Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Newly minted Slate columnist Eliot Spitzer (yep, that one) has some deep thoughts about, ahem, stimulus. He says the big bucks should be spent on transforming the economy rather than on repairing the bridges, buildings, and other infrastructure of yesteryear, and he names two energy initiatives as top priorities:

In the energy arena, two investments are critical. The first is smart meters. These would permit, with a smart grid, time-of-day pricing for all consumers, with potentially double-digit reductions in peak demand, significant cost savings, and consequential remarkable energy and environmental impacts. These declines in peak demand would translate into dramatic reduction in the number of new power plants. The problem with installation of smart meters has been both the cost and, often, state-by-state regulatory hurdles. Now is the moment to sweep both aside and transform our entire electricity market into a smart market.

Second, the most significant hurdle to beginning the shift to nongasoline-based cars is the lack of an infrastructure to distribute the alternative energy, whether it is electricity — plug-in hybrids — or natural gas or even hydrogen. Once that infrastructure is there, it is said, consumers will be able to opt for the new technology. If that is so, let us build that infrastructure now: Transform existing gas stations so they can serve as distribution points for natural gas or hydrogen, build plug-in charging centers at parking lots, and design units for at-home garages. These would, indeed, be transformative investments.