Forcing home owners to get $300 energy audits before selling is a thinly disguised new tax, critics said as Premier Dalton McGuinty was forced on the defensive about his proposed Green Energy Act.

Growing controversy over the audit requirement in the act prompted the premier to make a statement yesterday saying it may cost a little extra but will save money and benefit the environment in the long run.

“When it comes to buying the single most expensive thing that you’re likely to buy during the course of your lifetime — a home — you’re entitled to know what kind of costs you’re going to incur on energy,” he said.

But hiring an energy auditor to come in still amounts to a pocketbook squeeze at a time when house prices are already under downward pressure, said Progressive Conservative energy critic John Yakabuski.

“It can be viewed by reasonable people as another tax on the sale of your home.”

Suggesting the proposal isn’t set in stone, McGuinty and Energy Minister George Smitherman hinted buyers could end up footing the bill for audits, which will still qualify for government subsidy of up to $150.