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Solar Decathlon may pave way for future energy ideas

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By The Staff

The United States Department of Energy is challenging College students to think in new ways about energy and what impact it has on our everyday lives. The challenge comes in a competition called the Solar Decathlon.

The Solar Decathlon involves twenty teams of college and university students, which compete to design, build and operate the most attractive, effective and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The teams design a solar house, knowing from the outset that it must be powered entirely by the sun. In their quest to stretch every last watt of electricity that?s generated by the solar panels on the roofs, the students absorb the lesson that energy is a precious commodity. The teams transport their houses to Washington where they are exhibited on the National Mall for the public and the media to walk through.

In establishing this competition, the Department of Energy set three goals: (1) To encourage young people to pursue careers in science and engineering and to acquaint college students in science, engineering and architecture with solar power and energy efficiency, helping the United States maintain its technological competitive edge. (2) To raise awareness among the general public about renewable energy and energy efficiency and what technologies are available today to help people reduce their energy usage. The Solar Decathlon acts as a living laboratory where visitors can see these technologies in action. The event serves to encourage all of us to act responsibly when making energy choices. (3) To help move solar energy technologies to the marketplace faster. The students push the research and development of energy efficiency and energy production technologies. They also consult with members of their local building community, which has a grassroots effect of spurring interest in these technologies.

Being able to harness the sun?s power would be a financial boon to homes and businesses. Consider this data from the Department of Energy: The United States uses nearly a million dollars worth of energy each minute, 24 hours a day, every day of the year; With less than five percent of the world?s population, the United States consumes about one-fourth of the world?s energy resources; the United States uses about 342 million Btu per person in a year, while the world on average uses 70 million Btu per person per year.

In another matter, the House failed to support a motion to recommit the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act to committee so that a work requirement provision could be included. I voted for the motion to recommit.

The main bill addressed federal housing assistance. Under the provision that was rejected by the majority, as a condition of residency of a family in any dwelling unit in rental housing or owner-occupied housing for which federal assistance is or has been provided, each member of the family who is 18 years of age or older shall perform at least 20 hours of approved work activities. Those of us who supported this motion to recommit believe that such a work requirement is in keeping with the 1996 Congressional action that requires all able-bodied adults to work if they are going to receive government welfare. This requirement does not apply to the elderly or the disabled, or single parents of children under 6 years of age who are unable to find appropriate and affordable child care.

Please keep in touch with me on issues that are important to you. You may write Congressman Virgil Goode, 70 East Court Street, Room 215, Rocky Mount, VA 24151; or fax to 1-540-484-1459; or call toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.