Environment Picture

Weatherization and energy efficiency are back and as sexy as ever!

Well, sexy in G-rated, money-saving way
A small army of students, advocates and contractors armed themselves with caulk guns, door sweeps and compact fluorescent light bulbs one crisp December afternoon. Their mission—accomplished—was to install weatherization kits and educate Lansing residents on the benefits of conservation.

The volunteer effort was part of a revitalized movement across Michigan and the country to combat high energy prices and pollution from power plants by slashing energy use in homes and businesses.

In Lansing, the effort was the culmination of a grant received by Tremaine Phillips, energy program associate with the Michigan Environmental Council. Phillips is one of 40 leaders from across the nation chosen to receive $10,000 grants to help organize conservation action projects through the TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Program.

The Residential Weatherization Pilot Program may be the first in a series of similar community efforts. It trained volunteers to implement 15 different energy and water efficiency measures, and educated residents on behavioral changes they can make to reduce utility bills.

A broad coalition of organizations, including the Detroit Youth Energy Squad, Allen Neighborhood Center and California-based Global Exchange, all contributed to make the day a success. It mobilized students and community members to volunteer with their neighbors, and will make a measurable difference in homeowners’ utility costs this winter. It also is a barrier to home foreclosures because it helps control the cost of home ownership.

New momentum
This program is indicative of reinvigorated state and national movements towards weatherization and energy efficiency—the fastest and most cost-effective method of meeting energy demand and the only one that saves ratepayers money.

The first national surge toward energy efficiency came during the OPEC oil embargo and subsequent 1970s energy crisis.

In that era, energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings were adopted across the country. Michigan boasted some of the most robust energy efficiency programs in the nation.

When oil prices plummeted in the 1980s, efficiency efforts foundered, and Michigan dismantled its nationally recognized programs.

Efficiency is back, and it’s sexy
Global climate change, volatile oil prices and peak oil concerns have fueled resurgence in efficiency programs during the past several years. In 2008, Michigan lawmakers passed the state’s first efficiency program since the 1980s. In 2009, more than $5 billion in weatherization funding was included in the federal economic stimulus package—$243 million was earmarked for Michigan.

President Barack Obama’s administration is continuing its efforts to push for energy efficiency, championing the creation of a “Cash for Caulkers” program, which provides financial incentives for homeowners to weatherize.

“Here’s what’s sexy about it,” Obama explained to a recent gathering: “Saving money.”
RELATED TOPICS: energy efficiency
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