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By Catharine Richert November 23, 2009

Chain e-mail claims cap-and-trade will require home retrofits, license before sale

Here's one way to get our attention.
Send us a chain e-mail with this subject line: "We don't make this up."
The e-mail, which we have received in several forms over the past few months, has to do with a cap-and-trade bill making its way through Congress and how it would treat energy efficiency in existing homes.  
According to the e-mail, "Beginning 1 year after enactment of the Cap and Trade Act, you won't be able to sell your home unless you retrofit it to comply with the energy and water efficiency standards of this Act. H.R. 2454, the 'Cap & Trade' bill passed by the House of Representatives."
"A year from now you won't be able to sell your house," the e-mail goes on. "Yes, you read that right. The caveat is (there always is a caveat) that if you have enough money to make required major upgrades to your home, then you can sell it. But, if not, then forget it."
Home sellers will require a government license to put their home on the market, according to the letter.
The claim has gone viral on the Internet, and versions of it have been repeated by Republican lawmakers, including House Republican Leader John Boehner . Our friends over at looked into Boehner's claim over the summer and found it to be false.
We've explored many aspects of the bill, including how much it would cost and whether it would create or cut jobs . So here we will examine what the bill says about making existing homes more energy efficient.
Here's how cap-and-trade would work. Under House legislation, the target of the chain e-mail's criticism, the government would be required to set an overall cap on carbon emissions in an effort to slow climate change. More specifically, the bill aims to lower carbon pollution by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Companies would either upgrade to cleaner technologies or buy credits -- also known as allowances -- to continue polluting. Initially, most allowances would be given out free. But eventually companies would have to buy those permits from the government.
There's lots of language in the bill regarding building efficiency.
Section 201, for instance, requires building energy codes for new homes to be 30 percent more efficient than current standards when the bill goes into law and 50 percent more efficient by 2016. States and local governments will be responsible for enforcing the new codes, but will receive government allowances to cover the cost of developing and adopting the improvements. And Section 202 of the bill would establish a program that would allow states to help homeowners finance energy-efficient home retrofits; the more energy a retrofit saves, the more money the homeowner would get from the government to subsidize the work.
Finally, Section 204 would require the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a model program that states could voluntarily adopt to label new buildings for their energy performance. This "license," as the chain e-mail calls it, is only applicable to new construction and would be completely voluntary.
In fact, that's a point the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel that has jurisdiction over the cap-and-trade bill, makes over and over in its summary of the legislation: "Nothing would require a homeowner to audit or retrofit their home to ensure that it meets building code requirements," the document says.
Lane Burt, a building efficiency expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has blogged about the issue, says the e-mail is false.
"The anti-efficiency crowd have alleged that the [cap-and-trade] bill is going to require Americans trying to sell their homes to undergo some sort of energy inspection or meet some sort of green requirements -- 'or else,' " he wrote of the supposed requirement in the bill. "Of course, when I have heard and read this claim there isn't a provision cited, and for good reason -- it doesn't exist!"
William Fay, executive director of the Building Energy Efficient Codes Network -- a coalition including The Alliance to Save Energy, Duke Energy Corp. and the National Association of State Energy Officials among other organizations -- called the e-mail an "urban myth."
"The bill certainly does not require a retrofit, or an energy label for an existing home," Fay said. "It does not make them a condition of sale."
This fact-check is clear-cut. There's nothing in the bill that would require homeowners to retrofit their homes to meet new efficiency standards or get a government "license" before putting their home on the market. Homeowners who do want to retrofit their homes can do so voluntarily and with the help of government funding. This chain e-mail gets a Pants on Fire!

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, cap-and-trade bill , accessed Nov. 23, 2009
The Switchboard, Efficiency in Waxman-Markey: Part 1 - Buildings , by Lane Burt, April 7, 2009

House Energy and Commerce Committee, summary of cap-and-trade bill , accessed Nov. 23, 2009
The Switchboard, Deliberate Misinformation: Making Saving Money Sound Bad , by Lane Burt, July 10, 2009
The National Association of Realtors, NAR Myths and Facts: The American Clean Energy and Security Act , accessed Nov. 23, 2009, Home Energy Audits Optional in Cap-and-Trade Bill , by Jon Prior, June 30, 2009

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Chain e-mail claims cap-and-trade will require home retrofits, license before sale

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