On October 1, the national Apollo Alliance announced a plan for clean energy and green jobs that would cost $50 billion a year. When the alliance was framing its proposal, I’m guessing it was shooting for the moon, setting an unreasonably high target in order to raise the sights of Congress and the next administration.
On October 3, the US Congress approved a $700 billion economic stabilization plan. In recent days, it’s discussing a new economic stimulus package that might run to $150 billion. The Apollo Alliance was apparently too timid by a factor of three.
Even more timid, at just $18 billion a year, was the much-more comprehensive, systematic, and—to my mind—brilliant energy plan called Winning the Oil Endgame that Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute colleagues published in late 2004.
In short, a new green-collar stimulus could fully fund both plans. I’m not kidding.
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The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of leaders of businesses, trade unions, and conservation organizations, has sketched a far-reaching plan that includes bold initiatives to raise efficiency in buildings and power plants, boost generation of renewable electricity, convert the electric-power infrastructure to “smart-grid” technology, and provide world-class public transit systems to American cities. Going further, it generously funds research, development, and innovation in the clean-energy technology fields
Unlike most energy policy proposals, however, the alliance’s plan incorporates sweeping new industrial policy initiatives. It includes large public investments in rebuilding the US auto industry (which is rushing toward bankruptcy), building a nationwide infrastructure for cellulose ethanol and other low-carbon fuels, and strengthening domestic manufacturing capacity for the full spectrum of energy efficiency and renewable-energy technologies. It also devotes billions of dollars to training workers, especially low-income workers, to thrive in the new energy economy.
Winning the Oil Endgame is a more sophisticated and detailed plan, if more narrowly focused on oil rather than the whole energy system. Among its plethora of creative proposals are a federal program to buy up and replace with high-efficiency vehicles the gas guzzlers of low-income consumers, federal loan guarantees for airlines to replace their entire fleets of inefficient older planes with high-efficiency new ones such as the Boeing 787, loans and grants to help automakers retool for a new generation of super-efficient vehicles, similar programs for manufacturers of trucks, and multi-million dollar prizes for new technologies that reduce oil addiction.
The only challenge about employing these plans as economic stimulus is the time it will take to implement them. It’s hard to spend lots of money quickly on some of these actions. Fortunately (if you can call such news fortunate), all appearances are that the global economic crisis will be so profound and protracted that the need for economic stimulus will last for a good, long time.