Congress is answering President-elect Barack Obama’s call for an economic recovery package that includes green infrastructure investments. However, as Friends of the Earth warns, “the road-building lobby is attempting to hijack this bill and divert billions of dollars to the construction of new, unnecessary roads, highways and bridges that would deepen our nation’s dependence on oil and increase greenhouse gas emissions.”
As Bob Massie explained earlier in the week, there’s no reason for infrastructure investment and the transformation to a green economy to be mutually exclusive. In fact, these two goals will be “far more powerful” if they are “directly connected.”
There is undeniable need to invest in “truly imperiled bridges, seriously decayed subway lines and roads, leak-plagued water systems, [and] schools crying out for basic repairs,” as The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a “D” grade on its infrastructure in 2005 and reported that traffic congestion led to huge productivity losses. Plus, without adequate roads and bridges, mass transit initiatives become that much more difficult. However, this investment would only be the beginning.
Further investment in “energy stimulus” should go to modernize government buildings, update public schools, and improve the electrical grid. Also critical will be the greening of individual homes, which can create jobs, improve housing values, and “bring new [green] technologies rapidly to scale.”
The Center for American Progress notes that part of this could be accomplished through the greening of HUD-assisted housing, as “it is generally agreed that each $1 million investment in rehabilitation of affordable housing yields between eight on-site jobs to 11 on-site jobs“:
According to Oregon Housing and Community Services’ study of some of its affordable residential development and rehabilitation projects, for each job created on-site another 1.5 jobs on average are created off-site. Using these numbers, a $1 billion investment in the greening of HUD-assisted housing would create an estimated 20,000 green jobs to 27,500 green jobs.
Another option is to fully fund the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), “and build toward a goal of weatherizing 1 million homes” in 2009. This improves home energy-efficiency, as “each house that benefits from WAP reduces its carbon dioxide emissions by 1.79 tons per year,” and also acts as stimulus, with each $1 million of program funding creating 52 direct jobs and additional indirect jobs for subcontractors and material suppliers. And Architecture 2030 has proposed an energy-efficiency mortgage refinancing stimulus.
A properly crafted economic recovery package will restore our job market in a green economy that rewards work instead of Wall Street gambling, and builds a sustainable infrastructure instead of paving new roads to nowhere.