The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, on which I serve, is focused on weatherization. There are several reasons for this; Global Warming, job creation, affordable housing, home comfort, health and safety, saving money – which is important in normal times and especially important during and after Covid-19.
Global Warming is the overarching existential issue of our time. It threatens our planet’s capacity to support a decent existence for billions of people, through consequences no one can predict with certainty. And it is not necessary. We humans in general, and we Americans in particular, waste terrible amounts of energy, resulting in lost wealth, threats to national security, and air pollution. Among the many consequences of wasteful energy use is unnaturally high levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Vermont is committed to reducing our contribution to Global Warming by reducing our burning of fossil fuels. We’ve been most successful in electricity generation. But the real villains are transportation and heating. These do enough harm that we should be willing to make sacrifices as needed to clean up our act. But happily, weatherization is good for the economy and provides good results in ways beyond reducing carbon. It creates decent paying jobs. It improves property values. It lowers the cost of living by lowering fuel bills. It improves comfort. It improves health.
As with any good idea, a good idea isn’t enough. It’s got to be implemented right. I learned this the hard way many years ago when, as a young man, I weatherized my house without actually learning how. I sealed it up completely. It took about a year for the musty smell to start, and about 10 to totally destroy my roof. Weatherizing is skilled work.
The state has long had a fuel assistance program as well our long-standing weatherization program. We’ll need fuel assistance as long as there are people who can’t pay a pending fuel bill, or who are entering the cold months with inadequate means to pay for heat. No one in our midst should be cold. But heating a leaky house heats the adjacent air outside. It’s a better use of the money to heat inside the house. Money you avoid spending is equal to income. So while fuel assistance is a necessary first aid, the long-term emphasis needs to be on weatherization. More warm people for the money.
The state’s role in this, as is often the case, involves money. Just as we help people in need with fuel assistance, so too we help people in need weatherize. We’re also taking testimony on the importance of credit. As with electric cars, weatherization saves money but is a front-loaded expense. Many people who aren’t poor can’t afford to make the investment that will save money in the end. Money makes money, poverty is expensive, and the middle class gets the short end of the stick either way. So helping people get low interest loans may be an important element of a significant weatherization program.
Sen. Dick McCormack