Progressives, Obama keep promise to jumpstart clean energy, economy — conservatives keep promise to jumpstop the future

[JR: Years from now, long after the economy has recovered, this moment may well be remembered as the time that progressives, led by Obama, began the transition to a sustainable economy built around green jobs. If, on the other hand, we don’t stop catastrophic warming, that will almost certainly be because the conservative movement threw their entire weight behind humanity’s self-destruction (see “Anti-science conservatives must be stopped“) — and the lopsided vote on the stimulus bill will be the first time in the Obama adminstration that conservatives in both chambers signaled their willingness to sacrifice the future for their ideology. This post detailing the green elements of the stimulus bill, including an excel spreadsheet, by the Center for American Progress’s Daniel J. Weiss and Alexandra Kougentakis, was first published here.]

The House-Senate conference recovery bill supplies $8.4 billion for transit projects, and an additional $8 billion for high-speed rail. These would put Americans back to work to the tune of nearly 20,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested in mass transit.

More than a year after the recession began and after 3.6 million Americans lost their jobs, Congress has passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1. The act will inject $789 billion into new programs and tax incentives to stimulate the economy.

Unprecedented investments in clean energy are a central element of the recovery plan. The bill includes $71 billion for clean energy programs–more than three times the current spending for these same programs (download the breakdown here (.xls)). H.R. 1 also adds $20 billion in clean energy tax incentives. The bill would “spark the creation of a clean-energy economy” that President Barack Obama promised during his inaugural address.

The Recovery Act intends to quickly put Americans to work undertaking the essential task of reducing our use of energy and oil, which would strengthen our economy and security. It would also boost investments in clean renewable energy generation from the wind, sun, and other clean sources. The World Resources Institute determined that there is a significant job creation differential between traditional infrastructure investments and those focusing on clean energy initiatives. Every investment of $1 billion in clean energy programs creates nearly 5,000 more jobs than traditional infrastructure spending. These are some of the most important initiatives in the recovery package.

Under the recovery plan, the Weatherization Assistance Program would receive an additional $5 billion to install efficiency measures in low-income households. This amount could weatherize 1 million homes, and, directly and indirectly, create 375,000 jobs. Low-income families will save an average of $350 annually in reduced energy costs. .

Another clean energy program, the federal green buildings program, would receive $4.5 billion in funding from the plan. Modernization and energy efficiency upgrades of federal buildings would put people to work and save taxpayers millions of dollars a year in federal energy bills. President Obama recently noted that efficiency for federal buildings could save taxpayers “$2 billion,” asking, “Why wouldn’t we want to make that kind of investment?”

Energy efficiency and conservation grants for energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings would gain $6.3 billion. This is in addition to a new program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development for energy efficiency retrofits of low-income housing that would receive $250 million. This funding would directly and indirectly generate over 1 million jobs, and many would be construction jobs–a sector hard hit by the recession.

The bill supplies $8.4 billion for transit projects, and an additional $8 billion for high-speed rail. There are an estimated 787 ready-to-go transit projects eligible for funds from the programs to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities. These would also put Americans back to work to the tune of nearly 20,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested in mass transit.

There is also $20 billion in clean energy tax incentives, including a three-year extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind and other renewable energy projects. Due to the credit crunch and recession, many wind projects have had difficulty attracting investors. To address this problem, the bill “provides grants of up to 30 percent of the cost of building a new renewable energy facility to address current renewable energy credit market concerns.”

In 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the University of Nevada Las Vegas hosted a National Clean Energy Summit. The many energy experts at the summit agreed that lack of efficient, reliable transmission capacity was a major barrier to a vast expansion of renewable electricity generation. The recovery package tackles this problem with its $17 billion in spending and loan guarantees for “smart grid” technology and 3,000 miles of new transmission lines.

Thankfully, the final bill excludes the Senate’s $500 million allocation that would have provided up to $50 billion in loan guarantees for “low emission” electricity, predominately aimed at nuclear power. With a 50-percent default rate, these nuclear loans could have made taxpayers responsible for at least $25 billion in risky loans. This program would have created very few jobs because it takes a long time to finance and build a nuclear power plant.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that without a strong recovery package, real gross domestic product would shrink by 2.2 percent in 2009. In contrast, implementation of the plan would yield as many as 3.6 million new jobs from all spending in less than two years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes energy investments that would set the foundation for an economy that uses efficient, low-carbon energy sources and highly efficient advanced technology. It is 21st-century energy policy that follows eight years of inertia and reaction, and it is a remarkable achievement for an administration that isn’t yet a month old.

For a complete breakdown of the House, Senate, continuing resolution, and conference recovery bill clean energy provisions, download this table (.xls).

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8 Responses to Progressives, Obama keep promise to jumpstart clean energy, economy — conservatives keep promise to jumpstop the future

  1. ZS says:

    In contrast to the string of smart energy policy victories contained in this bill, one mistake stands out:

    2.5 billion for “renewable energy research”
    3.4 billion for “CCS research for coal-fired power plants”

    Also, what is the timeline for these appropriations? 2.5 billion to be spent over the next fiscal year, or over several years?

  2. Bob W says:

    The scientific community is starting to feel the fresh air, too.

  3. Brendan says:

    Joe, are you converting 1 billion into 20,000 jobs directly, or are we relying on a ripple effect of the money spent?

    Just wondering because 20,000 jobs * $40,000/job is 80% of the $1 you say, and some of that money is going to have to go to buying raw materials, not just paying salaries of builders.

  4. Joe, you are DEAD wrong on nuclear power, as I have told you many times. So-called renewables can’t put coal out of business. We either quit burning coal or we go extinct. ONLY nuclear can put coal completely out of business. ONLY nuclear can undercut the price of coal. See
    Factory built reactors can be installed very quickly. I do not own Hyperion stock.

  5. paulm says:

    Nuclear is DEAD.

    Now there is the additional cost and environmental crisis of having to decommission/move sites located on our coasts.

  6. Greg Robie says:

    I watched “Garbage Warrior” (2007) last night. In the opening scene Mike Reynolds uses the metaphor of a herd of buffalo stampeding toward a cliff as an analogy for our society. He acknowledges that he is in that herd and going to go over the cliff with them. Even so, he talks about his work–developing and building earthships–as an effort to get the herd to shift directions (something that can happen with buffalo, because in a stamped situation they are all afraid and following a leader, whom, if you can get it to turn, the herd will as well and stamped after him in a “safe” direction. Even then, the stamped itself does not end until the buffalo exhaust themselves and have to stop.

    Al Gore (as a public leader) has gone from being ambivalent about the shortening of the timeline mitigating climate change demands in his testimony before Congress in March of 2006 to unequivocal in his testimony in January of this year concerning cap and trade legislation needing to be passed this year. His work on the “yes we can” campaign has unfolded in the interim. Self-described as a recovering politician working on step #9, he is hardly out in front of the herd directing it. His style of male leadership (an emasculated second wave feminist version of such leadership) is very centrist to the stampeding herd. The leadership sensibilities of this human herd stampeding into klimakatastrophe are second wave feminist sensibilities. It is a leadership that is defuse and is both intuitive and non-rational. It trusts what history has never proved, that people come to their sense in herds but go mad one at a time. Such is the opposite of Charles Mackay’s 1852 insight concerning human history from : “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

    I do not share Joe’s “madness” that global capitalism based on fiat currencies coined in debt will recover. Any “green” jobs that are created will simply support the economic activity that is stampeding humanity deeper into klimakatastrophe. I feel that the primary “jumpstopping” of need change _is not_ due to the conservatives and what they have done/are doing to obfuscated the public debate, but, rather, _was_ the behavior of the “progressives” who talked a talk they did not walk and, as a result, corrupted language, wasted social capital, and modeled a leadership that did little but secure professorships, authored books, garnered employment in well meaning NGOs, become religious leaders, established new age retreat centers, and be elected to political office (all economically rewarded social endeavors; all, in practice, non-redirecting of the stamped over the cliff; all a pragmatic and systemically pious adaptaion to the truth of the “one by one” aspect of Mackay’s insight.

    In a what-you-are-doing-is-making-so-much-noise-I-can’t-hear-what-you-are-saying dynamic, those of the conservative, five part morality Jonathan Haidt has been expounding on, are justifiably critical–and dismissive–of the behaviors of “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals” (as Spiro Agnew characterized us as back in the late ’60s). In lieu of commiserate action relative to our pronouncements and would give substance to our words, from a conservative sense of morality “a spirit of national masochism prevails” due to our affect. As such, liberal sensibilities are an amoral abomination and ridiculed. There is a moral dissonance conservatives experience due to their perception of the dynamics of liberal two part morality within their experience of a five part model for morality. Liberals would do well to understand this dynamic and work with it instead of belittling it . . . if we value changing social behavior to mitigate climate change more so than being right and accomplishing little.

  7. Greg Robie says:

    I am not sure what I did wrong in the html coding, but in the previous post the link to Jonathan Haidt works and the the link to _Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds_ is corrupted. That link is:

  8. Greg Robie says:

    My Bad. My calling the “We” campaign (as in “we can solve it”–as in “climate change”) with “yes we can” is an example of how my reptilian brain has categorized the environmental leadership of Al Gore and President Obama.