We need a green stimulus package.
The federal government has placed at least $700 billion on the table to bail out the reckless finance industry. However, it's done little to subsidize the alternative fuel industry, which had nothing to do with the current economic crisis but holds the key to the economy's - and the environment's - recovery.
The Democrats, with the blessing of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, are suggesting a stimulus package of about $200 billion. We should use at least half of that to move America away from our dependence on petroleum and reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.
Green Jobs for America Campaign, a coalition of environmental and labor groups, is calling for a $100 billion green stimulus program that would include a combination of tax credits, loan guarantees and public investment in environmental technology that it says will create roughly 2 million jobs over two years.
The program, outlined in a report written by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Center for American Progress, calls for investing in new power sources, including wind, solar power and "next-generation biofuels." It also recommends "expanding mass transit and freight rail," "retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency" and "constructing 'smart' electrical grid transmission systems."
The $100 billion program, the report says, "could be paid for with proceeds from auctions of carbon permits under a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program."
The environmental benefits of such a program seem obvious. We would burn less fuel, spewing less carbon into this atmosphere. And we could spare our coastlines and the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge from the ravages of oil drilling.
But the benefits would go well beyond the positive impact on the environment. According to the report, investing in green technologies would create a broad range of employment opportunities, especially in construction and manufacturing work.
It also would lower energy costs for public and private buildings, making more money available for more productive endeavors.
The public infrastructure portion of the program - upgrades to public buildings, public transportation and the electrical grid - could be enacted quickly, according to the report. But to do so would take a commitment to public works spending that the Congress and the executive branch have not demonstrated in more than a generation.
Now is a crucial moment to demonstrate that commitment again, but this time with a green focus.
- Hank Kalet is managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and The Cranbury Press in central New Jersey and a columnist for The Progressive Populist. His blog, Channel Surfing, can be found at kaletblog.com.