Big Boost to Alternative Energy, Clean Tech If Obama Stimulus Passes Senate

Andrew Burger

The Obama’s Administration’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” passed muster in the House but there’s still a lot of politicking and debate going on as the Senate works on its version of the bill and the two Congressional bodies resolve any differences. The Act aims to create up to 4 million jobs, 500,000 of them in the “green sector” by investing $69 billion to enhance the nation’s energy infrastructure, improve energy efficiency and conservation, and double production of renewable energy.

The House of Representatives passed President Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” Wednesday evening, legislation that it's projected can create some 4 million jobs—as many as half a million of them in the “green” sector-- at a time when the US economy is ailing. The stimulus package calls for the federal government to invest $69 billion in “shovel-ready” projects and initiatives that will create jobs and, among other things, result in a doubling of US renewable energy output.


Half-a-billion dollars worth of tax incentives, loan guarantees, deployment and research funding is slated to spur development of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources. A total $25 billion is to be invested to put manufacturing workers into “green” sector jobs that would boost the economy and strengthen energy and national security while at the same time enhancing environmental protection and efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Infrastructure, efficiency, renewables and transportation

Infrastructure spending is another focal point of the legislation. The recovery plan proposes building 3,000 miles of new transmission lines and installing automated smart meters in 40 million homes, efforts which will have both short- and long-term benefits when it comes to transitioning to a lower carbon society and improving energy efficiency and conservation.

Looking to provide relief to budget-challenged municipalities, the recovery plan would provide funds enabling more than 900 energy infrastructure projects identified by mayors to get off the ground. It’s estimated that this would create more than 41,000 jobs. Another significant aspect of such efforts, improving the energy efficiency of federal buildings would save the federal government and taxpayers an estimated $2 billion a year.

The stimulus plan also includes funding to the tune of $6.2 billion efforts to “weatherize” 5 million homes, which would cut homeowners’ average annual energy bills by one-third, or an average $350 a year while creating a projected 104,000 jobs.

The Obama administration hasn’t left transportation and mass transit out of the picture. It proposes investing $10 billion in mass transit systems projects, which it’s estimated would create 115,000 jobs, reduce oil imports and minimize traffic congestion and pollution by taking cars off the highways.

If passed, the bill would also fund programs in the 2007 Energy Bill that would increase fuel efficiency standards to 35 mpg by 2020, saving families as much as $1,000 a year on fuel and reducing oil imports by 4.1 million barrels a day, nearly twice the amount currently imported from the Persian Gulf, according to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

In order to spur production of hybrid fuel and electric vehicles, $2 billion of “critical funding” would be used to spur development and production of advanced battery and clean car technology.

Stay tuned, however. Efforts to amend the bill are drawing criticism from environmentalists as well as “Drill baby, drill,” proponents who would like to see more in the way of incentives and support for oil, natural gas and unconventional fossil fuel resource development.

Though it isn’t in the House version of the Act, Friends of the Earth has issued an alert that the Senate Appropriations Committee has tacked on government loan guarantees up to $50 billion that could be used to fund construction of nuclear reactors. They'd also like to see more go into mass transit development as opposed to building new roads and highways.


Climate Politics & Policy