Senate stimulus plan out-greens the House

Today’s guest post on the green details of the Senate and House stimulus plans (with awesome bubble charts) is by Daniel J. Weiss and Alexandra Kougentakis. It was originally printed on the Center for American Progress website here.


On January 28, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1, by a vote of 244 to 188. The $819 billion recovery bill includes $72 billion for clean energy programs, and another $20 billion for clean energy tax incentives. This huge investment in weatherization, efficiency, transmission, transit, and clean vehicles programs will create at least 459,000 jobs by the end of 2010, as well as reduce oil consumption and global warming pollution.

Not to be outdone, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the American Investment and Recovery Plan, S. 336, which includes $78 billion* in clean energy spending as part of its $365 billion recovery package. At the same time the Senate Finance Committee passed a $522 billion tax package that includes $31 billion in tax incentives for renewables and energy efficiency. The bills will likely be joined before Senate floor consideration.

Unfortunately, S. 336 also includes a $50 billion expansion in loan guarantees, with the bulk of the loans going for nuclear plants and coal-to-liquid transportation fuel plants, although it is possible that they may also go to renewable energy projects. The nuclear and liquid coal projects sparked by the loan guarantees would take years to come to fruition and to create many jobs. Liquid coal plants also produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases–twice as much as the production of ordinary gasoline. They consume huge amounts of water–up to seven gallons for every gallon of fuel produced. This expanded loan guarantee program is the type of unnecessary pork barrel spending that President Obama urged Congress to avoid, and it should be removed from the final bill.

The other clean energy provisions in the Senate and House recovery bills are fairly similar. The House bill includes several programs not in the Senate bill, including funding for the Energy Star Program and energy efficiency investments in self-help and assisted homeownership programs. The Senate package provides more funds for investments in rail transportation and energy efficiency investments for Department of Defense facilities.

energy investments in stimulus bills

For a detailed description of energy-related spending in the House and Senate recovery packages, download this chart (.xls).

Like the House bill, the Senate bill would invest dramatically more resources in clean energy programs compared to existing 2009 spending levels. The Senate measure would increase investments in the following areas.

  • Building and appliance efficiency would receive nearly 400-percent of 2009-level funding. This includes measures to lift the energy efficiency of public housing and low-income households.
  • Funding for renewable and alternative energy research spending would be 500 percent compared to 2009 levels.
  • Funding for “carbon capture-and-storage” research to capture greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants would receive 1,479 percent compared to 2009. The Senate bill allocates $2.2 billion more for CCS than the House program, which may be difficult to quickly spend.
  • Clean vehicle and fuels programs to speed the development of super fuel-efficient cars and cleaner fuels would receive 10 times 2009-level funding, including $2 billion for badly needed advanced battery research.
  • Spending on sustainable transmission efforts would be 150 times 2009 levels to adopt “smart grid” technology and rehabilitate and expand the transmission grid.

Construction investments in the Department of Defense alone, much of which would go toward upgrades for energy efficiency and renewable energy installations, would create 85,870 jobs. Employment in energy research, demonstration, and deployment will directly result from the investments made in existing programs as funded in this bill.

Conservatives in the House of Representatives offered an alternative plan that put tax relief at the center of our economic recovery and did not invest in renewables or efficiency. This approach missed opportunities to create jobs, upgrade our electricity infrastructure, and address long-term challenges such as global warming and our dependence on oil. Both the House and Senate versions of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act should foster short-term job creation and long-term economic growth, national security, and an inhabitable planet.

*This figure is based on the total program spending as indicated in the legislation of the Senate bill. Actual investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency may be somewhat lower due to spending on non-clean energy efforts within some of the programs, such as in the tribal housing block grants.


This article has been updated to reflect an error in the chart and language about funding for programs. The spending figures are compared to 2009 appropriations levels.

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19 Responses to Senate stimulus plan out-greens the House

  1. David B. Benson says:

    Off-topic, but a useful article about the benefits of various ‘geoengineering’ schemes.

    “Geoengineering Projects That Could Offset Global Warming”:

    University of East Anglia study.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    But ocean fertilization is a loser.

    “Iron Fertilization To Capture Carbon Dioxide Dealt A Blow: Plankton Stores Much Less Carbon Dioxide Than Estimated”:

  3. Well this stimulus is definitely not perfect, let’s see if they can clean it up a little bit in the Senate. I hate to see money spent on things like health care, the arts, or even education in this bill. I wish they would stay focused on business tax cuts and green infrastructure spending. Even so, I hope it passes because there are some great things in there.

  4. EricG says:

    @ Romm for Cabinet – Agree, there are far more important ways to spend money than providing health care to people who cannot afford it. Especially those children. If they want to see a doctor they should get jobs, just like the rest of us!

  5. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: David B

    This scheme to fertilize the ocean with iron to stimulate growth of photoplankton has several serious drawback: there is about a 50-50 chance that a toxic bloom will form and this process will probably due little to stimulate organisms that require silica e.g., diatoms. Open ocean usually has low levels of silica which is much more abundant in coastal waters where rivers discharge into oceans.

    Fortunately, there are several solutions to these problems. To ensure that “good” phytoplankton will grow in abundance over that of “bad” guys, a mixed culture of good guys (i.e, seeds) could be introduced at the time the iron as well as other trace micro nutrients (usually metals) are injected into the surface water. The seeds are those phytoplankton that normally present in area.

    Diatoms and similair species require silica. Sodium silica solutions (aka water glass) could also be co-released with iron and seeds.

    We could also gen-eng to the phytos to fix CO2 a greater rates than than the parent species.

    We could do this on mass scale by using oil tanker with little modification.
    After a supertanker discharges its load of crude oil, its ballast tanks could be filled with feritilizer solution and nutrient media for the phytos which could be feeze dried like some yeast that are used for baking.

    On its its return trip to get more crude, the tanker discharges the fertilizer solution and a acitively-growing cultures of the phytos which are prepared as required.

    We don’t want over fertilize the oceans because this would result in oxygen depletion due to respiration of the phytos at night. We could monitor the growth the phytos using satellites and adjust the feeds to appropiate levels.

    To take maximum advantage of the phyto growth, we could have a special
    ship that discharges baby fish that eat the zooplankton whose growth woiuld be stimulated by the presence of lots of the phytos.

    In principle this plan could turn barren area of the ocean into productive fisheries. Drawback: private conmpanies would not be able to recoup their investment and make a profit since there is no onwership of the open ocean and they can’t contol the currents.

    The FOA of the UN could run or sponsor this program for the general benefit of humanity. This is plan is the same as farmer bringing seeds and fertilizer (and lots of sweat!) to a plot of land to growth crops

    ATTN Joe: Do you know a mover and shaker in fed gov that could organize this type of project and get it going ASAP before the world
    fisheries collapse? He/she would have to have great organizational skills to bring all the various parties together and make them work as a real lean green machine.

  6. Brendan says:

    How is the investment in renewable energy and clean cars likely to be disbursed? DOE grants? Do you have any sense for how long that would take to have the money start being spent?

  7. Frank says:

    I fear we are seeing a colossal misdirection of resources based upon unfounded fears about climate. Here is the first attempt I know of to put the AGW hysteria into a 50-year historical perspective, beginning with the work of Revelle in the Pacific in the 1950s:

  8. Maarten says:

    Hey Frank: You are posting on the wrong blog! The story you linked to is quite interesting a read, even though it’s just senseless horses**t that doesn’t provide even a hint of a shred of evidence. I wonder what kind of a deranged mind (even when hosted by a seemingly sane person — TV weatherman in San Diego) would concoct such a story. Mind boggling. What people do for a little bit of money! Shame.
    If the effort directed at denying anthropogenic global warming were devoted to mitigating it, we could have easily solved about a quarter of the emissions problem (or more) by now.

    We do indeed see a colossal misdirection of resources based upon unfounded fears about the costs of climate change mitigation.

    A better look at history:

  9. Frank says:

    Hi Maarten, I read that history link of yours, and as I did so, I reflected how some people have a naive and rose-tinted view of the UN and its works, as if it were the embodiment and executor of some ideal for mankind instead of being a corrupt hothouse of vested and ideological interests. Then I got to the end, and saw that the author works in UN PR. Enough said.
    Re your other remarks, as far as I can see hardly any money or effort has gone into what you call ‘denying AGW’, certainly not compared to the colossal sums that have supported it. You are, I guess, part of this new and wealthy establishment. We poor sceptics are the new radicals. How times change!

  10. Frank says:

    I gotta cut back on my ‘colossals’.

  11. Dano says:

    Shorter Frank:

    We need more lobbying money to obfuscate the scientific evidence!



  12. Mark says:

    I just read a CNN article that makes the presents the usual false dilemma between economic growth and environmental protection, apparent in the title. The contents of the article aren’t too bad, but note the ignorant (or dishonest) statement from the Cato representative.

    “If the private sector will not invest in these technologies, it will not be efficient,” said Alan Reynolds, senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

    “Creating jobs by switching from one form of energy to another is a bad idea,” he added. “You don’t need subsidies for anything that is free. Getting a $7,000 rebate on a $100,000 plug-in electrical hybrid that gets its power from a coal plant doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

    Ok, help me out here, Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute. Find me a plug-in hybrid that costs or is expected to cost $100,000. Converting a $20K Prius to a plug-in costs $10K or less and from what I’ve read, the incremental cost of a plug-in hybrid sold in the U.S. is expected to be within that range.

    Additionally, Reynolds leaves out the other part of the energy plan, which is to gradually replace coal with renewables (nuclear would suffice with regards to emissions) as well. Even so, if all electricity to power a plug-in hybrid is from coal, the environmental impact (and cost of energy) would be much lower.

    This leads me to a question for Joe. What do you think of the BYD Auto plug-in, recently rolled out in China? Warren Buffet is backing it.

  13. Eric G: The arguement is not about whether we should have health care for children, the argument is whether health care belongs in a stimulus bill. Obama and the democrats are passing up a unique chance to recieve bi-partisan support for a true (green) infastructure stimulus. He is passing that up by adding in all that pork. (The only way I would support healthcare for all, is a national gas-tax like Europe has. I’m an environmentalist, not a traditional democrat I guess)

  14. David B. Benson says:

    Harold Pierce Jr — I’d certainly like to see some experimentation, but ocean fertilization as currently envisaged, even by you, does not appear to be as effective as other plans.

    Biochar looks good.

    Enhanced weathering looks almost as good.

    Probably both those and other schemes are all to be utilized.

  15. Hendo says:

    I agree that to some, health care might not seem to “fit” just here in an environmental context. But since this is a long-haul (how about forever) environmental road that is going to require a change in living standards (via lower consumption) then you would want to be careful about a continuation of America’s shocking health care system.

    If government is going to make things more expensive ( a consequence of reducing pollution, starting to pay full environmental costs of production) then you would want to at least, as something of a trade-off, to make sure you can get affordable health care for your family.

    Finally, environmental health is biodiversity health is human health. I don’t think it is too long a draw on the bow to say that greening up is a health issue (look what living near lead smelters does for kids health), and in the current fiscal and environmental context, it’s not so bad to juxtapose health benefits with environmental initiatives.

  16. I respect your points Hendo, I still think it’s a reach. I don’t disagree we should improve the health care system, it’s just a shame it had to be pushed into this bill for political reasons, and not because it will stimulate the economy.

  17. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    David B

    Of course, pilot exp will have to run to determine the feasiblity of the proposal.

  18. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Hey Joe!

    Here is how we all can get rich: Set a turn-key franchise operation that clean solar panels. These panels are going to get dirty over time and will have to be cleaned. “Special equipment” will be required that cleans the panel without damaging them. Our company sell the “special equipment” and cleaning solutions to the franchises. We do maintainence and repairs

    [JR: I have a better idea. Let’s also get the “clean coal” franchise since the soot will dirty up the solar panels. We’ll be rich, I tell you, rich! BTW, have you ever heard of rain? You know that wet acidic stuff that coal plants make that clean off the roofs of cars and … solar panels. Meds, Harold, meds!]

  19. Imee says:

    I think the stimulus may need some work, but I do believe the intentions are clear and honest. There’s definitely room for improvement not only in the energy department but throughout the entire stimulus plan