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Editor's Blog

Senate Considering Energy Assistance Fund

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Thursday, May 14, 2009]

Recently, I noticed my Senator, Susan Collins (Maine, Republican), had introduced a bill called the "Energy Assistance Fund Act" (S.855) whose purpose is to help make the U.S. more energy independent by improving the energy efficiency of homes via weatherization (a really big issue here in Maine) and providing tax credits for consumers to invest in renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal, etc. for their homes. What really impressed me about this legislation is that it addresses several issues in a very effective manner. By providing money to weatherize homes and tax credits for home based renewable energy consumers the bill will:

  1. Result in immediate savings for families due to reduced energy costs, which will be a big help to many households in these tough economic times.
  2. Improve our nation's energy security by reducing our need for imported energy.
  3. Help reduce our nation's carbon footprint by reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn.
  4. Help stimulate the economy by creating thousands, if not tens of thousands of jobs weatherizing homes and installing renewable energy systems in homes.

When we look at investments into renewable energy and spending tax dollars on economic stimulus, the most effective place to spend that money is at the individual home owner level via tax rebates, low interest loans, etc. because the money would almost immediately get pumped back into the economy creating a demand for related goods and services. Furthermore as a nation the impact on our energy needs would be almost immediate as every home that gets properly weatherized will see a very significant reduction in energy consumption (maybe around 40% on average). The money consumers save from the reduced energy consumption could be then spent on other household needs.

Unlike this bill cosponsored by Senator Collins, typical energy bills target big industry, pie in the sky projects that do little to help the individual consumer's energy costs. Furthermore, the projects funded by typical energy bills take years to to reach fruition and oftentimes turn out to be boondoggles that provide very little return on investment.

It is very heartening to see legislation that ties economic stimulus, energy security, household energy efficiency, sustainability and reducing our nation's carbon footprint into such a tidy common sense approach. This bill will rely on trickle up from the consumer instead of empty promises of trickle down from industry.

One thing I love about living in a state with a small population base like Maine is that our Senator's are so much more accessible. A couple weeks ago I wrote Senator Collins about her bill and this is the response I got back today. Even when I disagree with my Senators, which isn't uncommon, I appreciate the fact that they take time to respond to my letters. Here is Senator Collin's response to my inquiry:

Dear Mr. Barbalace:

Thank you for contacting me regarding our nation's energy policy and for including information about your website. I appreciate your interest in environmental issues.

I noted your support for my legislation, S. 855. In a bipartisan effort to help Americans overcome the challenge of our dependence on foreign oil and restore and strengthen our nation's economy, I introduced the "Energy Assistance Fund Act" on April 22, 2009, along with my colleague Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). This legislation, introduced on Earth Day, would assist people who want to invest in energy conservation and alternative energy technologies and help set the nation on a path toward energy independence by providing additional loan authority to support current federal programs that help families and small businesses finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. This bill has not yet passed Congress. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where it awaits further consideration. I have attached a copy of the bill and a summary of it for your review.

I also have supported legislation to provide tax credits for consumers to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts like solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources in both new and existing homes. These renewable energy production tax credits have been extended through 2012, as part of the economic stimulus package. Also included in the package was $5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program. For the latest Maine funding updates, I suggest that you visit the website: www.maine.gov/recovery/ For further information on renewable energy job certification, I suggest that you visit: http://www.efficiencymaine.com/certifications.htm

I remain committed to working to advance effective energy and environmental legislation that increases America's supply of energy and decreases our demand for foreign oil, which will help us to achieve energy independence and to stabilize gas and oil prices. As the Senate continues to consider energy legislation, I will work to advance these objectives and will continue to support policies that benefit Maine families.

Again, thank you for contacting me.

Susan Collins
United States Senator

No bill can get passed without support so please take some time and write your senators and encourage them to support this bill. This bill does have bipartisan support. It will help stimulate our economy, it will help reduce our dependence on foreign energy (e.g. oil), and is good for the environment.

Download text of S.855 (pdf)


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