With $5 billion in stimulus money going to weatherize homes, The New York Times is asking how much of that is pork.
Since the 1970s, the federal government has provided funding to help low-income residents keep heating bills down by plugging holes and beefing up insulation. The winterizing program makes both economic and ecological sense, considering that heating an average house costs $1,188 per year and, nationwide, heating sends 358 million metric tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere.
But something’s amiss with the latest funding priorities, which allocate loads of cash to increase cooling efficiency in hot states, Steven Nadel of the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy told the Times. Compared to heating a typical home in New England, air conditioning releases half the amount of carbon dioxide and costs half as much. Add to that the fact that Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee recently concluded that insulating homes in Texas does not necessarily bring down cooling costs, and you have a recipe for some serious pork barrel spending.
In the past, “hot climate states” got just 16 percent of weatherization funds, but reporter Michael Cooper explains that, in 1995, members of Congress from such states slipped in language to double their slice of the pie if funding crossed a certain threshold.
So as Florida’s weatherization budget increases by a factor of 45, our nation's energy budget is not going to shrink as much as it could. “If you were doing it on a national basis,” Nadel said, “you’d do the most cost-effective jobs first, which would mean doing a lot in places like the Dakotas and Minnesota.”
Image of of palm trees in Ft. Lauderdale courtesy eyeliam via Flickr