A bill that saves money and energy

By JEFF MERKLEY May 04, 2010 07:46 am

The unemployment rate in Oregon has been in double digits for the past year, but it seems as though many politicians in the nation’s capital are focused on creating frustration and gridlock instead of new jobs.

Bipartisanship isn’t completely dead, though. Recently, I joined with members of both parties, including Republican Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to introduce a bill that will both create jobs and lower monthly energy bills for families and businesses.

It’s called the Rural Energy Savings Program and it works like this: Rural electric co-ops like the Oregon Trail Electric Consumers Co-op in Baker City will administer low-cost loans to help families and business owners afford the up-front costs of energy efficient renovations. The families and business owners will see their energy bills go down, and can pay off the loan out of these savings. In fact, they can pay it back with a charge on their electric bill, so they don’t even have to pay an additional bill.

The construction and manufacturing sectors have suffered major job losses during the recession. This program will put people back to work installing and manufacturing energy efficient materials like insulation, windows, roofing, and heating and air-conditioning units. The vast majority of these products are made in the U.S., and many of them are made in Oregon, like the insulation products made at Owens Corning in Portland, the efficient lighting made at Energy Wise Lighting in the Eugene area, or the windows made at JELD-WEN in Klamath Falls.

I’ve been working to develop similar energy efficiency programs called “Home Star” and “Building Star” that will be put into action at the local level to offer rebates and low-cost financing options to home and business owners, whether or not they live in areas that are served by electric co-ops.

The only way out of this recession will be through hard work and cooperation, and the support for this program that I’ve seen from both Democrats and Republicans makes me confident that we can put Americans back to work and move our economy forward.

Democrat Jeff Merkley is Oregon’s junior U.S. senator.