An analysis commissioned by the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has concluded that the economic stimulus package will reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 1 percent, a number that Greenpeace says is a good start but would be better if the transportation provisions focused on public transit instead of highways.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which is currently being debated in the Senate, contains about $52 billion worth of energy provisions, which include weatherizing homes, modernizing government buildings, developing a "smart grid" for transmitting electricity more efficiently, guaranteeing loans for renewable energy, and offering rebates for energy-saving appliances. The analysis, conducted by the global consulting firm ICF International, was able to quantify the carbon footprint of about half of this spending.
ICF concluded that this portion of the funds would remove at least 61 million metric tons (67 million US tons) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 13 million cars off the road.
You can download the full report here.
Greenpeace is saying that the bill could be a landmark in the battle against global warming.
“The fact that the federal government could spend so much money and actually help slow global warming means we’ve really turned the page as a country,” said Kert Davies, Greenpeace’s Research Director, in a press release.. “This is a real sign that we’re starting to move beyond the era of fossil fuels.”
Greenpeace's press release cites a report by the National Resources Defense Council [PDF] that estimates that the effects of climate change – including damage from stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels, real estate losses, water shortages, and increased air-conditioning costs – will create a $271 billion drag on the US economy by 2025.
The stimulus bill allots $30 billion for highway construction and another $12 billion for public transit. Greenpeace notes that, if $30 billion were spent on light rail and repairing highways instead of building new ones, the greenhouse-gas emissions would be 10 to 50 times less, because highways tend to encourage more driving and sprawl.
In its press release, Greenpeace recommended the following changes to the bill:
1. Since the job-creation potential of clean energy is virtually limitless, Congress should increase funding for these projects still further. Investments in energy efficiency create 4.4 times the number of jobs as the same investment in nuclear energy and 2.6 times the number of jobs as coal [PDF].
2. Make the renewable-energy tax credits recessionproof. Today, some clean energy companies aren’t earning enough profits to pay taxes and claim the credit. Congress should make the tax credit fully refundable.
3. Eliminate the wasteful and environmentally damaging loan guarantees for nuclear power and liquid coal, which generate far fewer economic and jobs benefits than clean energy.