Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where Are the Local Stimulus Packages?

I wrote this piece almost exactly a year ago, but it's still very timely.

Add California to the list of states that "see renewable energy as their future," as the LA Times reported earlier this month. Our employment figures are down on a net basis, but renewable energy and energy efficiency remain bright spots in an otherwise maudlin economy.

"Some states — including Michigan — already see renewable energy as their future: It's the only sector that appears to be making room for more employees despite the recession." Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2009.

With President Obama now inaugurated and many states already working on climate change mitigation plans, 2009 will be the year to turn the rhetoric of the green energy revolution into reality. He stated on the campaign trail: "Breaking our oil addiction . . . is going to take nothing less than the complete transformation of our economy."

Now he's doing more than talk; he has already presented his stimulus package to Congress, calling for over US $800 billion in tax cuts and incentives for infrastructure and — most importantly, from my perspective — US $15 billion in various incentives for renewable energy, better transportation and energy efficiency. Obama has said repeatedly that the need for action on climate change and energy independence is urgent. And he recognizes that strong action to mitigate these problems will also provide a substantial boost to our economy, helping to address the current economic slump.

By my count, that's at least three birds with one stone: climate change, energy independence and a major boost to the economy.

The obvious follow up question: if this equation holds true at the federal level, why not at the state and local levels? A clear difference between the federal, state and local levels is that authority to exceed budget limits in any given year is more restricted for state and local governments than it is for the federal government. But there are many ways to follow Obama's lead without breaking state and local coffers, even on a temporary basis.

Read the rest at Renewable Energy World.

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