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President Barack Obama speaks on the economy and jobs at Savannah Technical College in Savannah, Georgia, Tuesday. Obama traveled to the area as a stop of the White House to Main Street Tour, where he visits local businesses and speaks about the economy.
updated 3/2/2010 1:08:25 PM ET 2010-03-02T18:08:25

Consumers would collect on-the-spot rebates of $1,000 or more for buying insulation, water heaters or other equipment to make their homes burn energy more efficiently under a rebate program President Barack Obama is promoting.

Obama traveled to Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday to outline the Home Star program, which was left out of the jobs bill in December. Obama called for energy rebates in his State of the Union address, and officials hope the plan will be as popular as last year's Cash for Clunkers money-back program for autos.

Obama stopped at Savannah Technical College to visit students who are learning how to install insulation and other equipment.

"We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities — and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which support clean energy jobs," Obama said in January.

"These are the skills that will help our country produce and use energy," he said Tuesday in Savannah. "We have the potential to create millions of jobs in the sector."

He has said shifting the U.S. toward cleaner, renewable sources of energy and making homes — particularly older houses — more energy-efficient will help accomplish three goals: reducing America's dependence on foreign energy sources, creating much-needed jobs and saving consumers money on their utility bills.

The new program has two levels of rebates. Various vendors, ranging from small, independent contractors to national home improvement chains, would promote the rebates, give the money to consumers and then wait for reimbursement from the federal government.

Some details of the program, including how long it will run and its total cost, remain to be worked out with Congress, according to senior administration officials.

Obama said the steps to renew homes — such as installing new water heaters, insulation, windows, roofs and doors will have a price tag — but will create the energy the country needs and provide employment for construction workers and contractors.

"It's going to be politically difficult to do some of this, but it's right to plan for our future," Obama said in Savannah.

Cash for Clunkers was a $3 billion program that ran for about a month last year, from July 27 to Aug. 25.

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Under the first level of energy rebates, to be called Silver Star, consumers would be eligible for rebates between $1,000 and $1,500 for a variety of home upgrades, including adding insulation, sealing leaky ducts and replacing water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. There would be a maximum rebate of $3,000 per home.

Under the second level, Gold Star, consumers who get home energy audits and then make changes designed to reduce energy costs by at least 20 percent would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate. Additional rebates would be available for savings above 20 percent.

"The simple act of retrofitting these buildings to make them more energy-efficient — installing new windows and doors, insulation, roofing, sealing leaks, modernizing heating and cooling equipment — is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest things we can do to put Americans back to work while saving families money and reducing harmful emissions," Obama said in December while visiting a Home Depot in Alexandria, Va.

Once the program is enacted, the administration expects millions of households will boost demand for insulation, water heaters and the like — the same way consumers pumped up car and truck sales last year by trading in their gas-guzzling autos with more fuel-efficient models.

Senate Democrats included an energy rebate program in their jobs agenda.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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