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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

"The boost to GDP from every dollar spent on public infrastructure is large – an estimated $1.59." Zandi

Taking Apart the $819 billion Stimulus Package. Source: Washington Post 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is fundamentally an economic stimulus policy. As such, its priorities are to produce a boost to the economy and job creation.  Regarding energy issues, most of the funds directed by the ARRA provided for the creation of new jobs, many of which are in the energy sectors.  The legislation also included $500 million for job training through the Department of Labor for “green-collar” workers.  

"Then there's the argument, well, this is full of pet projects.  When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude move out with no earmarks in it?  Not one."President Barack Obama Because of its focus on economic stimulus and its immediate need, critics argue that the trade-off for economic benefit may be the quality of many funded projects.  The speed of the needed investment into the economy may not guarantee that the funding will go to the best projects or the most qualified recipients.
 
Many proponents of the ARRA argue that the investment in energy-efficiency measures ultimately lead to economic stimulus by providing valuable cost savings with myriad benefits: “Investments in energy efficiency will reduce costs immediately, as cheaper gas and power bills enable households to keep more of their income and the government to offset new debt obligations with lower energy expenditures. To the extent that foregone energy spending is channeled elsewhere in the economy, efficiency investments combine the employment benefits of both building infrastructure and cutting taxes. These benefits continue long after the initial construction work has been completed and make repaying money borrowed to finance the recovery more  manageable. Targeted investments in low-carbon energy technology and infrastructure can add to this by making long-term emissions reduction and energy security goals more affordable and achievable.” A Green Global Recovery?

“Well, you know, you want to replace the federal fleet with hybrid cars.  Well, why wouldn't we want to do that?  That creates jobs for people who make those cars.  It saves the federal government energy.  It saves the taxpayers energy.”President Barack Obama

 

Vishaan Chakrabarti

For Chakrabarti, Density is a matter of environmental and human health: “There are all [of the] secondary and tertiary issues that come around [density]. We just had this huge health care debate in this country, and yet very few people it seems to me study the relationship between public health and density. You look at the statistics, and I think there is a 2003 study in my blog somewhere where it clearly shows that Americans who live in less dense environments are more obese. And that just leads to the cascade of health care problems that we've got, that are particular to this country, in terms of heart disease and diabetes. So it just seems to me that there are layers and layers to this problem that don't go away simply by virtue of people dreaming up how to make the American lifestyle carbon neutral.”  Underdome Interview

While Chakrabarti asserts that energy and health (as well as our dependence on foreign oil) are linked, he criticizes the Obama Administration's health care plan and its failure to pass “the sniff test of cost control.” December 2009, and argues that health concerns can be better addressed by structural changes to land use and density patterns.  
 
“You know what's fun about this topic and what's scary about the topic is that it's kind of about everything. So when you look to the metrics, obviously there are emissions metrics and things like that. But the less obvious ones like health, like productivity, like foreign oil dependence that then triggers our need to spend untold amounts of money and blood on foreign wars and oil rich lands."  Underdome Interview

Amory Lovins

Climate and Economics are bound by win-win efficiency equation, according to Lovins.  Whereas in the past “business could ignore damage to the ecosystem because it didn’t affect production and didn’t increase costs,” increasing severity of climate related natural disasters are causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage that are hurting the bottom line.  Lovins sees “deforestation and climate change, factors that accelerate the frequency and severity of natural disasters,” as “consequences of inefficient industrialization.”  But, Lovins writes, “most companies still do not realize that a vibrant ecological web underpins their survival and their business success.” A Road Map for Natural Capitalism

Lovins rejects economists' claims that it's too expensive to curb energy use: “Most economic models—especially the extreme ones publicized by fossil-fuel companies’ intensive ad campaign—calculate large costs because they assume rigid, constrained, and unintelligent responses to economic signals. The few models that show economic benefit from protecting climate, even if they assume outmoded energy-efficiency techniques and impute no value to reducing carbon or other pollution, merely assume that people and firms behave with the ordinary sagacity and flexibility that market mechanisms offer—and can therefore adopt new techniques that can save far more energy, at far lower cost, at far greater speed, than most theorists can imagine.” Climate: Making Sense and Money
 
Lovins rejects risk-management thinking.  Against the 'myth' “it’s about decision-making under uncertainty,” Lovins argues, “the uncertainty doesn’t matter, because the robust economic benefits depend only on private internal costs and benefits, not on any imputed environmental values or risks.” Climate: Making Sense and Money
 
Another myth: “It’s about who should bear the costs,” to which Lovins responds: “What costs? The interesting question is who should get the profits. That’s a good thing to compete about in the marketplace, but it shouldn’t require difficult negotiations.” Climate: Making Sense and Money

Sustainable South Bronx

SSBx takes a holistic approach to connecting environmental issues to social concerns.  “Many reasons why I love the work that we do is—you know, I remember when I grew up in Oregon the timber industry was really in a place where it was, 'owls versus trees', it was one or the other. Certain things will always die if it’s only one way or the other. And the south Bronx has suffered for a very long time because it went from intense manufacturing to industrialization that doesn’t employ a lot of people. Meanwhile health has suffered.  So if we can really transfer that space and transition to an economy based on looking holistically, then the real efforts of sustainability can be achieved.  Its about trying to always question our efforts and check in to see is it hitting the mark for the jobs? Is it hitting the mark for the environment? Is it hitting the mark for the business side” Miquela Craytor, Underdome Interview

Individuals' interests are brought into account: “When you bring community members to the table and you talk about things like trees, there has to be a clear link to things that are immediate priorities in their lives: things like jobs, and putting food on the table, and health, and asthma, and all of the economic development.” Sheila Somashekhar, Underdome Interview
 
And adapting business models to create change: “I think it's really about this idea of a shift from a pollution based economy to a green economy... We have a green earth installation company that is a model for what we would like to see our economy look like in a lot of ways. We install and maintain green roofs throughout the city, and we hire graduates from our job training program to do that work. It's one idea, but the idea is you can translate that to any kind of business, and that you can turn a profit while still thinking about sustainability and social justice.  And I guess the hope too is that folks graduating from our job training program, or other programs like it, could lead the charge in creating those businesses--getting into those jobs, but also creating those businesses and shifting just the way we do things and the way that capitalism works.” Sheila Somashekhar, Underdome Interview

USGBC

Green building certification can provide some measure of protection against future lawsuits through third-party verification of measures installed to protect indoor air quality, beyond just meeting code-required minimums. With the national focus on mold and its effect on building occupants, developers and building owners are focusing considerable attention on improving and maintaining indoor air quality.

Faster permitting or special permit assistance can also be considered a type of risk mitigation. ... In Austin, Texas, the city fast-tracked the development reviews for a large big-box retailer so that it was able to open 12 months ahead of schedule; the resulting profit gain paid entirely for the $2.8 million building!

Another risk management benefit of green buildings in the private sector is the faster sale and leasing of such buildings, compared to similar projects in the same town. Green buildings tend to be easier to rent and sell, because educated tenants increasingly understand their benefits. Green buildings are also seen as less risky by insurers.

(Yudelson, Green Building Revolution)

Commentary

Bjorn Lomborg

“It's like when your family has to decide where to live. It would be nice to have a great house and be close to a good school. But there's also a budget restriction.” Bjørn Lomborg feels a Chill

“It's clear that they [human health and climate change] are all interrelated. But one of the things that seems curious in the climate change discussion is the insistence that climate change is linked to all these other issues. But they are equally linked back. When we talk about how global warming is going to make people more vulnerable to malaria, that's absolutely true. At the same time, rampant malaria is going to make everyone much more vulnerable to climate change. In a perfect world, we should fix all problems. But in a world where we haven't fixed all the problems in the last 50 years, it makes sense to ask, 'If you fix a large chunk of malaria, how much good do you do?'” Bjørn Lomborg feels a Chill

References

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