We're finally starting to move beyond the era of fossil fuels. According to a new study that my colleagues and I at Greenpeace commissioned from the prestigious consulting firm ICF International, the energy portions of the economic recovery package proposed by President Obama could reduce U.S. carbon dioxide pollution by at least 61 million tons, or about one percent of our annual total.
That's truly extraordinary. Traditionally, if the government spent $800 billion, it would create massive pollution. But by investing in measures like , home weatherization, federal building efficiency enhancements, and simple things like compact fluorescent light bulbs and better appliances, this stimulus package will not only create millions of jobs, but also give us a jump start on fighting the climate crisis and save people cold hard cash..
The other reason that's good news is that global warming is already taking a major toll on the economy. According to NRDC, floods, droughts, sea level rise, and other global warming impacts will create a $271 billion drag on the U.S. economy by 2025 alone. Any effective stimulus must address the growing threat of global warming.
Of course, the stimulus package is far from perfect. In particular, it includes about $30 billion in transportation spending that's slated for state governments to spend how they wish. If they spend it stupid, by putting it into new highway construction (which creates sprawl and paradoxically attract more cars) it would cause 10-50 times the global warming pollution than a similar expenditure on light rail or repairing existing roads. It would also create 19 percent fewer jobs than investing in transit.
And the Senate version includes $50 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear energy, which generates fewer jobs per dollar of investment than any other energy source. With the same investment, we could create 4.4 times the number of jobs through energy efficiency. If we want to maximize our job creation bang for our stimulus buck, Congress has got to shift way more of the stimulus package to ultra-high job intensity green options like land conservation, efficiency, and mass transit.