Obama Signs the Stimulus Bill

Two days ago, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, a $787 billion economic stimulus package. The good news is that $79 billion will be spent on environmentally-friendly measures.

How the $79 billion will be spent

Renewable energy

  • $14 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy facilities
  • $6 billion for the Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program
  • $1.6 billion in tax incentives for manufacturers of advanced energy
  • $1.4 billion for energy-related state and local bonds
  • $268 million to expand tax incentives for residential renewable energy properties
  • $54 million in tax incentives for alternative fuel pumps

Mass transportation

  • $9.3 billion for rail transportation
  • $8.4 billion for public transportation
  • $1.5 billion in competitive grants for state and local public transportation projects

Energy efficiency

  • $6.3 billion for cities, counties and states to increase energy efficiency
  • $5 billion to weatherize over one million homes of low-income families
  • $4 billion to modernize public housing units
  • $4.2 billion to make military bases more energy efficient
  • $2 billion in tax credits for residential energy efficiency improvements
  • $510 million to modernize 4,200 Native American housing units
  • $300 million in rebates for energy-efficient appliances
  • $250 million to make government-subsidized apartments energy efficient

Environmental clean-up

  • $6 billion to clean up sites formerly used by the Defense Department
  • $1.2 billion for EPA clean up programs, including Superfund

Alternative vehicles

  • $2 billion in tax credits to encourage buying alternative vehicles
  • $300 million to replace federal vehicles with hybrids and electric cars
  • $2 billion for advanced car battery research


  • $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research
  • $2 billion for research at the Department of Energy
For more information about the stimulus package:

Update on the Stimulus

Senators to Debate Stimulus Bill

House Passes Stimulus Package

Update on the Stimulus

The Senate passed its version of the stimulus package today. Sixty-one voted in favor, with 36 opposed. Three Republicans voted in favor: Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter. The Senate's stimulus bill totaled $827 billion. The House bill totaled $820 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for a final vote on the combined senate and house bill tomorrow at 9 pm PST/12pm ET.

Obama held first prime time press conference

Tonight President Obama held his first prime time press conference with the financial crisis as his main topic. He pushed the stimulus package, and declared that "only government" can break the "visicious cycle" of job losses which lead people to spend less money, causing more job losses.

The most important feature of the stimulus package, Obama said, is the "fact that it will save or create up to 4 million jobs, because that's what America needs most right now." Over 90 percent of the jobs created by the stimulus package, according to Obama, "will be in the private sector."The Two

Breakdown of environmentally-friendly stimulus spending

The Senate and House version both contain funds for mass transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy transmission. 

Renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy transmission received $53.8 billion ($48.9 billion in the House version), with $14.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The House version is $18.5 billion, with $6.2 billion of it for weatherization and $7.9 billion for energy grants to states. 

Renewable energy systems and electric transmission projects would receive $10 billion in federal loan guarantees. The House version only provides $8 billion. Federal power marketing administrations would receive $6.5 billion to build new electricity transmission systems under both the Senate and House versions. Smart grid technology received $4.6 billion from both the Senate and House. 

Renewable energy projects that are large scale would receive $11 billion in both the Senate and House versions. Companies that manufacture equipment for renewable energy would receive a tax credit of equal to 30 percent of their investment. 

The Senate bill provides $10.7 billion to make federal buildings and vehicle fleets energy efficient. The House version provides $8.7 billion. 

The Department of Defense would receive $3.4 billion to make its buildings energy efficient, but in the House version would receive $4.5 billion. 

Enviromental remediation would receive $7.8 billion in the Senate version, and $6.4 billion in the House version.

Manufacturers of advanced battery systems would receive $2 billion in loan guarantees in the Senate version. 

The Senate bill provides $46 billion in funds for transportation projects:
  • $27 billion for highway and bridge construction and repair 
  • $11.5 billion for mass transit and rail projects
  • $4.6 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers
  • $5 billion for public housing improvements
  • $6.4 billion for clean and drinking water projects

Watch the Verbal Slug Fest Between Senators

Watch the verbal slug fest between Senators Lindsey Graham (R) and Barbara Boxer (D). Graham complained about the sheer size of the sitmulus package, some of which will go towards environmentally friendly projects.

Obama's Weekly Address

Watch President Obama's weekly address:

Senators to Debate Stimulus Bill Monday

The Senate spent about three hours Saturday debating the economic stimulus package. Monday they will continue the debate, and a vote as soon as Tuesday might come. The stimulus is trimmed to $780 billion, according to CNN.

Unfortunately, energy efficiency will receive less, with a $3.5 billion cut from $7 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient. The Environmental Protection Agency Superfund will receive $600 million instead of $800 million. Funds for a federal fleet of hybrid vehicles were cut in half from $600 million.
Energy loan guarentees totaling $1 billion were cut completely, as was $1.2 billion for retrofitting Project Eight housing.

During President Obama's weekly address he said, "The scale and scope of the plan is right." He reminded the American people that using a "losing formula that offers only tax cuts as the answer for all our problems" will not work. The stimulus package, according to Obama, will save or created three million jobs.

Democratic Senators defended the stimulus package. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) said, "An investment today means an opportunity for tomorrow. It improves the functioning of our society. The economic recovery act will do those things today so that in years ahead we can educate our kids, keep them healthy."

The Democratic Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) said, "We're going to work this out. It's a large bill and we have a limited amount of time...We have to do something quickly, boldly."

Republican Senators have continued to complain about the size of the stimulus, reminding the American people of the federal deficit. Sen. Jim Risch called the stimulus a "giant fraud on the American people."

During a Senate debate earlier in the week, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham waved the bill around, saying, "look at this bill." Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) called waving the bill around "theatrical," and asked Graham if he did that "when George Bush was president and he sent down a bill twice as big as that?"

Spending massive amounts on infrastructure and other projects to stimulate the economy goes back to British John Maynard Keynes, a famous economist whose theories somewhat influenced former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's economic policies. However, in 1934 Keynes visited Roosevelt and spoke to him about spending more. According to a New York Times article last month, Roosevelt was "either unimpressed or uncomprehending." As a result it took the massive spending on World War II to revive the American economy.

A Harvard economic professor told the New York Times he hopes "Obama is going to do better" than Roosevelt did. New York University professor, Richard Sylla said there is a lesson to be learned from Roosevelt, namely that "the government has to do much more than it has doen so far."

Stimulus Might Be Passed This Weekend

The Senate Democrats reached an agreement with a handful of their Republican collegues Friday night about the economic stimulus package. There might be a vote on Saturday or even Sunday. The stimulus is expected to be $827 billion. 

The funds for renewables from the stimulus package are needed for the renewable energy sector. Banks are not lending to solar and wind projects, which has slowed down demand. The factories that build wind and solar parts announced layoffs recently. Trade groups are projecting a 30 to 50 percent decline in installing new equipment.

''I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,'' said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, North Dakota, where DMI Industries of Fargo operated a wind turbine towers plant.

''It's absolutely frozen,'' said Craig Mataczynski, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a wind developer. 

The wind and solar energy sectors will not have to wait very long to receive funds. The Energy Department said it will speed up stimulus spending on renewable energy, with the half marked for it, $35-40 billion, spent in a year. The Energy Department will begin extending loan guarentees within six month after the stimulusis is signed into law.

"The secretary is committed to streamlining the process and eliminating unnecessary paperwork so that we can make these important investments that create jobs as quickly as possible," said Energy Department spokesman Dan Leistikow.

Fresno, CA Area Rapidly Becoming a Solar Belt

Gap Inc.’s distribution center in Fresno, CA is now powered by solar energy. Smack dab in the middle of California, with an abundance of sunshine, Gap installed 4,500 solar panels on five acres capable of producing 1.9 million kilowatt hours every year, enough to power about 350 homes. It took six months and cost $7 million to build the solar system.

Designed by Richmond, CA based SunPower Corp., the solar panels use a tracking system that automatically tilts the panel so they capture the most sun. According to SunPower, their solar cells and panels generate up to 50 percent more power than other solar technologies.

Renewable Ventures, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, LLC, own the system. According to the company, “It's an arrangement that's becoming increasingly popular as companies want the economic advantages of solar power without having to pay for building a system.”

"Fresno is a perfect location for these types of projects," said Mark McLanahan, senior vice president, corporate development for Renewable Ventures. "You have plenty of sun, lots of land and air-quality issues. It makes a lot of sense."

Last spring the Fresno Yosemite International Airport flicked the switch on its 4.2 megawatt solar system, the largest kind of any airport in the nation. It will provide 40 percent of the airport’s electricity.

California State University, Fresno, popularly known as Fresno State, finished construction on its 1.2 megawatt solar-powered parking garage late last year. The parking garage has over 3,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels which generate 1.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, supplying 20 percent of the university’s power. It is expected to save Fresno State more than $13 million in energy costs over 30 years.

Last summer the Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) and San Francisco-based Cleantech America LLC announced plans to build an 80-megawatt solar plant in west Fresno County. The solar plant will be 640 acres, and once built, will be the nation’s largest solar plant. The solar plant will not be completed until 2011. However, the first phase could start producing energy in 2009.

Cleantech also announced plans to build a 5-megawatt solar plant in the Fresno County town of Mendota. The plant will be built on 40 acres, and completed in 2009.

The San Joaquin Valley is considered to be the agricultural center of the world. Several large-scale farms installed solar systems. The P-R Farms in Clovis, east of Fresno, installed a 1.13 megawatt system to the roof of its packinghouse in 2005. The California electricity company Pacific Gas & Electric (P.G.&E) paid for half of the solar project’s cost. Although the project cost owner Pat Ricchiuti $3.2 million, in ten years it will “reach full payback.”

Joe Coelho, owner of Terra Linda Farms in southwestern Fresno County, installed a 60,000 kilowatt solar power system on the roof of his onion packing shed. The system will provide about nine-tenths of the packing shed’s electricity, and during the months when the shed is not used it will put electricity in the power grid. P.G.&E will pay for the electricity.

OK Produce, the Fresno County dairy producer, became one of the first businesses in the area to go solar when it installed 2,100 solar panels covering 35,000 square feet in 2002. The solar panels generate enough electricity to power 230 homes.

Other San Joaquin Valley counties follow suit

In Tulare County, which lies south of Fresno, Peninsula Packaging Co. constructed a 10 acre PV solar farm that generates 1.1 megawatts of electricity. The company received a $3.4 million check from Southern California Gas Co. “as a cash incentive” for installing the solar farm.

Further south of Peninsula, the Kohl’s department store in Visalia contains over 2,000 PV panels on its roof which supply 40 percent of the store’s electricity needs. The store in Visalia is one the first Kohl’s stores with PV panels.

According to Paramount Farms in Kern County (the southern end of the Valley), it is the world's largest vertically integrated supplier of pistachios and almonds. It also owns a 1.1 megawatt solar energy plant which generates enough electricity to power about 300 homes.

Understanding Plastic Recycling Numbers

Are you confused by the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers? Do you think that the triangle on the bottom of a container means it is recyclable regardless of the number inside of it? Do not feel badly. I once thought the same thing. However, only numbers one and two are accepted as recyclable by the majority of garbage companies. As a writer for Earth911.org states, “PET and HDPE are the most common forms of plastic, so they are the easiest to find recycling locations for.”

The resin identification coding system was introduced in 1988 by the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. According to the website AmericanChemistry.com, the system was created to “meet recyclers' needs while providing manufacturers a consistent, uniform system that could apply nationwide.”

What does each number mean? As Julie Andrews sings in a movie, “Let’s start at the very beginning.” Number 1 has the letters PET next to it and stands for polyethylene terephthalate. PET is a type of polyester material that “came into prominence in the 1950s as a textile material”“Manufacturers want recycled PET and buy it.” because its “strength, temperature tolerance and wear-resistance made it an ideal replacement for, or addition to natural fibers such as silk, cotton and wool."

Number 2 (HDPE) stands for high-density polyethylene, and is used for “bottles, cutting boards, dipping baskets, dippers, trays, and containers.” Most recyclable companies accept HDPE. It is the “high density version of PE plastic.”

Number 3 (PVC) stands for polyvinyl chloride, which is found in a wide variety of products, including packaging, credit cards, and pipes. It is also used in window frames, flooring, and wallpaper. According to Greenpeace, “the production of PVC creates and releases one of the most toxic chemicals – dioxin,” and can “leak harmful additives during use and disposal.” It is difficult to recycle, so most PVC products wind up in landfills. As one website states, “PVC pipe is everywhere.”

Number 4 stands for (LDPE) low-density polyethylene; “a type of polyethylene (plastic) that is used for moulding, film, pipe conduit, wire and cable.” It is recyclable but “many places do not accept it due to the fact that it cost too much to transport because it is so light.”

Number 5 stands for (PP) polypropylene, which is a “PP is a by-product of oil refining processes.” Although it is possible to recycle PP, very little does in fact end up in recycling plants. The reason is that it is difficult for recycling plants to separate it from other plastic products, and “in many places it is only economically viable to recycle a few select types.”

Number 6 (PS) stands for polystyrene, which is used to make foam products. PS is made from styrene which is “known to indiscriminately attack tissue and the nervous system” and is absorbed through the skin, lungs and intestines. Although possible to recycle PS, most cities do not recycle PS products. It takes about 900 years for PS products to break down in landfills.

Number 7 stands for other. The American Chemistry Council describes it as indicating “that a package is made with a resin other than the six listed above, or is made of more than one resin and is used in a multi-layer combination.”