Off and Running : Recovery Bill Big on Transit, Green Energy, Science

Obama Recovery program provides $8 billion for high-speed rail. Pictured is a high speed rail project that Californians voted for in 2008.

Progressives, Obama keep promise to jumpstart clean energy, economy.

By Joseph Romm / February 14, 2009

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).

Source / Climate Progress

Unprecedented investments in clean energy are a central element of the recovery plan.

What’s Green About the New Stimulus Deal?
By Joseph Romm / February 13, 2009.

There’s lots of good news — from a tax credit for renewables to the $50 billion nuclear industry giveaway being axed. Here’s the highlights.

A final deal was reached on a $789 billion stimulus plan (see NYT a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/us/politics/12stimulus.html?_r=2&hp” target=”_blank”>here). One of the best pieces of news is that the $50 billion in fraudulent budget gimmickry on behalf of the nuclear industry was axed, as I posted last night.

There’s also a 3-year extension of the production tax credit for wind and other renewables, which will be crucial to Obama meeting his goal to “double the production of alternative energy in the next three years.” And there’s an expanded tax credit for plug in hybrids, which will be critical for Obama to meet his goal of one million plug-ins by 2015.

The conferees did put back $400 million for DOE’s ARPA-E program, which in normal circumstances would be mostly duplicative of existing DOE R&D programs (see here “Note to media on ARPA-E”). But it is new money, and will give Stephen Chu something to chew on quickly.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has distributed a fact sheet on the conference report on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Here are the details on what’s green in ARRA (and I’ll also post the science and tech stuff):

Clean, Efficient, American Energy: To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will increase renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Smart Grid/Advanced Battery Technology/Energy Efficiency

  • Provides a total of $30 billion for such initiatives as a new, smart power grid, advanced battery technology, and energy efficiency measures, which will create nearly 500,000 jobs.
  • Transforms the nation’s electricity systems through the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid to make it more efficient and reliable.
  • Supports U.S. development of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems through loans and grants so that America can lead the world in transforming the way automobiles are powered.
  • Helps state and local governments make investments in innovative best practices to achieve greater energy efficiency and reduce energy usage.
  • Spurs energy efficiency and renewable energy R&D.

Tax Incentives to Spur Energy Savings and Green Jobs

  • Provides $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next 10 years.
  • Includes a three-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for electricity derived from wind (through 2012) and for electricity derived from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, waste-to-energy, and marine facilities (through 2013).
  • 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.
  • Promotes energy-efficient investments in homes by extending and expanding tax credits through 2010 for purchases such as new furnaces, energy-efficient windows and doors, or insulation.
  • Provides a tax credit for families that purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles of up to $7,500 to spur the next generation of American cars.
  • Includes clean renewable energy bonds for State and local governments.
  • Establishes a new manufacturing investment tax credit for investment in advanced energy facilities, such as facilities that manufacture components for the production of renewable energy, advanced battery technology, and other innovative next-generation green technologies.

Landmark Energy Savings at Home

  • Provides $5 billion for landmark provisions to improve the energy efficiency of more than 1 million modest-income homes through weatherization.
  • This will save modest-income families on average $350 per year on their heating and air conditioning bills.

Repairing Public Housing and Making Key Energy Efficiency Retrofits to HUD-Assisted Housing

  • Provides a total of $6.3 billion for increasing energy efficiency in federally-supported housing programs.
  • Specifically, establishes a new program to upgrade HUD-sponsored low-income housing (elderly, disabled, and Section to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and frames.
  • Also invests in energy efficiency upgrades in public housing, including new windows, furnaces, and insulation to improve living conditions for residents and lower the cost of operating these facilities.

All in all, an impressive down payment on the transition to a clean energy economy.
Here’s the science and tech stuff (which includes ARPA-E):

Transform our Economy with Science and Technology: To secure America’s role as a world leader in a competitive global economy, we are renewing America’s investments in basic research and development, in training students for an innovation economy, and in deploying new technologies into the marketplace. This will help businesses in every community succeed in a global economy.

Investing in Scientific Research (More than $15 Billion

  • Provides $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, for basic research in fundamental science and engineering — which spurs discovery and innovation.
  • Provides $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics and fusion energy sciences — areas crucial to our energy future.
  • Provides $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry.
  • Provides $580 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • Provides $8.5 billion for NIH, including expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Provides $1 billion for NASA, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research.
  • Provides $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants.

Source / Climate Progress / AlterNet

Thanks to Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog

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One Response to Off and Running : Recovery Bill Big on Transit, Green Energy, Science

  1. Anonymous says:

    http://jim.com/econ/chap04p1.html

    There is no more persistent and influential faith in the world today than the faith in government spending. Everywhere government spending is presented as a panacea for all our economic ills. Is private industry partially stagnant? We can fix it all by government spending. Is there unemployment? That is obviously due to “insufficient private purchasing power.” The remedy is just as obvious. All that is necessary is for the government to spend enough to make up the “deficiency”.

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