04/15/2009 10:14 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Five Greener Green Stimulus Ideas

Shovel-ready is what everyone seems to want Obama's green stimulus plan projects to be. As in projects that are ready to go right now, today, 2009. As in the many, many highway expansion projects that states already had on their wish lists and drawing boards and are now trying to lobby stimulus plan funds toward.

Maybe not all new highways are bad. Few new highways can really fit the bill for what the Guardian's Dean Baker calls "21st century green infrastructure."

Of course the pressures on the incoming Obama administration to make hefty handouts to strapped states is high. Still, greening infrastructure investment is not rocket science. We should at least be able to convince lawmakers to say no to projects that perpetuate the old energy paradigm and steer it toward a new one. Here are five suggestions:

1) A break for public transport commuters instead of car dwellers. Subsidies directly to public transportation agencies to lower the cost or even temporarily suspend (say between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.) the cost for public transport could be a boon for workers and divert more people from their cars.

2) Forget tax cuts, foster better tax credits. It's beginning to be clear Obama's stimulus plan includes big tax cuts. That's unfortunate, as tax cuts provide such a short term economic effect. Better would be more and smarter tax credits for consumers to do what we rarely find the time to do - make our homes, businesses and lives more energy effective.

3) Put green strings on red infrastructure projects. Right now states have a sovereign right to pick their own projects. So once the money gets in states' hands, its gone, gone, gone. Allocating money to cities instead of states might be one way around this.

4) Start a green National Infrastructure Bank. Lots of smart green ideas need funding not easy to come by these days. Sustainable Business suggests Deutsche Asset Management's idea for a green-themed national infrastructure bank is one way some good green tech can get past the demonstration stages.

5) Jumpstart solar with a Solar Power Authority. Signal Hill Capital Group believes using federal dollars to ramp up domestic solar power plants is a golden opportunity. Wind is well on its way, especially with the entrance of private sector heavyweights such as T. Boone Pickens. A federal "SPA" could help break down the barriers to solar.

Obama needs to make a big splash with his green stimulus plan, which in the minds of many already is spelled "infrastructure, tax cuts, green jobs." However, it's not too late to steer the plan into greener waters.