Hinterland Green

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Power Struggle Brews As Environmentalists, Smart-Growth Advocates Seek to Influence Priorities of Barack Obama's Ecomonic Stimulus Plan

Green jobs in the Obama administration? Well, Barack Obama made that a campaign platform and now the expectations are that he will tackle that in the early years. But a power struggle of some sort is in the works. Environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to influence the priorities of the economic stimulus plan set to be introduced in Congress next month. They are trying to shift the allocation of tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create "green-collar" jobs.

According to media reports, the debate has centered on two competing principles in the evolving plan: the desire to spend money on what President-elect Barack Obama called "shovel-ready projects," such as highway and bridge construction, and other infrastructure to spending on more environmentally conscious projects, such as grids for wind and solar power.
Lawmakers opposed to the emerging-technology projects accuse their colleagues of using the financial crisis to push through pricey policy proposals that they say would do little to boost the economy in the immediate future.

"If we're going to call it a stimulus package, it has to be stimulating and has to be stimulating now. I think there are members of our caucus who are trying to create a Christmas tree out of this," said Rep. Baron P. Hill (Ind.), incoming co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of 51 fiscally conservative House Democrats.

The largest beneficiary of the shovel-ready construction projects would be labor unions. There are fewer of the green-collar jobs, a key focus of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.). These projects often have the long-term potential to revolutionize the economy but tend to lack the short-term bounce of old-fashioned infrastructure work. Not as many of them involve union labor. Labor leaders have refrained from criticizing other stakeholders in the infrastructure debate, saying that the stimulus legislation will provide plenty of money to fund quick-starting pavement projects and environmentally friendly efforts.

"It shouldn't be one or the other," said Anna Burger, chairman of Change to Win, a union group. "In fact, we do have crumbling roads and bridges that need to be repaired. It's not about pitting one against the other. It's about how we find a sustainable economy." They also see opportunities for their membership in long-term "green" projects. "We're committed to green jobs and rapid transit and all the rest of it," said Terence M.O'Sullivan, head of the Laborers' International Union of North America. Source: MSN
I am positive that there will be some middle ground and the results pleasing to both camps. The government has allowed the infrastructure such as bridges, roads, for example, to go so long without maintenance that it will be expensive to repair and rebuild, but vital. The incoming administration has to see that a lot of money is filtered into the broken system to stimulate the economy on all fronts.