Obama’s weatherization program makes little economic sense for taxpayers

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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The Department of Energy continued to dole out stimulus money last week as a part of the Weatherization Assistance Program, even as the first 16 months of the program have fallen far short of expectations.

The department selected job-training centers last week in 27 states to receive $29 million in stimulus money to train workers in “weatherization” techniques, retrofitting houses to become more energy efficient.

The program aims to use $5 billion from the Recovery Act of 2009 to weatherize 593,000 homes by March 2012. Since the Act was signed into law by President Obama last year, about 80,000 homes have been weatherized — just 13 percent of the goal, according to the latest U.S. Government Accountability Office data.

The program must complete 513,000 homes in the 20 remaining months—25,650 per month—if it wants to stay on schedule. Officials claim that the goal is still attainable.

On schedule or not, the economic benefits are far from clear. The federal government has spent $659 million on the 80,000 houses so far—$8,237 per house. The DOE website estimates that weatherization reduces energy bills by an average of about $350 per year, depending on fuel prices.

Thus the caulk and insulation used to weatherize each house would need to last for 23 years without needing repair just to pay for itself.

Yet the administration continues to brag about the program. “A well-trained workforce will be a crucial part of America’s clean energy economy in the years ahead,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman. “These investments in efficiency training programs will help build a foundation for long-term growth in America.”

The $29 million will be distributed to 34 training centers around the country, such as non-profits, technical and community colleges and state governments.

The programs include: $1 million to Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock, Ark. $963,130 will go to the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office. And $999,846 will go to the non-profit Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development Inc.