Obama's 'Green' Stimulus: Did it Work?

Photo via Huffington Post

We made a lot of noise about Obama investing heavily (or at least more heavily than US presidents are typically wont to do) in 'green' ventures when the stimulus bill was passed last year. It depends on how you tally it, but there was some $60-80 billion in there for R&D; for clean technology, green jobs and energy efficiency initiatives, and a number of related tax credits and breaks. Now, since it's been nearly a year, it seems it's evaluatin' time. So let's take a look at how effective the stimulus was . . .The general consensus seems to be that it was indeed effective in that it prevented the nation from sliding into a deeper recession or even a depression. About this, most economists are in agreement. And over 2 million jobs were created or preserved by the bill. So it seems that tea partiers can complain all they want about big spending--but without that spending, they could have been waving their signs in the midst of a full-blown, modern day depression.

Speaking of big spending, the major critique regularly administered at the stimulus bill was that it wasn't big enough, or deployed quickly enough. On both counts, you can thank, in part, the political opposition who hadn't evidently read up on their Keynes, and made it impossible to allocate the sums of spending that was thought to have been necessary to truly pull us out of a recession faster and more efficiently. And then political wrangling prevented the stimulus to be efficiently deployed--Obama could have acted more forcefully to push through stronger programs, instead of leaving it to Congress to be hacked and divvied up.

The Green Stimulus
As for the green stuff, it's still sort of at the 'wait and see' stage. GreenBiz documents where the big bucks have been spent so far:

• Advanced Batteries and Electric Vehicles: $2.4 billion in grants have been awarded to companies and educational institutions in over 20 states to fund 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects that will help power the next generation of advanced vehicles.

• Smart Energy Grid: $3.4 billion in grants have been awarded to private companies, utilities, manufacturers and cities to fund smart energy grid projects that will support tens of thousands of jobs and benefit consumers in 49 states.

• Energy-Efficient Vehicles: $300 million in grants have been awarded to 25 cost-share projects under DOE's Clean Cities program to expand the nation's fleet of alternative fuel vehicles by putting more than 9,000 alternative fuel and energy efficient vehicles on the road.

It's hard to determine how much of an impact these programs have had on job creation and growth, but each goes a length in stimulating the under-supported clean energy economy.

Stimulus for 2010
And there's more to come, as VP Joe Biden wrote in his USA Today op ed,

[T]o me, the most exciting thing about the Recovery Act is not what we've done, but what lies ahead. Many Recovery Act programs that will build the groundwork for the economy of the 21st century will be implemented in the next few months ... New factories where electric cars and clean fuel cells will be made. Wind farms, solar panels -- and the facilities to construct them. New health technologies and smarter electrical power grids will be creating jobs this year thanks to the Recovery Act.
Indeed, a nonpartisan research group called Onvia has conducted a survey of the stimulus bill. It found that so far, the results have been underwhelming but have staved off recession. But if found that the forecast for 2010 was much brighter. It shows that 1.1 million more jobs are on the way (many of them green ones).

So Did It Work?
Yes, it seems that it generally has been a success. But not nearly as much of one as anyone would have liked it to have been. It prevented depression, and got money moving in some crucial cleantech arenas. It saved and created some much-need jobs. But the unemployment rate is still perilously high (9.7%), and the recovery is still expected to be slow. Let's hope Onvia is right and the improvement picks up the pace this year, and that the value of cleantech investment and job creation continues to play a role in that recovery--it's a sector ripe for expansion.

More on Obama's Green Stimulus
View and Vote - Obama Green Stimulus Projects
Guide to the Green Projects in Obama's Stimulus Bill

Tags: Barack Obama | Congress | Economics | United States


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