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VIEWPOINT:

Open Letter to the Obama Transition Team: Consider This Stimulus Idea

TO: Barack Obama and his Transition Team

by Marc Cherbonnier
Win-win-win: Let's make urban rowhouses energy-efficient by training work crews to make them 'green.'
For economic stimulus, it occurs to me that we can do several things at once if we're wise. Consider that rowhouses in most of our cities are more than 50 years old. They have roofs with little or no insulation and inefficient windows and furnaces. Cities also have higher than average unemployment. What if stimulus funded the effort to turn all those houses green?

Teams using a combination of underemployed experienced building trade workers plus unemployed local labor could use 'Green recipes' and ready materials to insulate these homes quickly. At the same time or as separate cost-extra efforts: 1) teams skilled to quickly install energy efficient furnaces could replace old inefficient furnaces; 2) work crews could replace old leaky windows and doors with energy-efficient ones; 3) other work crews could replace old inefficient air conditioning with new efficient models; and 4) solar panels could be installed, too, to supply electric for water heating. All these steps would reduce CO2 pollution, benefitting the world, and reduce energy bills for the longer term, benefitting needy people. In addition, the workers would gain valuable construction skills while earning a living.

Economic stimulus benefits from this new Green Labor Force would be that local jobs are created, and the salaries earned would be spent in the local economy. Materials sold to be used in the home improvements would stimulate the general economy. An added bonus is that this work would also stabilize and possibly eventually increase the market value of the homes. Lastly, by making homes more energy-efficient, the need to build new electric power plants can be delayed or avoided altogether.

What do homeowners pay? That's for government to decide; for those who are on limited incomes, one would hope they would have to pay much less than if they tried doing this work using contractors—if they could afford to have the work done on their own at all. A progressive plan should be developed to help the needy more than the non-needy.

This type of effort could be broadened to include all types of homes everywhere. The larger and more varied the effort, the more employment would be stimulated for local construction and home repair businesses.


Marc Cherbonnier writes from Baltimore.


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This story was published on December 9, 2008.