Alaska editorial: No sense in cutting fed weatherization program right now

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2008

How silly is this? Fuel prices are rising stratospherically and have been doing so for a long time now. Yet Congress is considering an Energy Department spending bill that would cut back - that's right, reduce - a federal program that helps low-income families make their homes energy efficient.

That's not the message that Congress needs to be sending right now. The federal government should be doing all it can to help people consume less energy, be it on the road or in the home.

The program would still be getting a chunk of change under the bill that is before the Senate, but the $201 million that is proposed is $26 million less than in the current year and $40 million less than what was provided in 2007, according to news reports. That's less money to go around in a time when more people should be needing it.

The potential cut has several senators from cold-weather states working together to change some minds. The bipartisan group of senators, including Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, criticized the proposal last week.

Here are a couple of numbers, again from news reports, that make it abundantly obvious that the federal program could be an attractive program for an even greater number of people:

"The National Energy Assistance Directors Association, which represents state agencies that help low-income families meet energy costs, estimates that this winter heating costs for people using fuel oil will soar to nearly $2,600 on average - or about $1,100 more than just two year ago. Homes using natural gas can be expected to see a 20 percent increase to an average of $978."

Alaskans, especially those in Fairbanks and around the Interior, are worried about heating fuel prices and know all too well about the danger that these high prices can bring for the coming winter.

Most of the seats in Congress are filled by members from warm weather states. Snow and cold, when they do come, are usually seen as something curious and non-threatening. Those who live in the cold states know far, far better. Our warm-weather senators and representatives need to listen to us on this one and restore money to the program. Perhaps they should get out of their offices and come on up in, say, January to get a touch of reality in one of their sister states.

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