The Skywriter

Climate blogs exposed: the economic recovery package

30
Jan

Climate blogs exposed: the economic recovery package

Since the inauguration, the world has watched intently as President Obama has hit the ground running. This week, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009--the much needed economic recovery package--and now the bill goes over to the Senate for a vote. As I said in my last post, this stimulus package begins a green transition for America--a transition that will put millions of Americans back to work and simultaneously green our economy by investing in weatherization, efficiency, as well as improved mass transit. According to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's website, the bill passed by the House includes the necessary facets to start laying a foundation for a new green economy and includes the following:

To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we are seeking to double our renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient. The energy package will create more than 500,000 jobs, and accelerate deployment of smart grid technology, provide energy efficiency funds for the nation’s schools, offer support for the nation’s governors and mayors to tackle their energy challenges, and establish a new loan guarantee program to keep our transition to renewable energy on track during the economic crisis.

Watch Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduce the economic recovery bill to the House:

But don't get too excited about the idea of a bold, new green recovery plan--it's far from what is scientifically necessary. Now don't get me wrong, we need to start somewhere and this recovery bill is a good start, but we still have a far way to go before we achieve what is scientifically necessary. In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee just passed a $50 billion expansion in loan guarantees to be used for "clean energy" technology, with a significant proportion of the loans intended to go to nuclear plants and coal-to-liquid transportation fuel plants. Brad Johnson from Wonk Room reports:

In contrast, the committee allocated only $9.5 billion exclusively for “standard renewable energy projects.” Although the loan guarantee program covers nuclear technology, carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants, as well as renewable energy, the vast bulk of requested loans — $122 billion — are for new nuclear power plants. This $50 billion nuclear throwaway nearly matches the total allocation for genuinely clean energy in the House version of the stimulus package: only $52 billion in total for smart grid, renewable energy, and energy efficiency investments.

Unlike renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, investments in the nuclear industry generate few jobs or economic growth. The nuclear industry has developed through massive federal subsidization from research to deployment over decades. Such a massive expenditure of nuclear pork has no place in the economic recovery bill.

Do you ever struggle to talk about green jobs? Well here is a new talking point that will strengthen even the strongest green jobs talking points: The wind industry now employs more people than the coal mining industry in the United States. Talk about putting Americans back to work! Todd Woody from Green Wombat reports:

The big spike in wind jobs was a result of a record-setting 50% increase in installed wind capacity, with 8,358 megawatts coming online in 2008 (enough to power some 2 million homes). That’s a third of the nation’s total 25,170 megawatts of wind power generation. Wind farms generating more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity were completed in the last three months of 2008 alone.

Another sign that wind power is no longer a niche green energy play: Wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S. Power, literally, is shifting from the east to west, to the wind belt of the Midwest, west Texas and the West Coast. Texas continues to lead the country, with 7,116 megawatts of wind capacity but Iowa in 2008 overtook California for the No. 2 spot, with 2,790 megawatts of wind generation. Other new wind powers include Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado and Washington state.

President Obama has been listening to our calls for bold climate action and just hired the green mayor, Shuan McGrath, of the boldest town in America, Boulder, Colorado to serve as the deputy director of intergovernmental affairs within the White House. Despite my failed efforts at a clever pun, McGrath does bring some bold new ideas to the table. In fact, under his leadership Boulder set out to become the first smart-grid city in the country and in 2006 Boulder voters approved the country's first carbon tax. Check out the interview that Kate Sheppard from Grist had with the Mayor to learn what he'll bring to the position.

In Boulder we have been looking at how to reduce our climate emissions for a while now, and we adopted a Climate Action Plan a few years back, and passed a carbon tax to help pay for programs to meet that goal. So we've had some experience there that may be somewhat ahead of where others are and may be something that I can bring to the discussion when it comes up.

Boulder is also becoming the first smart-grid city in the world, actually, which has of course modernized the way we provide and consume energy. And that is something that the president has also identified as a priority in his energy plans.

For all of you out there that want to find out more information about the Senate and House economic stimulus bills check out this great site called ReadTheStimulus.org.

Thanks for reading this week and if there is anything that we forgot, please let us know by commenting below.

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