President Barack Obama said Tuesday that home insulation "is sexy," his newest appeal for Congress to pass incentives for homeowners who make their homes more energy efficient.
"Here's what's sexy about it. It saves money," the president said at a Northern Virginia Home Depot store. He was joined at the outlet by members of Congress representing Virginia and labor and business leaders involved in services to lower use of natural resources consumed by homeowners.
Calling insulation the in-thing, Obama's pitch was part of a broader administration push to lower the nation's 10 percent unemployment rate. And it marked the fourth time in less than two weeks that the president has presided over high-profile events that call attention to his efforts to curb joblessness.
Last week, the president proposed a new spending plan that would provide tax breaks for energy-efficient retrofits in homes. The plan also calls for small business tax cuts and new spending on highway and bridge construction. The administration hasn't put a price tag on the plan, but it could cost more than $150 billion.
The White House hopes the appeal of the retrofitting program - which some administration officials have dubbed Cash for Caulkers - will be similar to the now-expired Cash for Clunkers program, which offered rebates for trading in used vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones. At a White House jobs summit earlier in the month, Obama told Home Depot chairman Frank Blake that home improvement companies would be key partners in this program.
Obama has also proposed expanding stimulus initiatives that promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs. Currently, about $8 billion of the $787 billion stimulus package goes toward energy-saving investments in homes. The White House has said investments like installing insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment will pay for themselves many times over.
In a memo for the president, Vice President Joe Biden said stimulus spending and other initiatives will lead to 1 million home energy-efficiency retrofits by 2012. The report also said the U.S. is on track to double renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and geothermal, in three years.
Meanwhile, an Associated Press-Stanford University poll has shown that more Americans believe steps taken to reduce global warming pollution will help the U.S. economy than say such measures will hurt it. It's a sign the public is showing more faith in President Obama's economic arguments for limiting heat-trapping gases than in Republican claims that the actions would kill jobs.
In the poll, 40 percent said U.S. action to slow global warming in the future would create jobs. Slightly more, 46 percent, said it would boost the economy.
By contrast, less than a third said curbing climate change would hurt the economy and result in fewer jobs, a message Republican members of Congress plan to take to an international global warming conference in Copenhagen this week.
In spite of the apparent confidence in the green jobs initiative, a CBS News/New York Times poll released this week found that just 37 percent of Americans believe climate change should be a priority for government leaders.
A majority of Americans (70 percent) do consider global warming to be a "serious problem," according to the poll, but nearly two in three either see it as "not serious" (23 percent overall) or a serious problem but not a high priority (33 percent).