Cash for Caulkers

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The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill to fund consumer rebates for energy-efficiency retrofits.

The Home Star bill, passed 246-161, would authorize $5.7 billion over two years for a program that supporters - mostly Democrats - said would have the added benefits of invigorating the slumping construction industry and making the earth a little cleaner. 

I wonder how builders and architects feel about this kind of program. The builders I know are an independent lot, but it's hard to knock a program that could keep your business alive or allow you to hire back good people you've had to lay off. Architects, if would seem, stand to benefit less. But the program does provide a substantial subsidy for major work, which may well involve architectural services.

The bill has two parts: The Silver Star program provides upfront rebates of up to $3,000 for specific energy-efficient improvements in homes, such as installing energy-efficient appliances or duct sealing, insulation or new windows or doors.

A Gold Star program would entitle people to up to $8,000 when they conduct comprehensive energy audits and implement measures that reduce energy use throughout their homes by more than 20 percent.

As with previous stimulus efforts support in Congress breaks along party lines. Democrats say the rebates will spur job creation, save energy, and improve the environment; Republicans focus on the cost, though they were able to include a measure that would kill the program if Democrats cannot find a way to pay for it. The bill must still go before the Senate before reaching the President's desk. --B.D.S.



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