With more details emerging on the Senate's plans for energy legislation, how does building efficiency play into the plan? During today's OnPoint, Kate Offringa, president and CEO of the Council of the North American Association of Insulation Manufacturers, discusses the Home Star energy efficiency retrofit program included in the Senate's new energy package. She explains the job opportunities and energy savings associated with the program.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Kate Offringa, president and CEO of the Council of the North American Association of Insulation Manufacturers. Kate, thanks for coming on the show.
Kate Offringa: Thank you for having me, Monica.
Monica Trauzzi: Kate, as part of the new energy package being discussed in the Senate Senator Reid has included the Home Star Program, which would offer rebates for home retrofits. Why is this such an integral part of our energy policy as we move forward?
Kate Offringa: You know, Monica, 40 percent of all the energy that we use in this country is consumed in buildings and I'm not sure that that's something that the general public is aware of, but we use more energy to heat, cool, and light buildings than we do in the transportation sector or any other sector. So, in terms of energy policy, addressing energy use in buildings is critical to our energy future as a country. What's also important about the Home Star bill, which has received bipartisan support, as you know, in both the House and Senate, is the job creation angle. It's going to create at least 168,000 jobs in an industry that's been flat on its back for more than two years. And I'm referring, of course, to the home construction and renovation industry, but speaking specifically about insulation, we're talking about a home-grown manufacturing sector. Installation is made in America, it's installed. Those are good American jobs, installing installation in every state in the country. And this is a sector that's seeing unemployment levels at 2 1/2 times the national average right now.
Monica Trauzzi: So, what exactly would the Home Star provisions do? What kind of savings would we see in terms of energy efficiency?
Kate Offringa: Well, according to the EPA, proper insulation levels in homes can save between 20 and 40 percent on energy bills, so that is significant savings. And, looking back at the bigger picture, if buildings in this country were insulated to sufficient levels, we could be saving 30 times the amount of energy equivalent as what's been lost in the horrific Gulf oil spill.
Monica Trauzzi: Where does the funding for this program come from?
Kate Offringa: That's a question for senators and congressmen to sort out, but certainly it's an important thing for them to look at when they're considering budget priorities, again, because it gets back to job creation in a home-grown sector that's been hit so hard.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, so you mentioned job creation several times. Are contractors ready to hit to hit the ground running when it comes to these retrofits or is there a certain learning curve? Do we have to wait for them to get up to speed on the education side of things before we see the construction starting to happen?
Kate Offringa: Thirty days after this bill has been signed by President Obama we'll be ready to have people installing insulation in homes across the country. Insulation installers have had to lay off 30 to 40 percent of their workforce over the last year or two. So it's not a matter of looking for people and training people to put them into this trade. It's a matter of putting this trade back together with people who are out of work.
Monica Trauzzi: So, talk a bit about the bipartisanship that exists behind this bill and who's come out in support of it.
Kate Offringa: Well, on the House side of course, the Home Star bill passed with 12 Republican votes I believe it was, significant bipartisan support in this congressional climate, as you know. And, on the Senate side, the Republican cosponsors are Senators Snowe, Graham and Brown and I'm confident that there will be more Republican support for the bill when it comes to the floor.
Monica Trauzzi: There's a very tight timeline for getting this energy bill to pass. If it does not pass, is there another vehicle through which Home Star could pass and become law?
Kate Offringa: I think that the important thing for this industry and for Congress to focus on in terms of job creation is moving this measure as soon as possible on the bill that's available now. If that does not happen, for any particular reason, I'm confident that Home Star would be an important provision of any energy bill or job creation bill that might be considered later this year.
Monica Trauzzi: Are there other programs that you're looking at that could work in conjunction with Home Star that you hope will be passed down the line that could help achieve some of the benefits that Home Star would?
Kate Offringa: Absolutely. You're probably familiar with a bill that's out there called Building Star and that would provide similar job creation and energy savings in the commercial building sector. And we believe that the best advertisement for Building Star is a successful Home Star Program. So, while the Home Star Program currently is on the table with bipartisan support and President Obama's support, our main priority is to see that over the finish line and we would love to follow that up with a successful campaign for Building Star and other measures.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show.
Kate Offringa: Thank you very much.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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