RELEASE: ARRA—The Most Important Energy Bill in American History

Reflections on Clean Energy in the Recovery Act, Two Years On

By Bracken Hendricks, Jorge Madrid | February 16, 2011

This column was originally published in Grist.

For the full text of the article, click here.

Washington, D.C. — Today, CAP Senior Fellow Bracken Hendricks and Research Associate Jorge Madrid released an op-ed, originally published in Grist, which argues that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, had been an energy bill, it would arguably have been the single-most important piece of clean energy legislation in our nation’s history. They point out that ARRA drove unprecedented new investments—both public and private—into modernizing America’s clean energy infrastructure. And its clean energy provisions alone have already saved or created 63,000 jobs and are expected to create more than 700,000 jobs by 2012. Now that ARRA has run its course, we need to stay committed to these investments to keep building the U.S. clean energy industry and remain globally competitive.

ARRA served over the last two years to sustain the fledgling American clean technology industry at a time when it was hard hit by economywide contractions in capital investment and struggling to remain globally competitive in the absence of a clear national energy policy. ARRA provided financing tools and signaled clear demand to investors. This helped U.S. businesses rebound, got new projects built, and put Americans back to work. Broadly supported by industry and economists, ARRA infused $787 billion into our nation’s economy. It created investments, saved and created more than 3 million American jobs, softened the blow of the global economic collapse on unemployed workers, sustained the ability of hard-hit cities and states to keep vital public services afloat, and buffered countless American companies from the worst of the malaise.

Clean energy technology now remains one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy and it is projected to grow to $2.3 trillion by 2020. ARRA committed more than $80 billion for the development and deployment of clean energy, and with this initial investment it has set a course for this country to compete with rising nations such as China, whose scale of investment in energy innovation dwarfs our own. China’s policy commitments position them to play a dominant role in emerging global clean energy markets.

A CAP comparison of ARRA investments in clean energy to what had originally been planned in the 2009 budget reveals that the Recovery Act more than tripled spending on innovative clean energy, efficiency, and modern energy infrastructure. For some technologies—such as smart grid investments—ARRA represented more than a 1,000 percent increase in clean energy innovation.

A quick review of the facts:

  • ARRA’s clean energy provisions alone have already saved or created 63,000 jobs and are expected to create more than 700,000 jobs by 2012.
  • More than 300,000 low-income homes have been upgraded with energy-saving weatherization, saving families on average more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone and $161 million in energy costs nationwide.
  • ARRA provided $500 million in funds for green job training that is already helping prepare workers to transition into the new economy—many in some of the hardest-hit regions of the recession.
  • Inner-city green jobs have grown by 11 percent—more than 10 times the rate of job growth overall.
  • A guarantee for a $1.3 billion loan has been finalized to support the world’s largest wind farm right here in America.
  • ARRA helped American motorists retire their gas-guzzling “clunkers” as well as help transition the U.S. auto industry to produce new electric cars and advanced batteries and retool assembly lines to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • Other measures such as the Treasury grant program (section 1603) proved essential to companies in financing new renewable energy projects, driving the industry’s rebound during the Recovery Act period.
  • The Recovery Act’s investments of $80 billion for clean energy will produce as much as $150 billion in clean energy projects due to leveraging private investment.

This column was originally published in Grist.

For the full text of the article, click here.

Bracken Hendricks is a Senior Fellow and Jorge Madrid is a Research Associate at American Progress.

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