President Obama, when campaigning for president, pledged to push a plan to spend $150 billion on clean energy. With Congress reaching an apparently firm compromise on the economic stimulus package, he's close to achieving that goal.
The compromise preserves nearly $100 billion for investments in green technology, energy efficiency, mass transit, and other programs designed to decrease our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels, and generate electricity from more renewable sources, like wind and solar power.
In addition to clean energy, about $9 billion will be spent on "shovel-ready" projects that will benefit the environment, according to the Associated Press. Those projects -- new parks centers, pollution cleanups and more -- alone should create 100,000 jobs, according to federal agency estimates.
Tying these investments to a bill whose central purpose is to stimulate the economy is also a watershed of sorts. The debate over these provisions has focused on their ability to create green jobs. That's a far cry from old arguments that pitted environmental concerns against economic development. It's a new era, and the investment Congress is poised to make in clean energy is a sign that the nation's leadership has embraced a point that grassroots campaigners have long argued: Protecting the environment goes hand in hand with true economic development, since the only sustainable economic development preserves the natural resources that drive it.
Global warming is only the biggest example of an unsustainable business model. Burning fossil fuels filled with atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and the consequence -- as evidenced most poignantly recently in wildfires in Australia -- is costly, both in dollars and human welfare.
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