Porkulus Follies: Weatherization program a flop

When Barack Obama signed Porkulus over a year ago, one of its signature programs promised an explosion of jobs in the construction and contracting industries thanks to federal subsidies for weatherizing older homes.  In fact, as early as April 2009, Obama began bragging about the new jobs that his tax credits on weatherization and energy-efficiency remodeling would bring.  Eleven months later, the Associated Press reports that the explosion has turned into a multibillion-dollar implosion (via Fausta and JWF):

After a year of crippling delays, President Barack Obama’s $5 billion program to install weather-tight windows and doors has retrofitted a fraction of homes and created far fewer construction jobs than expected.

In Indiana, state-trained workers flubbed insulation jobs. In Alaska, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, the program has yet to produce a single job or retrofit one home. And in California, a state with nearly 37 million residents, the program at last count had created 84 jobs. …

But after a year, the stimulus program has retrofitted 30,250 homes — about 5 percent of the overall goal — and fallen well short of the 87,000 jobs that the department planned, according to the latest available figures.

As the Obama administration promotes a second home energy-savings program — a $6 billion rebate plan — some experts are asking whether that will pay off for homeowners or for the planet.

”A very rosy picture was painted that energy efficiency would be a great way to create jobs and save money,” said Michael Shellenberger, an energy expert who heads the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland-based think tank that is financed by nonpartisan foundations and works on energy, climate change and health care issues. ”The Obama administration risks overpromising again.”

What happened?  Like most of us predicted, the heavy bureaucracy of the federal government ground the program to a halt.  Some states are just now getting the funds, such as Texas, after disputes over wage controls.  In fact, the Department of Labor didn’t even get around to clarifying the rules until September, when weatherization should have been completed for maximum energy savings.  They had to reclarify the rules “a few months later,” AP reports, after counties across the nation complained about the first declaration.

Instead of creating 85,000 jobs with the $5 billion, the Department of Energy (which runs the program) claimed it created 8500 jobs, a tenth of the goal.  That would put the cost of each job at a whopping $588,235.30, and that’s only if the DoE has its numbers right.  Those numbers appear to have been calculated using the White House “saved or created” algorithm, which wasn’t exactly known for its accuracy.  In any case, those jobs would likely be temporary anyway, which means we just tossed away $5 billion on temp work that mostly didn’t occur, and when it did, got done poorly.

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