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Stimulate Me

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Stimulate

Etymology: From Latin stimulatus past participle of stimul? ("goad on") .

Verb: to stimulate: To encourage into action. To arouse an organism to functional activity.

Synonyms: encourage, induce, provoke, animate, arouse, energize, energise, excite, perk up

Antonyms: de-energize, sedate, stifle

For eight long years, this nation has been de-energized, had productive advancing of the economy stifled, and good governance sedated nearly out of existence.

Change ... change is sweeping us. We have been stimulated via systematic malfeasance (governmental, fiscal, environmental) into a path that offers the potential for change for the better -- across all facets of society, from the White House to my House.

Barack ...

Stimulate me.

Stimulate us.

Stimulate the U.S. to something better.

Change is reality

The world around us is changing.

This is true when it comes to political power.

This is true in terms of "fiscal realities".

This is true of the world around us and the people we know and ...

Change is normal, nothing is static, ... except when it isn't, such as the reality and risk in the pure physical nature of the world that we are creating via our own actions.

What we desire is to drive change toward betterment, not worsening, of our situation. And, of the situation for generations to come. We have started that process, with an election and a move, for "Change we can Believe In".

I ... You ... We have been stimulated to action and have been excited to the potential for something better to come.

A Stimulus package to come

In the days and weeks to come, details will emerge and battles fought over what will be one of the largest spending packages put together in American history in one of the shortest periods of time. Sparked by the massive economic and fiscal package, the 111th Congress and President Obama will develop and put into place $600 to $800+ billion of spending seeking to stimulate the American (and global) economy out of a free-fall into depression toward future prosperity.

In this package, we are almost certainly likely to see a mix of elements. There are likely to be ill-fated, near-term, ill-conceived 'tax cuts' to spark spending that are little more than renewed and repeated Tax Increases on the Unborn using money borrowed from the Chinese in the interim that have proven so successful under Bush-Cheney Co malfeasance in fostering a stronger economy. (And, we already seeing that far too much of the initial proposal, some 40 percent, is dedicated to tax cuts.) And, there almost certainly will be stimulus efforts to improve building energy efficiency and create green jobs. There will be bad stimulus elements. There will be good stimulus elements. What we must strive to do is minimize and marginalize the first (out with the bad) and maximize and centralize the second (in with the good).

Shorthand ...

  • "Green" Stimulus. Yes. GOOD!
  • Stimulus through strengthening societal fabric via, for example, Universal Health Care start-up costs and educational assistance. Yes. Good.
  • Stimulus through building new roads and expanding airports and other
    pollution supporting / enabling infrastructure. Not so smart. Bad.
  • Stimulus through pathways that have been shown not to work (e.g., any money for 'abstinence only education'). Very Bad.
  • Stimulus through sending checks out via the bank accounts of foreigners? Idiocy. Perhaps even the definition of insanity. These are not 'tax cuts' or 'rebates' but tax increases on the unborn. It is time to end Tax Increases on the Unborn. They were idiocy under Bush. They will be idiocy tomorrow. Borrowing for investment (whether individual or nation), a smart choice. Borrowing against tomorrow simply to consume more today, BAD!

Failure to communicate with congress has
Been a problem for the longest, I guess
But maybe one day we can make some progress
Eminem ... Stimulate

We should strive, in the stimulus package, to prod American on a win-win-win path of improved near-term economic activity (putting people back to work or to better employment), improved long-term economic performance, a strengthened and more equitable society, and a more climate friendly society. We have the opportunity to Energize America out of the economic funk and toward something better. We have AN opportunity, an opportunity emergent through a smart stimulus package, to achieve a real win-win-win-win-win path through an E2 solution path to Energize America toward a better future.

A caveat

Now, the Obama team has set some serious strictures re the stimulus plan. In short, two critical ones are challenged/not fully incorporated in this discussion:

1. It must create/protect jobs within 90 days and 'significant numbers' within six months. This stricture inhibits many steps requiring some degree of preparatory actions (such as planning / design / ordering equipment & supplies) that will strengthen our future path, even if they might start creating real numbers of jobs a year or so into the future.

2. That stimulus elements shouldn't require changing law (only funding) and require setting up new regulatory or other structures.

While understandable, in a desire to have quick impacts with reduced challenges, these strictures inhibit moving forward in the most sensible and smartest ways. In addition to the comment in '1', the reality is that these strictures restrict action to within the structure and concepts embedded in the very policies and regulations that have helped dig these very deep holes. For example, the vast majority of existing transportation funding system favors building of road infrastructure that support expansion of exurban and not-so-smart growth across the country. Those ready-to-go highway projects went through a process which undervalued energy efficiency and, essentially, ignored the very real challenges of Peak Oil and Global Warming. The 'system' was not designed to bring 'green' to the top of the table.

Thus, these imposed strictures aren't part of the discussion below, which focuses on providing a set of ideas and programs that could (should) be core to the stimulus package to enable achieving a 'win-win-win-win' stimulus package. In many ways, these are ideas congruent with the principles that President-Elect Obama outlined last Saturday

We need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term. And this plan must be designed in a new way--we can't just fall into the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem. We must make strategic investments that will serve as a down payment on our long-term economic future.

Thus, in the spirt of out with the bad and in with the good, below are some thoughts (BIG and smaller) for "good" elements to include in the stimulus plan.

Stimulate US in a good way and a good direction

Here are some thoughts as to win-win-win concepts. Some small. Some large. All meeting the criteria set above:
  • Improve near-term economy
  • Improve long-term economic prospercts
  • Improve societal equity (avoid hurting it)
  • Reduce climate impacts

Carbon Neutral Private Buildings: Architecture 2030 (Ed Mazria) has proposed a $170 billion, two-year package to spur energy efficiency investments in private infrastructure (homes and commercial structures via subsidizing mortgages and refinancing. This program could spark $1.5 trillion in economic activity, save private citizens and business $10s (actually $100s) billions/year in energy/other costs, potentially pay for itself through increased tax revenue, accelerate a massive improvement in US building infrastructure energy efficiency with concurrent reduced energy use/pollution, and foster potentially 8.5 million jobs (with specific elements within to foster green jobs). For more, see: Massively effective way to stimulate the economy.

Greening Affordable Housing (especially rental) While the above will drive huge investments in the private sector, including in rental units, we should assure ourselves that that the poorest are not left on the side. For roughly $30 billion, affordable-housing rental units can be brought to high energy efficiency levels, reducing utility costs and improving the living conditions for those renters.

Greening Transport: BruceMcF has, among others, highlighted several key initiatives including rail, increased rail-to-trails, and electrification of America's rail infrastructure. As for the last, a $20 billion federal commitment in the coming two years with a total of perhaps $50 billion over the next decade would help spark a matching private sector investment that would cut perhaps ten percent of America's oil use, more than paying for the total cost via reduced imported oil costs (without even considering the benefits through reduced pollution, etc ...). Combining increased public transport (both supporting improved current operations in the face of local budget cuts and investments in new infrastructure (whether plug-in-hybrid buses or light rail or nodal transport), funding for bike trails and improved pedestrian movement in urban areas, better traffic controls, subsidies for ever-more fuel efficient vehicle developments, electrification of rail and otherwise, the transport sector should see a minimum of $50 billion and preferably $100 billion of the stimulus package.

Intelligent Grid / HVDC grid deployment Core to achieving an energy smart future will be an upgrading of the electrical grid to enable more demand management (controlling, for example, cooling loads to reduce peak demands), distributed power generation and storage, along with the introduction of cleaner energy options (whether renewables of all types, increased efficiency of use of existing resources, or nuclear power). The funding for 'smart grid' should be accelerated, along with acceleration of standards for appliances/such to be able to integrated into a smart(er) grid. (For example, right now refrigerator 'auto-defrost' cycles are random, being able to control these remotely would be invisible to users and enable reducing peak demand cycles.) As for a High-Voltage, Direct Cable, part of the "deal" for federal funding of electrification of rail should be access to rail right of way for HVDC lines for moving power around the country more efficiently. (As an aside, electrification of rail makes essentially every rail spur a potential location for a grid-supported distributed power source whether, for example, a wind turbine, concentrated solar power facility, or small nuclear reactor. The 'connection' to the grid would be near free and the construction supplies/equipment could be moved from site-to-site by rail, potentially greatly reducing the installation costs.) Roughly $20 billion, over the next two years, could spark real movement in these arenas.

Plug-In-Hybrid Electric School Buses (PHESBs) An example of a 'narrow' item, PHESBs are ready to go today, to be coming off the manufacturing line soon after orders flow. But, there are barriers to deploying them (especially as local communities slash procurement budgets to reduce deficits). A $100 million / year program for five years would move PHESBs from marginal (about 18 deployed in a test program) to core in purchasing. This program could easily move beyond school buses to other larger vehicles (think, for example, hotel / airport shuttle buses, local public transport, light trucks, etc ...) but even 'just' school buses would have a wide range of real benefits beyond simply reducing fuel use, to improve student (and community) health with reduced diesel fumes, emergency power generation (imagine if there had been 15,000 mobile 50 kilowatt generators all around the areas affected by Katrina), and a path toward using centralized locations (schools, school bus maintenance lots) for introduction of localized power storage (Vehicle-to-Grid) as part of a smart(er) grid. While such a program could likely absorb more money, $100 million/year would spark a revolution in school transport and start protecting / creating jobs quickly (as school bus orders are plummeting).

AmeriTREC As part of the fostering of renewable energy and a new path forward, the United States should drive forward clean energy deployment (whether targeting Gore's ten year or Google's 20-year plans for eliminating coal from the electrical grid (or my 20 year plan). Efficiency is a key element for rapid and significant change, but introducing clean power is important as well. A network of concentrated solar thermal power (CSTP) plants along the US-Mexican border (both sides) could offer a real opportunity for change: clean electricity, employment, desalinated water supplies, 'greening the desert' with agriculture, and a path for potentially significant carbon sequestration while enriching the soil. Such an AmeriTREC might provide an effective path for providing a significant portion of America's energy with all these ancillary benefits. Combined with using this as a path for ameliorating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps $20 billion in commitment over the coming two years, with the doors open for more if these paths prove as successful as the promise suggests.

Greening Public Infrastructure: We must, as well, invest quite seriously in improving the energy efficiency of public infrastructure. Beyond "energy efficiency", we should "green" our public infrastructure: reducing not just energy wastage but other resource wastage and other forms of pollution. The benefits will go well beyond fiscal savings, as discussed in Greening the School House and in the Building Minds, Minding Buildings project. Dependent on the analysis and approach, this merits between $26 billion (a low-ball, basic energy efficiency figure, imo) and perhaps $100 billion over the coming two years. Note, by the way, the overlap with another issue: simply to bring public infrastructure to 'good' condition. The backlog to bring US K-12 facilities, alone, to 'good condition' might range upwards of $250 billion. Thus, perhaps the investment should be to bring facilities to 'good condition' with additional resources, on top, to improve energy and resource efficiency well beyond 'simply' the basic level of existing code. Thus, perhaps the real investment is $150 or more over the coming two years, with perhaps some ninety percent basically eating into the backlog and the additional funding to improve the quality of the end result.

Marginal funding to improve end products: There will, almost certainly, be stimulus package funds given to states for their expenditure on highway and other infrastructure projects. As per the concept above, could some additional funding be added on top specifically earmarked to spark these projects toward 'greener' choices. For example, providing the investment resources for energy efficiency choices like LED lighting or greater use of coal ash in concrete or ...

Renewable Energy Ammonia Fertilizer Production: Currently, fertilizer comes principally from natural gas and the fertilizer is key to providing enough nutrients for human nutrition. We must move to a cleaner process (even if moving toward more 'organic', natural production globally, much fertilizer will still be needed, at least for decades to come), not-reliant on a fossil fuel. The potential exists to foster wind-based fertilizer production, with even the potential for siting this in the Arctic region and having the 'waste' product be creation of large amounts of ice (reforming the Arctic ice shelf each year?) to help battle the devastation of global warming. $5 billion in the coming two years would move this process along smartly, creating working plants along with test programs for the more aggressive Arctic option.

There are many other arenas, including greening public spaces (such as done by groups like Sustainable South Bronx), need for greening agriculture, expenditure for improving human capital, etc ...

The key point

The stimulus package will have elements that will help dig our holes deeper. The reality of the American political process and structure make this an inevitability. It will, as well, have elements that could help change the situation for the better. Our necessity is to maximize the second and minimize the first.

And, the reality, we have the opportunity before us for win-win-win-win solutions that will help get the US through (and out of) current economic doldrums, strengthen the economy into the future, reduce social inequity and strengthen society, reduce our polluting ways, and help turn us (as individuals, as the U.S., and as a global society) on a path toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future.

The challenges are real. The risks and dangers are not just real, but terrifying. In face of these challenges, we have a tremendous opportunity. We, quite literally, cannot afford to blow this opportunity. The win-win-win paths are there, we must work to convince the national leadership to chose them.

Stimulate Me

I ... You ... We must make the call on our leaders to stimulate U.S. toward something better, to not simply seek to breath life into a polluting and wasteful economic structure that will drive us to even greater problems tomorrow.

My call ...

Stimulate me, stimulate US to something better!

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