A Seriously Ambitious Plan for Green Homes

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Environmentalists have long considered energy efficiency the low-hanging fruit of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Not as sexy as solar panels, but real savings that can be achieved right now.

Here's the obstacle: few homeowners are willing to swallow the up-front cost of improvements that will only pay for themselves over time.

Now the Center for Working Families is proposing an end-run around up-front costs: set up a public-private investment fund for weatherization, and allow homeowners to pay the fund back over time from the money they've saved on their utility bills. Re-read that last sentence. It makes a lot of sense, on paper at least.

I spoke with the drafters today, who were in Washington, of all places, for the release of their white paper at the liberal Center for American Progress.

They told me the Working Families Party first approached Governor Paterson and Albany legislators last summer, to solicit their input. A spokesperson for the Governor says he's reviewing the plan, and is "on board with the goals."

If this happens on the scale WFP imagines, it will be BIG. One million homes - that's nearly one in seven. A five billion dollar fund. And fourteen thousand jobs.

Or, to put it in perspective, President Obama's huge stimulus boost to the federal home weatherization plan will reach 45,000 homes in New York. This plan would reach 22 times more homes.