White House Sees More Jobs in Windows

December 7, 2009

Indicating he didn't want to tip his hand too much, President Obama told attendees at last week's White House job summit that the administration was looking aggressively at programs to encourage investment in energy efficiency upgrades and weatherization as part of its efforts to stimulate job creation. 

His remarks came in response to comments from Ron Saxton, executive vice president of Jeld-Wen Inc., a participant at the forum, who highlighted the potentnial energy savings offered by replacing the billion-plus single-pane windows in American homes today.  Saxton also emphasized the potential for job growth offered by windows.  In addition to jobs involved in installation, he noted that nearly all windows bought in America are made in American factories using parts that are also produced in America. With the downturn in new construction, these factories are ready and could bring workers back and get up and running immediately.

President Obama listening to Jeld-Wen's Ron Saxton (foreground, in dark blue suit coat)
make the case for efforts to encourage more replacement window activity. 

The conversation took place as part of a session focusing on innovation and green jobs, where Saxton also urged passage of bills before the House and Senate that would tie tax credits for windows to the new 2010 Energy Star criteria rather than the current .30/.30 requirements set as part of the stimulus package.

Other attendees at the session included Frank Blake, CEO of the Home Depot, who urged for a broadening of the current energy efficiency tax credits to include more categories of products, as well as installation and labor.  Jeld-Wen's Saxton also commented on the success of the tax credits, noting that his company had sold a quarter million windows under that program and others had also, enabling many jobs to be created and saved.

While there was much agreement at the session that windows and other energy efficient upgrades can pay for themselves over the long run, financing such projects remains a major hurdle.  Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu told the group that "numerous ideas are on the drawing board" to address the issue to make retrofit activity more cost effective and "really scale it up."

"We are completely sold," said Obama, speaking about the long-term economic benefits, as well as environmental benefits, of renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Noting the current fiscal restraints on the government, as well as the sense of urgency to create new jobs, he told attendees that his administration sees programs to upgrade energy efficiency of homes and buildings offering the most potential in the short term. 

The meeting concluded with a promise to develop proposals on this front and bring them back to attendees for more input.  The hour-plus session can be viewed below on this White House video:

Obama followed the December 3 jobs forum with a speech on jobs and the economy, in which he called on Congress "to consider a new program to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy-efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment."  The president also proposed the expansion  of select Recovery Act initiatives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs "which have been proven to be particularly popular and effective."