Image via Be Sustainable
After weeks of intense negotiations, spirited debate, and some name calling, President Obama will sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 tomorrow. The much publicized, lengthily titled stimulus bill has been on center stage seemingly since the day after Inauguration. And even though it's proved extremely divisive—it's been called "generational theft," an insult to taxpayers, and useless pork by its detractors—one group in particular seems to sing its unanimous praise: environmentalists.
Everyone from the Sierra Club to the National Resource Defense Council to environmental bloggers and journalists have been downright jubilant about all the green initiatives included in the bill. But just how green will the bill actually be?
The short answer is: Very.
An impressive $60 billion dollars of the $790 billion will be spent on alternative and clean energy, scientific research, and various environmental projects.
Upon reviewing the bill, the NRDC was prompted to release an uncharacteristically celebratory statement: Congress Gets it Right: Recovery Deal to Spur Clean Energy Economy. A post from Mother Jones' environmental blog Blue Marble leads with this tag line: "The $789 billion recovery package wasn't all enviros hoped for. In some cases, it was more."
The Stimulus Green by the Numbers: Where the Money Will Go
And here's what's got everyone so excited: (from NRDC)
• $6 billion for clean and safe water, creating more than 200,000 jobs
• $4.5 billion for greening federal buildings
• State energy grants, issued through the Treasury Department, that will fund renewable energy projects that are eligible for the available tax credits
• Funding for the state energy program, which includes important utility reforms and building code conditions
• $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy Research and Development
• $5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, creating approximately 90,000 jobs
• A multi-year extension of the renewable production tax credit
• A more effective tax credit for home efficiency upgrades
• $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewables, transmission and leading edge biofuels
• $2 billion for advanced batteries
• $9.3 billion for intercity rail, including high-speed rail
• $27.5 billion for highways (this large pot of money is not exclusively for highways, and states and cities must use this flexibility to invest in fuel-efficient public transportation)
• $8.4 billion for transit
• $1.5 billion in competitive grants for transportation investments (which could be used for public transportation)
Even some of the smaller numbers are encouraging: (from previous TreeHugger post)
* $125 million to restore trails and abandoned mines
* $146 million for trail maintenance at National Park Service sites
* $140 million for volcano monitoring systems
* $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund environmental cleanup program
* $200 million to clean up leaking underground storage tanks
* $500 million for forest health and wildfire prevention
More Green News: Tax Credits for Wind Energy
More good news—a three year extension for tax credits for wind energy. Before the bill, wind energy advocates had to lobby every year to get the credits extended. Now, the tax credit is safe for at least three years—an encouraging message to wind energy proprietors.
What Got Left Out
With perhaps the biggest investment in stimulating a green economy in history, it seems silly to make gripes like 'it could have been better.' But it could have been better. The $12 billion initially proposed for public transit fell to $8.4 billion, seemingly out of proportion to the $27.5 billion allocated to highway renovation.
Even though some unfortunate cuts were made through amendments—no new public swimming pools, for example—some fortunate ones were made as well: 50 billion dollar subsidies for nuclear power and clean coal were thankfully scrapped.
Stimulus in Theory and Practice
As good as all those numbers look on paper, there's still a rough road ahead. And a lot of that's in how efficiently the money flows into the proposed programs. With the money poised to be released to local and state governments in as little as 30 days, it could be difficult to ensure all of the funding is wisely and usefully spent. The New York Times already reports that states and cities are jockeying for stimulus cash. Apparently, they are largely unprepared to organize many of the huge projects—and to efficiently manage the vast sums of money. And those are the "shovel ready" projects like highway repair and building weatherizing—both important, of course, but it's unlikely that states will have as many "shovel-ready" alternative energy development projects on hand. There will likely be more bureaucratic tape to cut through for many of the green projects, and less immediate job generation in those sectors.
That said, it's nonetheless a remarkable step forward in expanding the green economy, and creating green jobs. And though it's far from perfect, it does send an indelible message that our government is finally ready to seriously invest in green.
More on the Stimulus Bill:
Ecological Stimulus Package: Investing In Natural Capital
How Green Is The Economic Stimulus Plan? Search Online With This
Economic Stimulus ! Sometimes What We’re Looking For is Right Under ...