President-elect Barack Obama made headlines this weekend for proposing -- in broad terms -- an economic recovery plan that he promised would put 2.5 million Americans to work building roads and bridges, refurbishing schools and -- yes -- building wind turbines, solar panels and fuel-efficient cars.
The green collar stimulus package that environmental thought-leaders have been promoting for years -- if not decades -- appears just over the horizon, Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama is to take office with a big Democratic majority in Congress.
Exactly what the economic stimulus will be, and how green it will be, remains to be seen. Obama discussed the plan's broad outlines in a radio address:
Any details being discussed are primarily based on leaks and the like. It could cost $500 billion, or $700 billion.
"That amount, more than the nation has spent over the past six years in Iraq, would rival the sum Congress committed last month to rescuing the country's financial system," writes the Washington Post. "It would also be one of the biggest public spending programs aimed at jolting the economy since President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal."
On the campaign trail, Obama had pledged to foster a corps of workers who would improve the energy efficiency of buildings, both public and private. It's unclear what part that idea might play in the stimulus.
The pledge to transform the auto industry comes at a time when General Motors, Chrysler and Ford have been turned away by Congress, as they looked for another $25 billion or so in loans. The first $25 billion thrown at Detroit was supposed to help them retool factories so they could make fuel-efficient and electric cars. Now, after at least one failed compromise would have removed those green restrictions, any bailout is in the hands of the auto executives, who have been told to formulate a plan if they are to receive more public money.
Meanwhile, the financial system got another $300 billion-plus shot this weekend, as the government bought stock, injected cash into and guaranteed debt for Citigroup. The health of the financial system ultimately will have a lot to do with the success of any green jobs program, since companies looking to build new manufacturing plants for wind turbines, solar panels and the like will need to borrow capital.California lost 25,000 jobs since 1977, and $1.6 billion in electric power industry income alone, due to its aggressive manipulations of the free market, which required industries to produce goods using less energy.
Awful, horrible regulation. What could be worse?
Not having enacted those regulations, it turns out.
Because the state gained 1.5 million jobs because of regulations that boosted efficiency for appliances and buildings, and workers in the state earned, overall $44.6 billion more.
And, consumers saved money on energy bills.
Those are the results of a new study out of the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at the University of California - Berkeley, and detailed in today's New York Times.
Part of the reason the energy-efficiency programs have been so successful, according to the report, is because it shifts consumer spending. When consumer spend less on energy, they tend to spend those dollars on consumer goods and services -- increasing the growth in other industries. And even though electricity rates have gone up in California, consumers still save more because they use less -- about 40% less than the national average.
The report comes at a time when not only California and other states, but the federal government is considering widespread regulations to rein in carbon dioxide emissions and increase energy efficiency. Improving energy efficiency is one of the central tenets of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's energy plan.
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