As of the writing of this article, the current version of the economic stimulus plan exceeds $900 billion. The House of Representatives recently passed the act by a vote of 244-188, but the measure still remains to be passed by the Senate.
Change is on the horizon and growing ever nearer. With a new president and ever-increasing discussion of our shared responsibility towards improving the environment, it’s no wonder a “Green New Deal” is what may be in our near future.
But what exactly does this entail? What will this deal look like on the economic and environmental landscape? While only time can tell, we can take a deeper look at what’s currently on the table and what those in-the-know are saying.
While the bill contains a broad spectrum of measures concerning everything from health-care to education, we’ll be looking at the environmental aspects. When it comes to initiatives that will stimulate the economy’s green side, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (ARRA) includes:
$37.9 billion for energy efficiency +
- $27.8 billion for renewable energy +
- $14.6 billion for public transit and clean transportation +
- = A total of $80 billion in clean energy funding
A few highlights of the bill include:
- $4.5 billion to modernize the nation’s electricity grid with smart grid technology
- $2-$4 billion for research and development on carbon capture and sequestration
- A three-year extension of the investment tax credit for renewable energy production from various qualifying facilities, including wind, biomass, geothermal and hydropower
On Capitol Hill
Regardless of what version of the bill is passed (or on what side of the aisle you sit), the consensus remains that investments in green industries are integral to the nation’s future. “Building up this economy with thousands of green jobs is an investment in inexhaustibly renewable resources – human intellect, ingenuity and America’s capacity for working hard to get the job done,” said Commerce Committee member Jay Inslee (D-WA). “We must adopt an economic recovery package that recognizes the power of innovation, promotes policies that make sure workers get a fair break and invests in innovative green technologies and programs to slow, stop and eventually reverse the progress of climate change.”
In an op-ed piece written for the Washington Post, President Obama wrote that “Now is the time to save billions by making two million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.” Along these lines, Obama has also said that the bill will “save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years.”
In addition to extending clean energy tax credits for three years, the bill makes an adjustment to renewable energy production tax credits that could create or sustain 254,000 jobs in such fields such as engineering, installation, construction and maintenance.
“This bill will deliver more secure energy in the long term; less global warming pollution; fewer asthma attacks from air pollution; more clean lakes and rivers for drinking water, swimming and fishing and more good jobs right here at home,” said Environment America Washington D.C. Office Director Anna Aurilio.
Not Just About U.S.
Beyond the bill itself, the New Green Deal requires a number of entities, from businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to science and technology groups, to develop mainstream ways to implement these new goals. Discussions regarding the ARRA have already stimulated research through a number of firms, such as a the “Pathways to a Low Carbon” report by McKinsey and Co.
Commenting on the findings of the McKinsey report, Dr. Richard Moss, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) vice president for climate change said, “If we fail to act, climate change will alter water resources, agriculture, and ecosystems, resulting in impacts on the economy and human health that could run to the billions of dollars annually in the United States alone. By reducing emissions, we will avoid some of the worst damages and leave the world’s natural heritage intact for future generations.”
By 2030, the report finds that, worldwide, wind, solar and other sustainable, renewable energy sources could be rapidly increased. With the potential to cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55 percent below 1990 levels through these measures, these goals won’t be met without our initial steps and hard work here in the U.S. No matter how the final version of the ARRA looks, it’s time to get our hands dirty and work for a cleaner future.