Washington Post tries mightily to spin a conflict between stimulus and green jobs

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"Washington Post tries mightily to spin a conflict between stimulus and green jobs"

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The media are drama queens. The Washington Post has an Ali-Frazier front page story, ” ‘Green’ Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid: Obama Weighs Them Vs. Traditional Projects,” which opens:

In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create “green-collar” jobs.

But I’m afraid this isn’t even a Thrilla in Vanilla. The stimulus was always going to be mostly traditional spending, with maybe one-third (or more) going toward green projects.

I’d add there are lots of traditional stimulus projects that are green — such as repairing our decades old water infrastructure or funding mass transit. So I suspect under a quarter of the stimulus package is likely to be atypically green.

As is common in drama-queen articles by respectable media outlets like the Post, buried inside the article is a paragraph that completely guts the entire thesis of the rest of the story:

Senior aides in the new administration and the congressional leadership privately predict that they will be able to please both camps but suggest that there have been delays in identifying enough of the environmentally friendly projects to reach a dollar level that will truly jump-start the economy.

Duh! Or is that, Doh?

It has been drummed into everybody I know in the clean energy, clean water, and clean everything else community that whatever they propose has to be “shovel ready” within a few months — though projects where most of the spending is in year two is okay since PEBO understands how deep a mess Bush and the Conservatives have put us in.

You can read the original detailed proposals from the Center for American Progress Action Fund here: A Strategy for Green Recovery. And some more proposals can be found in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources “Hearing on investments in clean energy and natural resources projects to create jobs and to stimulate the economy” testimony of CAPAF’s Bracken Hendricks here. Our not-especially-controversial summary list of “near-term opportunities for driving new smart energy investments” includes:

  • Transit fare reductions and service expansions: Provide $2 billion in assistance to transit agencies to reduce transit fares and expand services.
  • The Weatherization Assistance Program: Fully fund the Weatherization Assistance Program at $900 million, the amount Congress is authorized to spend on the program in fiscal year 2009, and build toward a goal of weatherizing 1 million homes.
  • The Federal Energy Management Program: $1.3 billion to fully fund energy efficiency programs.
  • Workforce investment in the Green Jobs Act: Appropriate $250 million for the Green Jobs Act, authorized in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, to provide job training and workforce investment in energy efficiency and
    renewable-energy installations.
  • Refundable residential energy efficiency tax credits: Increase funding for refundable residential energy efficiency tax credits to $5 billion and raise the maximum credit for household efficiency upgrades to $2,000.
  • Solar roofs on federal buildings: Provide $3.5 billion to install 2,000 megawatts of solar power on federal rooftops, and amend federal electricity contracting to allow for 30-year power purchasing agreements.
  • New Starts Transit project investments: $5 billion to partially bridge the anticipated shortfall in federal transit capital funding for fixed-guideway projects approved in the Federal Transit Administration New Starts pipeline.
  • Smart grid federal matching funds: Fund the Smart Grid Title of the Energy
    Independence and Security Act of 2007 to support $1.3 billion for infrastructure
    investment and demonstration projects.
  • Green jobs restoring the land. Expand existing programs by $800 million to
    restore parkland, forests, wetlands, wildlife refuges, and rural ecosystems.
  • The Manufacturing Extension Partnership: Expand the capacity of domestic
    manufacturing modernization efforts by increasing MEP funding to $200 million.
  • Greening affordable housing: As proposed by the Center on Budget and Policy
    Priorities, provide $5 billion for both public housing and federally subsidized,
    privately owned units. This could be distributed through public housing agencies
    and the HOME program, and used to increase energy efficiency, reduce energy
    operating costs, and bring empty homes back into use.
  • Green school construction and renovation: Immediately support state and local school modernization, renovation, and repair at a cost of $7.25 billion.
  • Water and wastewater infrastructure: $10 billion for cities to address issues
    with water and wastewater treatment.

I wouldn’t expect the final bill to include all of these, but, in any case, they are hardly the stuff of “internal struggles” or even external struggles. The Post story tries to stir things up with this quote:

“If we’re going to call it a stimulus package, it has to be stimulating and has to be stimulating now. I think there are members of our caucus who are trying to create a Christmas tree out of this,” said Rep. Baron P. Hill (Ind.), incoming co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of 51 fiscally conservative House Democrats.

Again, the CAPAF list is stimulating and stimulating now. We also include some slightly less fast-acting, but still near-term, recovery proposals that can drive new investment into our energy infrastructure within the next year to create needed jobs:

  • Energy efficiency and conservation block grants: Increase appropriation to $6 billion to fund states, cities, and counties in pursuing clean energy projects.
  • Solar roofs on federal buildings: Authorize $3.5 billion to install 2,000 megawatts of solar power on federal rooftops, and amend federal electricity contracting to allow for 30-year power purchasing agreements.
  • New Starts Transit project investments: Fully fund the New Starts Transit budget at the $6.6 billion authorized in Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.
  • Green school construction and renovation: Support state and local school modernization, renovation, and repair at $7.25 billion.
  • Green affordable housing HOME block grants: Supplement block grant funding through the HOME program with $1 billion for energy-related projects.
  • HOPE VI program for green community revitalization: Appropriate $800 million for greening HOPE VI projects to meet Energy Star and green communities standards.
  • Smart grid federal matching funds: Fund the Smart Grid Title of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to support $1.3 billion for infrastructure investment and demonstration projects.
  • Workforce investment in the Green Jobs Act: Increase appropriation for the Green Jobs Act, authorized in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act to $250 million to provide job training and workforce investment in energy efficiency and renewable-energy installations.
  • Green jobs restoring the land: Expand existing programs by $800 million to restore parkland, forests, wetlands, wildlife refuges, and rural ecosystems.
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership: Expand the capacity of domestic manufacturing modernization efforts by increasing MEP funding to $200 million.
  • Advanced coal technology to capture carbon: Invest $1.1 billion to deploy demonstration carbon capture-and-storage technology at a coal-fired power plant.
  • Additional green infrastructure for clean water: Invest in broader community benefits and green jobs with $3 billion in green storm water infrastructure.

Again, I’d be surprised if all of these made the final package, but I can’t really see any of them being labeled as un-stimulating or just pork.

Yes, not everything in the stimulus is going to please all enviros:

But environmentalists and their allies view old-fashioned highway construction as encouraging longer commutes and increasing the energy-consumption crisis of the past year. “They’re going to put a bunch of money through a broken system to stimulate the economy. That doesn’t make sense to me,” said Colin Peppard, a transportation expert for Friends of the Earth. Peppard’s group recently began a “Road to Nowhere” campaign, saying that new roads would lead to “new pollution — keep the economic stimulus clean.”

But this will certainly be the greenest stimulus package in history. That alone should make it very newsworthy.

How to deal with those who insist on trying to add faux drama to this crucial effort to simultaneously jumpstart the US economy and jumpstart the transition to a sustainable economy? FabJob.com has the answer here.

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5 Responses to Washington Post tries mightily to spin a conflict between stimulus and green jobs

  1. Andy says:

    Ten Billion for wastewater infrastructure repairs seems way too low. A lot of cities are still trying to deal with combined storm and sewage water system overflows. These sewage redevelopment projects will require many billions of dollars and the EPA program that funded this work has been repeatedly gutted since Reagan. Likewise, many regions, for example the Chesepeake Bay watershed, are trying to deal with storm water treatment systems in order to comply with existing or future EPA requirements for reducing nitrogen.

    The biggest unfunded project in this regard is that being developed for reducing nitrogen runoff from the midwestern farm states in order to stop the growth of and eventually reduce the dead zone off the Mississippi River mouth. Restoring drained wetlands on mariginal farmlands is an integral part of this and this requires lots of earth work which requires men/women and machines and lots of billable hours.

    And holy cow just take a look at the unfunded need for EPA superfund clean up.

    Repairing our environment isn’t just about buying and setting aside land.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Off-topic, but related to Andy’s comment, I’m going to toot my own horn and encourage you (yes, you) to read

    http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/archives/2008/12/a-short-essay-on-biofuels-and.html

  3. John Mashey says:

    Yes, but the WSJ OpEd today by Martin Feldstein says Defense Spending Would Be Great Stimulus, which makes the Post look good.

  4. Maybe Congress knows something that you don’t:
    The proper way to write a law to require the use of NON-fossil-fuel energy to make electricity is to cap and lower the carbon dioxide put into the air per 1000 megawatt years. Do it on a company-by-company basis, not a power-plant-by-power-plant basis. A coal fired power plant produces 14.7 million tons of CO2 per 1000 megawatts in one year. Lower the amount of CO2 allowed per 1000 megawatt years each year. Allow the private sector to figure out how to do it. If you just require that a certain percentage of power come from renewable resources, the production of CO2 will diminish only slightly because of the “Spinning Reserve” problem, described below.

    Wind energy wastes energy because the wind varies so much that a “spinning reserve” is required in most locations. That means that the coal fire has to be kept burning so that the steam turbine will keep spinning fast enough to generate electricity instantly when the wind dies. If you are running the steam powered generator at the spinning reserve rate, you may as well use the steam as your energy source and forget about the wind. Wind turbines are decorations, not sources of energy for the grid until we have room temperature superconductors or super batteries. There are special locations and circumstances where wind energy is useful, but wind cannot replace coal and nuclear in most places. The object of the new law must be to shut down coal fired power plants by replacing them with the only base load source that doesn’t make CO2, namely nuclear. “Base load” has real meaning. “Base load” is not just a buzz phrase to be copied willy-nilly. A “Base load” source is a source that operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year regardless of the weather and regardless of whether it is day or night. Wind, solar and wave power are NOT base load sources.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Asteroid Miner — Can you provide a reference for “A coal fired power plant produces 14.7 million tons of CO2 per 1000 megawatts in one year.” I’d find that quite, quite helpful.