Shocking (but not surprising) facts about the stimulus and green energy

  • Published on September 11th, 2012

Everything you think you know about the stimulus is wrong. At least, if you listen to the naysayers in the GOP.

Talking with Ezra Klein about his new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, Michael Grunwald points out that that, despite the GOP’s doom and gloom, the stimulus started turning things around almost instantly – and a big part of it was the investment in green energy.

The long-term reinvestment part is working. It spent $90 billion for clean energy when we were everything you know about the stimulus is wrong (if you listen to the GOP)spending just a few billion a year. It’s doubled renewable energy. It’s started an electric battery industry from scratch. It jump-started the smart grid.

…But after the financial crisis, everyone knew it wasn’t going to turn around quickly. That changes the rules… the infrastructure, the clean energy, the health IT — that was understood to take longer. But even there, take wind energy, which obviously it takes awhile to get a wind farm going. By the end of 2008, that industry was dead in the water. The day after the stimulus passed, one of the major wind companies, which was pulling out of America entirely, turned around and announced a $6 billion investment in the United States.

But, as Klein points out, the stuff we built isn’t as obvious as a giant Hoover Dam-size project. Grunwald says,

Even the stuff where you actually build big things — the world’s largest wind farm, a half dozen of the world’s largest solar farms — you’ll still use your X-Box the same way. The energy is just coming from somewhere different. The New Deal had the world’s largest dam. The stimulus had one of the world’s largest dam removal projects. People won’t point to that a thousand years from now.

That’s part of why the stimulus isn’t as popular as it might be: If people can’t point to the benefits, they’re less likely to recognize and defend them. But Grunwald says the biggest reason for the shortfall was the GOP’s decision to obstruct EVERYTHING Obama did, even stuff the GOP had originally proposed themselves (remember, both cap and trade and the health care mandate started life at the deeply-conservative Heritage Foundation.)

…those are things that had been bipartisan until January 2009. …until January 2009, every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate had a stimulus, and Mitt Romney’s was the biggest. House Republicans had an infrastructure stimulus similar to Obama’s, and Paul Ryan voted for it. But Republicans made this decision that their path back to power was to oppose everything. There’s a fantasy that Obama should have passed, say, a short-term stimulus bill and a long-term stimulus bill. But he probably couldn’t have gotten that.

One thing the Clinton guys recognized during the transition was that if Obama was going to pass his agenda, he needed to do it now. The halo of post-partisanship and unity wasn’t going to last long, If they were serious about clean energy, that was the time to do it.

… There’s a moment when a senior Senate Republican tells me everything is going swimmingly for the Republicans. This is after the 2010 elections. And I say, well, but Obama got the stimulus and this clean energy revolution and health-care reform and all this other stuff, and he kind of pauses and says, “yeah, we regret that.”

Nice guys. That’s the American economy that boob is talking about… and he regrets it.

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Also: The conservative Wall Street Journal has a poll up… head over there and vote for clean energy!

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.