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Pioneer Editorial: Energy bill can retrofit the economy

The U.S. House passed a bill on Thursday that tackles energy conservation in a different way and at the same time can create thousands of jobs and save consumers billions of dollars.

The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act provides $6 billion in rebates to encourage Americans to invest in more energy efficient homes. It can mean home improvements such as energy efficient windows, water heaters and air conditioners. Doing that will also save consumers in the long run in energy bills.

But also provides work for contracts to retrofit homes with energy efficient building materials and appliances.

The bill will hit the mark for the hard-hit construction industry with the opportunity to put many of the 2.1 million construction workers who lost their jobs since the peak of the housing bubble back to work, according to the Center for American Progress. It will also help the construction industry's 3.3 million small businesses and solo contractors.

President Barack Obama hailed the program as "a common-sense bill that will create jobs, save consumers money and strengthen our economy. ... At a time when millions of Americans are looking for work and companies are ready to take on new customers, this legislation will help jumpstart job growth and demand for new products created right here in America."

The bill is estimated to save Americans $9.4 billion on their energy bills over the next decade. The program will also cut pollution and reduce demand for home heating oil, as buildings account for 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption.

"We have workers eager to do new installations and renovations, and factories ready to produce new energy efficient building supplies," the president said. "I will not settle for anything less than first place when it comes to new energy technologies, and this bill will create the incentives to help us accomplish that goal."

There has been much talk about global warming and the need to reduce our carbon footprint in a number of ways, such as higher fuel efficiency from cars. We also need to lower our dependence on foreign oil by using more wind, solar and biomass renewable energy.

But this way helps us prevent using energy in the first place by retrofitting more energy conservation into our homes.

What's needed now is for the Senate to put forth its version of the bill and have Senate and House conferees come up with the best package -- one good for putting people back to work in a new green economy and in saving energy dollars for American families.