Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Video View of an Endangered Program Cutting Energy Waste

... [The federal Weatherization Assistance Program] got a big boost under the stimulus package of spending during the great recession, but now is being funded at levels far below the spending before the economic crisis. Joshua Wolfe who recently released a video about the program said:
Two years ago I set out to make a five minute film on the history of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) for a joint project of the State & Local Energy Report magazine and the National Association for State Community Service Programs. As we started collecting footage, stories, and artifacts from the program, what emerged was a compelling story of people who work day in and day out to make the homes of low-income Americans safe, affordable and energy efficient. It turned into a two-year project and a 50-minute film.
As we’ve finished the film this summer, I didn’t expect to see WAP disappear before my eyes. Under the $5 billion allocation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), WAP funding shot up for a few years. As ARRA fades WAP now survives on its yearly appropriation. Program funding has dropped from $210 million in 2010 to $68 million for this year.  The only reason the program hasn’t collapsed this year is because of remaining stimulus funds and supplemental funding that was available from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.  A second year of funding at $68 million will simply not be enough to run a national program. The six-month continuing resolution that congress is considering in September would continue the program funding level at $68 million.
WAP is a small but important piece of the social safety net. According to the US Department of Energy, families receiving weatherization services see their energy bills reduced on average by about $437. Many of these are the most vulnerable families – throughout the filming we spoke to people who would not be able to stay in their homes without the help of WAP.
WAP came into existence in 1976 under Jimmy Carter. The program was designed to increase the efficiency of low-income peoples’ homes through basic measures like improved insulation, weatherstripping and caulking. During the 36 years of the program, the growth of the program led to advances in our understanding of building technology and led to the development of diagnostic equipment like the blower door. The green building practices of today owe a debt of gratitude to the workers and engineers of WAP.
What we often forget is that in those 36 years, the program has not just made peoples’ lives better but it has accumulated knowledge, talent and resources that make it better each year than the year before. If the program’s budget gets cut dramatically, much of those 36 years of investment will be lost. We can’t rebuild it overnight if we decide to increase program funding two years from now. It is also probable that if the continuing resolution passes at the $68 million funding level many of the people you meet in this film will lose their jobs in the near future. I hope that this film can help lawmakers realize the value of WAP and preserve the work of the last 36 years.

By Andrew C. Revkin
The New York Times www.NYTimes.com
September 16, 2012

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