By Suzanne Goldenberg
Renovation scheme will replace windows, insulation and light bulbs in ageing and neglected low-income housing stock.
Obama sent the vice-president, Joe Biden, and other senior officials to Denver for a formal announcement of the renovation scheme, which will replace windows, insulation and even light bulbs in ageing and neglected housing stock.
The labour secretary, Hilda Solis, was also expected to announce $500m to train up workers for the new jobs. Of those funds, $50m will be directed to regions that have been hardest hit by the recession – such as the rustbelt state of Michigan where the unemployment rate is now 12%.
The funds mark the first phase of the green job creation plan envisaged in Obama's $787bn economic recovery plan. Officials said that attempts would be made to train local people for the work.
"This president is committed to literally millions of jobs in this sector over the course of his term," Van Jones, the White House adviser on green jobs, said. Jones was also expected at the meeting in Denver. He said the renovations of public housing stock would account for about 40% of the funds set aside by Obama to improve energy use in government buildings.
"This is not some abstract, theoretical thing. By the end of the year you are going to see people who have no jobs, high-energy bills and no hope get jobs and see opportunity," he said.
The administration envisages a plan where home owners will arrange to have their homes retrofitted for greater energy efficiency simply by ticking a box on their utility bill, and then have the cost of the renovations factored into their bills.
The plan's high-visibility roll-out is part of a strategy by the Obama administration to put green job creation at the heart of its economic recovery plan, and to broaden support for its economic and green agenda. America has gone farther than Europe to bring its strategy for economic recovery in line with longer-range plans to build a cleaner energy future and address global warming. A report by the HSBC estimates that $94bn of Obama's $787bn is devoted to green measures, spread across building energy efficiency, low-polluting vehicles, water and electricity systems, mass transit and renewables.
As with the public housing renovation announced in Denver, much of that spending is just beginning to be spent. However, the administration has already allocated $3.3bn for the smart grid.
Officials repeatedly have claimed that the new jobs will be on par with the so-called "legacy" jobs of the vanishing auto industry and manufacturing sector, in paying union scale wages and benefits.
This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.
Photo credit: Flickr/Giles Douglas, Creative Commons License.