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Clean Energy Corps Proposed to Create Jobs, Fight Global Warming

WASHINGTON, DC, March 2, 2009 (ENS) – More than 80 labor, environmental, civic, and policy organizations have endorsed a proposal to secure America’s economic recovery and environmental health by applying energy-efficient measures to over 15 million existing buildings – from adding insulation to replacing inefficient boilers.

The Clean Energy Corps would combine job creation, service, and training to combat global warming. “The beauty of the Clean Energy Corps is that it doesn’t just create jobs,” said Green For All founder Van Jones, “it also creates pathways out of poverty.”

The Clean Energy Corps is a proposal of the Clean Energy Corps Working Group, which includes representatives of the Apollo Alliance, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Corps Network, Energy Action Coalition, Green For All, Innovations in Civic Participation, and 1Sky.

“At a time of severe hardship in the construction sector, retrofitting residential buildings to cut energy use can save consumers money, expand economic growth, reduce pollution, and create jobs,” said Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at Center for American Progress.

By retrofitting millions of structures, the Clean Energy Corps proposes to create at least 600,000 living-wage, career-track jobs in green industries, train people for them, and directly engage millions of Americans in diverse service-learning and volunteer work related to climate protection.

The organizers suggest that the new Corps be led by President Barack Obama and administered through a new Energy Security Council that they say would compare to the existing National Security Council in flexibility and executive coordination of relevant departments, programs, and cabinet secretaries.

The Energy Security Council would be subject to regular independent oversight, evaluation and reporting to Congress on the achievement of program aims, organizers say.

“The Clean Energy Corps will be the vehicle through which the growing consensus to combat global warming through the creation of long-term, family-supporting jobs becomes a reality,” said Theodore Green, advisor to the general president at Laborers’ International Union of North America.

“We look forward to working through CEC with the full range of stakeholders – governmental bodies at the national, state and local levels, community organizations, environmental groups and our signatory employers – to improve and protect the lives of working men and women,” he said.

A worker tests the air distribution system to ensure a home in Orlando, Florida meets efficiency standards. (Photo courtesy Florida Solar Energy Center and Integrated Building and Construction Solutions)

The Clean Energy Corps is intended as a collaborative and cost-effective national initiative entailing minimal new bureaucracy.

Retrofits would be financed out of a federal revolving loan fund, where the loan is paid back out of a portion of the savings on energy bills.

The CEC would be funded through established programs – Department of Energy, Department of Labor, and Corporation for National and Community Service – and also through new programs, organizers say.

The real work of the Clean Energy Corps would occur at the state and local levels and grant funds would be awarded directly to state task forces and local CEC partnerships.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky is leading the way with its launch Thursday of a Kentucky Clean Energy Corps pilot program with $1 million of existing state and private funds.

Under the stewardship of Governor Steve Beshear, the program is working with 100 low income Kentucky households in Lexington and rural Bourbon and Clark Counties to make their homes more energy efficient, reduce utility bills and engage Kentuckians in service.

“We salute the work that groups like Center for American Progress and Green For All are doing to bring the Clean Energy Corps idea to the nation’s attention,” said Governor Beshear. “And we are proud that our state is taking national leadership and serving as a role model in the effort to turn our economy around through innovative programs that create good, new jobs while protecting the environment.”

The Kentucky households will receive an energy audit to determine leaks in the building envelope. Each household will receive a volunteer-led, energy efficiency rehabilitation, to potentially include insulation of ducts, attics, walls, and ceilings, weather-stripping, and replacement of leaky doors and windows. Roofs, siding and foundations could be repaired or replaced.

Inefficient furnaces, refrigerators, water heaters, and light bulbs may be replaced with efficient models and heat pumps, and unsafe electrical equipment will be upgraded.

Selected homes in the Kentucky pilot program will test renewables such as solar water heating. Utilities will provide smart energy meters for monitoring and documenting of real-time energy usage, to track savings and efficiencies, with third party verification of the savings generated.

Jonathan Miller, secretary of the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, says the program will go statewide with at least $77 million in federal economic stimulus money. Organizers predict it will create 3,300 jobs in the first year.

In addition to generating hundreds of thousands of jobs, organizers say the Clean Energy Corps would reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, buildings account for 40 percent of U.S. energy use and carbon emissions – more than transportation.

The Clean Energy Corps website, www.greenforall.org/clean-energy-corps, features the full Clean Energy Corps report, a petition in support of the proposal, Congressional updates, and a complete list of endorsers.

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