01/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Green Bailouts, Green Stimulus Could Be On The Way

Though spending on environmental efforts has long been considered an extra expense, it seems that two famously big spenders -- the United States government and the "big three" automakers -- may be turning to green spending as a way out of grave financial danger.

President-elect Barack Obama is said to be considering an economic stimulus package that includes environmental considerations:

President-elect Barack Obama is considering a stimulus package that will include a heavy dose of spending on environmentally friendly projects aimed at creating "green-collar jobs" and saving energy.

While the package will focus on short-term outlays for traditional infrastructure projects to jumpstart an economy now officially declared to be in recession, it will also include longer-term measures to safeguard the environment.

Meanwhile, GM, Chrysler and Ford are due to submit "viability plans" to Congress today as they haggle for financial support from the federal government. As part of its plan, Ford says that it will be focusing more on environmentally-friendlier cars:

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally plans to tell Congress he is accelerating his company's development of hybrid and electric vehicles and is willing to cut his salary to $1 a year if Ford uses any federal funds.

How things have changed. Under such financial duress, the CEOs have been reduced by ridicule to driving themselves -- in hybrid cars -- to Washington, rather than making use of their corporate jets. From the Wall Street Journal:

In another symbolic move, Mr. Mulally plans to drive a Ford Escape hybrid to Washington, where he and his GM and Chrysler counterparts are set to appear later this week. They were criticized by Congress for flying private jets to the hearings last month. GM's Mr. Wagoner plans to drive a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid to the hearings, while others in his group will travel in a Chevy Cobalt hybrid and a Buick Lucerne that can run on 85% ethanol, said a GM official. Chrysler said CEO Robert Nardelli -- who told Congress last month he would take $1 in salary -- has ruled out flying by private jet this time but didn't say how he would travel.

If written into any viability plans approved by Congress for federal funding, the greener plans could have a real lasting impact on the country's infrastructure, especially if coupled with a green stimulus (or bailout) as people like Van Jones have opined.