$5 Billion in Stimulus Cash to Help US Cut Back on the A/C
Photo via Charles and Hundson
We already knew that the stimulus bill included provisions to weatherize homes and government buildings across the country. But how exactly that weatherizing was going to get done (aside from some great tax rebates) remained undecided. Now, a controversial decision has been made to use a huge chunk of the stimulus cash to help hotter states use less energy on air conditioning during the summer.From the NY Times:
An unusually large share of the money will be spent not on keeping cold air out but on keeping cold air in. As a result of a political compromise with Sun Belt lawmakers last decade, the enormous expansion of the weatherization program will invoke a rarely used formula that will devote 31 percent of the money, nearly double the old share of 16 percent, to help states in hot climates, like Florida, save on air-conditioning.
Seems pretty straightforward--yet the move has drummed up a chorus of controversy, because many feel that focusing on weatherizing heating systems would be the more efficient move:
The nation spends twice as much on heating as on cooling, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, and it consumes more energy heating homes than cooling them. When it comes to emissions of heat-trapping gases, the department found, home heating is responsible for emitting twice as much carbon dioxide as home cooling. And a 2005 survey of home energy use by the agency found that the average household in New England spent $1,188 a year on heating, while the average household in Florida spent $597 on air-conditioning.
And not only is heating a bigger energy consumer, and therefore ostensibly the more pressing target, but the efficacy of the programs that weatherize homes in hot climes has been thrown into doubt as well.
Repeated questions have been raised about the effectiveness of weatherization in hot-climate states. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which evaluates the program for the Energy Department, released a study last year questioning the program’s results in Texas, which will get $327 million in weatherization money from the stimulus law. The laboratory found that insulating homes did not save a significant amount of money.
Then again, proponents argue that technological advances render such studies obsolete, and that significant savings are attainable. The one thing that both sides agree on? Jobs--each such project would create around nine temporary, much needed jobs in the name of using less A/C.