Friday, December 18, 2009

A Report on Clean Energy Investments and the Jobs They Create

How much progress have we made in the last year advancing the Clean Energy Economy?  The Vice President has a new report coming out, says Grist's David Roberts:

On Tuesday, the Vice President’s office will send Obama a progress report on “The Transformation to A Clean Energy Economy” (PDF). It’s a wide-angle assessment of the stimulus spending that has gone to clean energy projects, the private capital that has been leveraged by those investments, and the jobs that will be saved or created as a result.  (H)ere are the top line results:
  • Recovery Act investments in renewable generation and advanced energy manufacturing of $23 billion will likely create 253,000 jobs and leverage over $43 billion in additional investment that could support  up to 469,000 more jobs, putting us on track to meet the goal of doubling our renewable energy  generation, including solar, wind and geothermal, in just 3 years.
  • The Federal Government, partnering with industry, has already committed to invest up to $16 billion in plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to power them, as well as new clean fuels.
  • The $4 billion in Recovery Act smart grid investments will likely result in 43,000 new jobs, and be matched more than one-to-one by private sector funding that could support up to 61,000 additional jobs on smart grid projects that will reduce cost, increase reliability and give consumers more choice and control over their energy use. .
  • We are on track to weatherize the homes of half a million low income Americans through retrofits by the end of next year.
  • We are also setting long overdue standards for everyday appliances like refrigerators, microwaves and washer/dryers. 
  • With Recovery Act funding and existing loan guarantee authority, we are investing over $10 billion in CCS projects, which will secure at least an additional $4 billion in private funds to produce $14 billion of public-private investment in clean coal technology.
  • By the end of our first two years in office, we will have provided conditional commitments for loan guarantees for two nuclear power operators to add three to four new nuclear reactors.
  • In 2010, our budget includes $12.6 billion in funding for key science agencies to support advanced research and development at our national labs and universities.
I'd really like to see how that 'clean coal' research does, and how well CO2 stores...  I just don't see this is a viable technology yet, and won't until I'm 100% convinced they've figured out a way to keep all that CO2 in the ground in a safe, secure manner.  Is that really possible?

I'd also like to see the cost effectiveness of these new nuclear plants.  Are they really worth our tax dollar investments in terms of providing cost-effective long-term clean energy solutions?

I also agree with Roberts' two points of analysis:

1. Why not a few victory laps? I worry that in all the anguish about climate legislation and Copenhagen, green activists aren’t doing enough to publicize and build on what the administration is doing.  (S)ocial psychology tells us...(that) people are subject to peer pressure and herding instincts; they like to do what other people are doing. When they hear that other people are investing in energy and efficiency, it will make them more inclined to do the same, not less. It would be better to create the (self-fulfilling) impression that this kind of thing is mainstream than to keep insisting that nothing worthwhile is being done.

2. Investments and regulatory standards create tangible change in the short-term. Everyone is obsessively focused on the exact mechanism for putting a price on carbon, as if it’s the end-all be-all of climate policy. But no politically realistic price on carbon will bite in any substantial way for the next 5-10 years. In the interim, it’s these kinds of investments and standards that will drive immediate private capital deployment and job creation.

Greens should learn the lesson: fight for stronger complementary policies in climate legislation! Larger investments, tighter efficiency standards, higher renewable energy standards. This is the kind of stuff the spurs short-term action; short-term action is what builds political support; political support is what will allow greens to come back later and improve the carbon pricing system. You need a carbon pricing system as the long term engine, but the policies funded by the stimulus bill are spark plugs.

Very good analysis on both fronts.

Point one is something that we talk about fairly frequently on this blog, and also reflect in our actions by doing our part to publicize all the emerging Green Economy solutions that are better for people and planet alike.

Point two is reflected in earlier today's post about the impact of California's tightening efficiency standards for televisions, and is reflected in past posts about California's renewable energy, net metering and other clean energy-advancing standards.

All we can do is our best, and have fun.  And when our best works, and there is progress that ends up being beneficial -- as it is -- we've got to get out there with our horns and build public support for both these successes, and future ones.

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