Image via Wired
"There's a lot of money in play."
Of course, we all know this--the stimulus bill has provided a lot of opportunities to fund green projects in American cities. Thus, it's hardly news that a lot of that money has yet to be allocated. But at a special session at the Clinton Global Initiative today, Obama's Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Develop did reveal some interesting insights on how he plans on using those funds to further sustainable development in the US.Deputy Secretary of HUD Ron Sims was a panelist in the 'Sustainability and the Built Environment' talk, along with participants like the mayor of Copenhagen. He took some time to explain a bit of Obama's strategy in developing US infrastructure, and I have to say, it was largely encouraging, if a bit vague (as usual).
Carrots Now, Sticks Later
First, Sims noted that the administration is involving multiple departments, like the EPA and the Dept. of Transit in the decision making process of how best to administer funds--which, as mundane as it sounds, is actually pretty big news, since, as Sims noted, until now the Dept Housing and Urban Development didn't typically work with those agencies. Long overdue collaboration, it seems--I can't believe it took this long to get the EPA, DOT, and HUD to work together.
Most of the stimulus money for infrastructure is being doled out in the form of grants, he said, and the administration is looking for ways to calibrate efficient building mortgages with private companies. He described the administration's goal for creating sustainable infrastructure as having both leverage and funding. To which the discussion moderator, an editor for the Economist, said, "So it's carrots now, and maybe sticks later." Sims said that was exactly right.
Essentially, the administration is in the process of finding effective ways to incentivize a market for green homes and funding things like better transportation programs and smart grid development.
"We're going to have light rail, we're going to have bikes!"
Sims grew animated when discussing the ambitious goals that we can all be reassured are still very much on the table in the Obama administration. He uttered the above quote when discussing the things being taken into account in the national urban planning process. He said we're starting to see, but he wants to accelerate, a "sea change" in the way people consider communities--he wants to see 3 car garages shrink to 2, then to 1, and then to half that. He believes electric cars will play a strong role in the near future.
And evidently, the Obama administration envisions a future where bikes and light rail play a large role--and though details were mostly eschewed on these subjects, it's good to know they're working in that direction.
More on Obama and Infrastructure
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Obama Plans Massive New High Speed Railroad