There's word today from the Washington Post that Obama advisers are debating how green the economic recovery plan should be.
As a candidate, Obama promised to create millions of jobs by investing $150 billion over 10 years in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. But that money was to have come from a new cap-and-trade regulation on businesses that generate carbon dioxide. It was before millions of jobs disappeared from the economy as the nation slid into a deepening recession.
Now, there's talk of spending as much as $1 trillion to jumpstart the economy and create jobs -- and the debate inside the Obama transition team seems to be whether or how much of that "stimulus plan" or "economic recovery package" (depending on your favorite phrase-maker) should be spent fulfilling his green jobs pledge.
There's little doubt that Obama could create jobs by investing in new electric transmission, which can transport electricity from far-flung wind and solar farms to power-hungry cities, or energy efficiency jobs corps that could go home-to-home winterizing the houses of low-income Americans or installing solar-powered hot water heaters, or light rail lines that would prompt more Americans to leave their cars at home, or a range of other investments ... The question is how quickly those projects could create jobs.
The focus of most economic recovery stimulus plans of this kind, at least as envisioned by traditional economists, has been "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, like building new roads, shoring up bridges and the like.
One thing is for sure: However much the Obama administration seeks to invest in traditional infrastructure, that money should prioritize "smart growth" projects. It's one thing to be shovel-ready. It's another thing to induce sprawl -- through the building or expanding of roads to and through the far-flung suburbs and exurbs of America. The money could just as easily put people to work building sidewalks, bike lanes, subway improvements, high-occupancy vehicle lanes and the like: Projects that encourage development and quality of life in existing town centers and cities, rather than making it still easier to trade in a low-carbon life in the city for a long commute.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.