to consumers and then be reimbursed by the federal government.

Some details of the program, including how long it will run and its total cost, remain to be worked out with Congress, administration officials said.

The price tag could be in the range of $6 billion.

The latest proposal has two levels of rebates.

Under the first level of energy rebates, to be called Silver Star, consumers would be eligible for rebates between $1,000 and $1,500 for a variety of home upgrades, including adding insulation, sealing leaky ducts and replacing water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. There would be a maximum rebate of $3,000 per home.

Under the second level, Gold Star, consumers who get home energy audits and then make changes designed to reduce energy costs by at least 20 percent would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate. Additional rebates would be available for savings above 20 percent.

  Comments