A blower door test is one of the many diagnostic features employed by our program to ensure the highest energy savings possible for those we serve.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Karsner's Comments on the WAP

It is unfortunate that DOE's Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alexander Karsner, is unaware of the workings of the programs he's responsible for managing.

If he did, he'd know that the Weatherization Program is anything but a "welfare" program. The WAP provides a vast array of state of the art energy efficiency services to dwellings occupied by families who are less fortunate than he is. But the thousands of dedicated men and women who provide these services don't provide a giveaway as intimated by Mr. Karsner.

Rather, they weatherize "houses". And those homes are proven to conserve energy and save money for those families for years after the crews and contractors complete their work.

Weatherization is an investment - not a hand out. And he should know that. But in his testimony in front of the House earlier in the week, Mr Karsner touched off a firestorm when he defended DOE's reduction of 2008 weatherization program funding to $144 million.

He said weatherization is a "poverty alleviation program," and not the type of applied research that constitutes the bulk of the department's energy efficiency programs.

Weatherization itself "is certainly worthy," said Karsner, but it really amounts to a welfare program that "must constantly compete" for federal dollars with research programs that have a higher return on the nation's energy balance.

Fortunately, Representative Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) jumped in - "When we help industry with its needs, is it welfare?" he asked Karsner.

Though Karsner asserted there is no corporate welfare in his portion of the budget and defended his position by saying that the weatherization program is "oddly lodged in this portfolio," Serrano shot back that use of the term "welfare" was demeaning to the weatherization program."This country is not doing a favor to anyone" by providing weatherization assistance, he said. The program "is not a good deed. It is an essential need the country has to provide."

"We have to be careful how we use words," Serrano said.Mr. Karsner should be more careful about how he describes the Program in public.

Maybe he should receive a briefing about the Weatherization Program or actually visit a home being weatherized before he makes other unwise and inaccurate statements about something he should already know.

What do you think?

Robert Adams is the director of WAP Services for the National Association for State Community Services Programs, the trade association representing the states in matters relating to several low-income programs including the Weatherization Assistance Program.


A WAP Director said...

DOE's treatment of the Weatherization Program the last two years clearly shows the program is no longer any kind of priority to them. The closing of the regional offices, the "rumored" move to HHS, the significiant cuts in the President's 2007 and 2008 budgets, and now the smack in the face on the 2007 funding reduction all make this very clear.

Sadly, I don't think any of our usual techniques for converting non-believers to see the benefits of the program - such as demonstrating energy savings, cost effectiveness, and getting them to a site demonstration, will work with any of the DOE upper management. The support we had within DOE is no longer there. I thnk our challenge is to get our message to Congress.

National Association for State Community Services Programs said...


I think the main point to be made here is that Weatherization does as much to help the energy supply as any of the other programs.

I have always considered the primary benefits of Wx to be preservation of the housing
stock and reduction in energy use.

Of course we provide a great benefit to assisted households, but for me the larger picture is that in NY we preserve or stabilize 12,000+ units each year.

We have just about the oldest housing stock in the country, and this program goes a long way towards keeping these units operable; that in turn provides a significant environmental benefit
(it takes a lot more energy to build a new unit that to maintain an existing one).

The second important benefit is the energy savings, which is easy to measure in economic terms. Someone could do a calculation that shows how many additional power plants would have been needed to produce all the energy
that would have been consumed without the Wx program during the past 30 years.

We recently participated in a task force that reported on energy
conservation activities in NYS during the past several years. The task force found that since 1997 the NYS Wx program has saved more than $346 million in energy costs. (466 billion kWh in electric reduction and 3.7
million MMBtu in heating fuels). That's a tremendous economic benefit here, where we have some of the highest energy prices in the country.

Weatherization Manager said...

I couldn't agree more with my fellow State Director. The States need to get off our fat duffs and get active again as we have in the distant past. We've let the incompetent upper managment at DOE lie to us too many times. Now we need to take it to back to the streets and to our elected officials, many of whom like this program but are not aware of the tricks being played behind the scenes.

It seems not long ago the President himself boasted of a ten year budget for one his "preferred programs" that was many times the budget his illusioned DOE Managers are recommending. Certainly that was not just another "mission accomplished" I hope. And not long ago, on DOE's own website, Weatherization was touted as one of their best programs. We're saving more not less, so where's the real problem?

All too often though, we tend to preach to ourselves, and don't carry the message to our elected officials often enough. Only when we are in dire need to we search them out, and that could be working against us. Perhaps we need to march some of our clients who's lives we saved, or kept from freezing, or from heat stroke, into their office and tell them what this program has meant to them. Or forward all the letters we keep in drawers from gratefull clients, to congress, telling them they need to listen to the other side of the story and not be so quick to only believe the DOE managers and their vested interests.

Finally, I agree our usual techniques and tactics may not only have to be redirected (to Congress, not DOE) but also need to show that we're meeting all the criteria critiqers can come up with and more, and that in itself should not be traded for unproven research and projects.

We often criticize many of our elected officials, but in reality, most of them are behind this program when they see the full picture of what's happening. It's our duty to put that before them.