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Originally published Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 4:56 PM

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Guest columnist

Recovery Act funds old and new technology to conserve energy, create green jobs

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is supporting clean-energy solutions, but not just technology development, writes Van Jones, the White House adviser on green jobs. Federal funds are being deployed to help individuals improve their homes' energy efficiency and save money.

Special to The Times

UNDER the Recovery Act, the Obama administration is investing $80 billion to support clean-energy solutions. This is the largest single investment in clean energy in American history.

This includes high-end solar farms and high-tech wind turbines — the jobs and products of the future. The administration is proud to be investing in clean-energy breakthroughs and will continue to help them flourish.

While the enthusiasm for tomorrow's technologies sometimes overlooks the practical solutions being deployed today, the recovery package is also making sure that humbler technologies — like caulking guns, insulation, high-performance boilers and windows — are also being deployed all across America. These hardworking solutions create jobs and save money for Americans every day.

The president's central insight is straightforward: By retrofitting and improving American homes and buildings to waste less energy, we can save Americans billions of dollars in energy costs. At the same time, we can create jobs and reduce the strain on our nation's power grid. Reducing the load on our coal-fired power plants would, in turn, cut air pollution — letting everyone breathe a little easier.

This aggressive program to retrofit America will create more work, more wealth and better health for all Americans.

Fortunately, we're already off to a very good start. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the administration made a $5 billion investment in making America's homes more energy efficient.

And last week, top officials from throughout the administration highlighted some of the incredible work their agencies are doing to retrofit America.

On Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Seattle for an event showcasing Sound Transit's University Link project, which received $44 million in recovery funding. The University Link expansion is Sound Transit's first major project to be designed and built in conformance with their Sustainability Initiative and will extend light rail from downtown to the University of Washington.

In Las Vegas on Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims, the former King County executive, awarded a grant to retrofit carports at three public facilities with solar panels and capacity. These carports will then be able to generate power for the attached facilities. That means less electricity used and a smaller bill for Las Vegas' taxpayers.

On Friday, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan headed to Minneapolis where renovations to four public housing high-rises will include cost-saving energy-efficiency upgrades. These upgrades will improve the quality of life for residents of the more than 500 units — while putting local people to work.

And, noting the large amounts of energy used by hospitals, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced that his department will direct hundreds of millions of dollars to investments in clean-energy generation and energy conservation. That money will go to renewable sources, including solar, wind and geothermal energy as well as retrofitting existing buildings to use energy and water more efficiently.

Each of these efforts is important. And combined, they add up. Consider this: Completely weath-erizing a home saves an average of $350 per year. Imagine the total savings if we weatherized every home in America. And that's without even mentioning the jobs it would create or the pollution it would eliminate.

As President Obama often reminds us, real change is never easy, but it is always possible and it usually starts from the bottom up. If we each do our part we can accomplish anything. Nowhere is that reminder more relevant — or urgent — than with energy.

Van Jones is the special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). He is the author of "The Green Collar Economy."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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