U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits the home of Peter and Heather Ficht, a northeast Portland couple with young children who participated in a program that will make their house more energy efficient. Pelosi, who appeared with other Portland public officials, praised the program as a model for the rest of the nation. Photo by Jake Thomas.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, lavished praise on Portland for taking initiatives on sustainability that she said would pay dividends in economic growth during a visit to the city Thursday, which included a tour of a recently weatherized home of a northeast Portland family.
“When I come here I always know I’m going to see the future,” said Pelosi, speaking to reporters. She said that Portland was far ahead of the rest of the country in fighting climate change, promoting alternative transportation, and developing renewable energy. She praised Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer for his work on the issues in Congress. “Mr. Bluemenauer showed us the way with his sustainability initiatives,” added Pelosi, who was wearing one of the congressman’s signature bicycle lapel pins.
Pelosi, who was in town for a fundraiser to help preserve her embattled Democratic majority, called the issue of environmental protection a “moral” one, and was attempting to implement policies that would be market oriented. She pointed to one Portland program as being particularly worthy of emulation in the rest of the country.
Clean Energy Works Oregon, a non-profit that secured $20 million of stimulus money, does retrofits on homes throughout the state, reducing energy use and saving consumers money.
Homeowners who use the program can get a free energy audit of their homes, which reveals places where their houses might be leaking heat during the colder months and causing higher energy bills.
After finishing the audit, homeowners can get work done on their homes more energy efficient. They can apply for tax credits or pay off the cost of the work on their energy bills.
“This is not just about a handout, this is a new financing tool,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams of the program. He said that energy retrofits add to home values, reduce energy costs, and the program will help leverage more funds that will create economic growth. He also pointed out that Clean Energy Works Oregon will create 1,300 jobs over the next three years, which pay $26.87 an hour, and half of which, so far, are occupied by people of color.
Blumenauer and Adams accompanied Pelosi on a tour of the northeast Portland home of Peter and Heather Ficht, a couple with two young daughters who had $20,000 worth of retrofits installed.
“It’s really a great deal,” said Heather Ficht.
The couple pointed out that many of the adjustments on their home were simple things, like repairs to heating ducts and added insulation. The work will be paid off with $100 a month installments added to their energy bills, and the improvements should shave about 40 percent off their energy bills.
“I think everyone should do this,” said Heather Ficht. Blumenauer responded that that’s exactly what he was trying to accomplish.
Pelosi also called attention to a stimulus grant for over a million dollars given to Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., which is being used to train women for good jobs, like retrofitting homes.
However, Pelosi has her work cut out for her. Although the House had passed a comprehensive energy bill intended to reduce carbon emissions, similar efforts have stalled the legislation in the Senate.
“We never get discouraged. We just have to find the path that will work for them and keep putting up initiatives to take us to that goal,” said Pelosi. The California Democrat, and first woman to hold her position, said that getting legislation passed that would protect the environment and create jobs was imperative, likening it to industrial or technological revolutions that have so drastically altered the country.