This was vote on final passage of legislation authorizing the Agriculture Department to provide loans to public or cooperative electric utilities. Those utilities would then be required to make low-interest loans to customers for energy-efficient installations. The bill authorized $993 million to be spent on this program.
Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA) urged support for the bill: “H.R. 4785 [the underlying bill] authorizes USDA's [the Agriculture Department’s] rural utility service to make interest-free loans to eligible entities. These entities will use these funds to make low-interest loans to rural consumers allowing them to implement energy-efficient measures on their property…. The upfront costs to make energy-efficient upgrades are often beyond the reach of most consumers.…H.R. 4785 is an opportunity to meet these challenges and enact policy that we know will reduce energy costs and consumption and improve the quality of life in our rural communities.”
Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) also praised the legislation: “The recession [which began in 2008 and continued well into 2010] has had a significant impact on the home construction and services industry, which has experienced unemployment rates of 27 percent.…Home energy retrofit [“home energy retrofitting” refers to home improvements that make existing buildings more energy efficient] can provide, and it will provide, significant employment opportunities for construction workers while boosting domestic manufacturing….Home energy efficiency retrofits can also cut the nation's energy use, saving consumers money and cutting pollution.…This legislation, Mr. Chairman, presents an opportunity for all of us to work together to save energy and create jobs.”
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) urged opposition to the bill, arguing it “would require the government, through USDA, to front nearly a billion dollars to rural electric cooperatives so that they can, in return, make what might potentially be risky loans to their customers for energy-efficiency projects in their homes….Energy efficiency is an important step in an overall energy plan. But creating a new government funded program is not the solution.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) argued that while the energy efficiency loan program amounted to sound public policy, it was fiscally irresponsible given the country’s budget deficits: “ I would point out that 2 years ago the federal debt was a little under $6 trillion. We have added almost $3 trillion to it in the last 2 years. I can't see that there is much net improvement that has happened to our economy with the expenditure of that much money, the addition of that much money to the debt….With these kinds of deficits, I think we need to think as a body, Is this a program that is absolutely essential and is it worth adding more to the public debt to pass this program? And with all due respect, while this is a good program, it is not a program that I think we should add to our children's and our grandchildren's debt.”
The House passed the energy efficiency loan legislation by a vote of 240-172. 234 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted “yea.” 167 Republicans and 5 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation authorizing the Agriculture Department to provide loans to public or cooperative electric utilities, and requiring those utilities (which were recipients of government loans) to make low-interest loans to customers for energy-efficient installations.