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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Climate Friendly Assistance

Air Date: Week of November 3, 2006

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Living on Earth host Steve Curwood wonders if we can use the same type of loan guarantees that make it possible for people to buy homes to help people reduce their carbon footprint.

Transcript

CURWOOD: And now, I’d like to offer some comments. Now if you’re like me, you may have bought some efficient light bulbs and thermostats to save some money and energy. But let me ask you: if you are concerned about global warming, why don’t you have solar cells on the roof of your home? And what about all that geothermal energy found just a few feet below your house that could provide most of the heating and cooling you would ever need?

Now I don’t have a big solar array or geothermal heat pumps, and it’s all about the money. I know over the long run solar, geothermal, small scale wind and sophisticated energy conservation measures would pay for themselves and then some. But it’s much easier to write those monthly checks to the electric and gas or oil utility instead of coming up with as much as $50 or $100,000 to make my home more climate-friendly.

So I’d like to make a proposal. What if we were to finance low and no carbon home energy systems the way we finance houses? You can borrow most of the money to buy a residence and pay it back over as many as 30 years if you like, and it keeps the monthly payment close to what rent would be. Thanks to government backed long term financing structures, two out of three of us own our own homes or at least have a direct deal with a bank.

So how about public guarantees for long term loans for home systems that drastically reduce the use of carbon and other global warming gases? The payments would be the same or maybe even less than current utility bills, if folks can pay over 30 years. And those bills won’t go up - the sun doesn’t charge more if there’s a war or a hurricane. There’s another dividend - designing and installing all those low carbon home energy systems will put plenty of people to work right here in America.

A state, county or city could do it, and were the federal government to do it we could call financing agency the low carbon mortgage assurance corporation - LC MAC. And what if folks default? Let’s say five percent do - and that’s way above current mortgage default rates. That would then mean for every billion dollars worth of low carbon energy infrastructure taxes might have to cover 50 million dollars. Five cents or less on the dollar to build infrastructure to fight global warming, promote local jobs and improve national security sounds to me like a terrific deal… That’s my view. But what do you think?

Send us your comment. The address is comments at loe.org. Or call 800 218 9988. That’s 800 218-9988.

 

 

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