On Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama called for doubling production of alternative energy in the United States over the next three years as part of his “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” In a speech officially rolling out the plan, he also set a goal of retrofitting more than 75 percent of federal buildings and 2 million homes to make them more energy-efficient.
“In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced — jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain,” he said. (He did not say, nor is it entirely clear, why jobs manufacturing turbines and cars can’t be outsourced.)
Obama also pledged to make major investments in infrastructure, including not just road and bridge repairs but construction of a new, national “smart grid” that “will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation.”
A draft of the full plan [PDF] circulating on Capitol Hill outlines more specifics, including a call for a federal renewable-energy standard of 25 percent by 2025 and an extension of the production tax credit for renewable energy.
The draft includes $50 billion in loan guarantees to help the auto industry “retool, develop new battery technologies, and produce the next generation of fuel-efficient cars here in America.” This figure is double what Congress allotted last year, and the Obama plan calls for speedier dispersion of the funding as well.
The plan also calls for the creation of an Advanced Manufacturing Fund that would be used to support promising new manufacturing strategies. There’s no dollar figure on the fund, but the plan says it would be based on a peer-review process and similar to Michigan’s 21st Century Jobs Fund. It calls for a doubling of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which works with manufacturers to improve efficiency and spur new technologies, but whose funding has been cut in recent years.
The plan also reasserts Obama’s campaign promise of investing $150 billion over the next 10 years in clean energy programs, and called for funding for the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, “low emissions coal plants,” and a new electricity grid. There’s also a call for clean-energy job training programs, though there’s no specific figure attached to that, either.
Notably absent from the draft of the plan is any specific mention of funding for public transportation.
In his speech, Obama predicted that his plan would “save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next few years,” the majority of them in the private sector. “It’s a plan that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment — the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work, even as, all around the country, there is so much work to be done,” said Obama. “That’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education, health care and a new infrastructure, that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.”
Obama pledged that the package would be “free from earmarks and pet projects.” In total, the plan is expected to cost between $675 billion and $775 billion over the next two years.
The president-elect emphasized that swift passage of a plan is necessary. “For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied,” he said. “And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.”
UPDATE: Environmentalists are giving a big thumbs-up to Obama’s plan — get the story.