29 January 2009

An Obama Stimulus, Not A Futurama Stimulus

The stimulus package that passed in the House -- without a single GOP vote -- yesterday is not as forward thinking as it appears, despite what Nancy Pelosi said in a news conference.

"This is a bill about the future," Pelosi said. "It is a bill that will guarantee that we will create jobs, that there will be good paying green jobs that will transform our infrastructure, transform our energy and how we use it and our dependence on foreign oil."

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's tally, outlined in the daily green, the StimPack accounts for:

* $3.4 billion for states for clean energy projects
* A grants program for technologies covered by the renewable energy tax incentives
* $6.2 billion for weatherization of low income homes
* $3.5 billion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (supports clean energy projects primarily at the city and county levels)
* $2 billion for clean energy research & development
* $6 billion for increasing energy efficiency in federal buildings
* $12 billion for transit
* $2 billion for ready-to-go drinking water infrastructure projects
* $6 billion for ready-to-go sanitation infrastructure projects.

But the Bill doesn't go far enough, according to some critics, in support of public transportation, including light and high speed rail. Others, however, do point out that transit is one of the larger ticket items in the green portion of the package.

The Sierra Club praised the House Bill, noting that clean energy spending is at $100 billion. But "the bill isn't all green," according to other critics, and the Senate is apparently putting $4.6 billion for coal and $50 billion for the nuclear industry.

Of course, that depends upon your shade of green. Among the coal provisions outlined in a news release and a committee statement issued by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. are:

*$2 billion for "near-zero emissions" power plants designed to capture and sequester CO2
*$1 billion for the Department of Energy's Clean Coal Power Initiative, and
*$1.6 billion for carbon capture at industrial plants.

I'd like to see some investment in such R&D for coal, as it remains the most plentiful resource we've got domestically and comprises such a high percentage of our energy needs today. If we can figure out how to clean it, capture and store it or just reduce its impact, I'm all for it.

And, as for nuclear, I still maintain it needs to be part of the mix.

Another source of criticism of the House Bill may be remedied in the emerging Senate version, which would adjust the alternative minimum tax (ATM), thereby holding down many middle-class Americans' income taxes for 2009.

President Obama's administration has said it would ultimately accept an ATM provision, which may go a long way towards giving the Senate Bill legs. Compromise and consensus may be the key to the Obama presidency.

But with so many other programs stuffed into this StimPack, including many traditional Dem favorites, it's hard to see the future: so much in here looks like the past.

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