Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Green is the new..... green

Obama signed the stimulus package into law today. Thankfully we have a president and congress who actually believe in renewable resources (and believe the scientific evidence that global warming is both real and caused by greenhouse gases!) and the stimulus package reflects that. A short list of what has been included in the package, with my comments in pink

Solar: Grants will be available, instead of a tax credit, for offsetting 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system at home or business. Large-scale solar plants, often developed to sell power to utilities, also are eligible. This applies only to systems that are installed in 2009 and 2010. Projects that began before the end of 2010 and put in service by Jan. 1, 2017 also qualify. The U.S. Department of Treasury will still need to work out the details of the program.

Consumers who buy qualified solar water heating systems can claim a one-time tax credit that equals 30 percent of the cost of a system. Previously, this tax credit had a cap of $2,000.

Okay, grants are good It's hard for green builders to get funding right now, since no one has any money to lend. Tax incentives weren't helping them anymore. Grants will help this fledgling industry more than tax breaks right now (hear that GOP? tax breaks can't solve EVERYTHING!) I'm not sure why projects need 7 years to be up and running... but I will admit there's a lot about solar energy I don't know. So I'll hold off on negative comments until I know more. The 30% tax credit for consumers is good in theory, but how many consumers can afford to install solar water heating systems right now? Again, with the tax credit - if you don't have they money up front, it's not going to help.

Wind: The production tax credit has been extended through 2012. Last October, Congress extended the credit by only one year. Wind energy developers also can opt for the 30 percent investmen
t tax credit to offset the cost of installing a wind farm, instead of getting the production tax credit.

Businesses that operate small-wind projects can get a true 30 percent tax credit during the year the projects are put in service, instead of a tax credit that was capped at $4,000. Again with the tax credit.... If no one lends these green developers any money, they can't afford to build new projects. I hope it's enough though, we are seriously not doing enough with wind energy.

Smart Grid: The government could reimburse as much as 50 percent of the costs of carrying out smart grid demonstration projects. It also has set aside $4.5 billion for electric transmission and other grid improvements, including the use of demand-response equipment; the money also will be used to carry out energy storage research and deployment. Not really concrete enough for my liking.... but jolly good start!

Fuel-Efficient Cars: A tax credit of up to $7,500 for buying a plug-in hybrid electric car. The new law expands the previous legislation, making the tax credit available to 200,000 cars per manufacturer, instead of 250,000 for the whole car industry. A lower tax credit will be available to buyers of neighborhood electric cars, electric motorcycles and three-wheeled electric cars. Here is my beef with plug-in electric cars: They need more electricity. How is the majority of electricity generated in the US? BY BURNING COAL!!!!! Coal generates 54% of our electricity, and is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. So when we plug in our cars.... we are using dirty electricity to make them go. Unless we get more electric plants to generate electricity using other methods (cough cough *wind* cough) I don't think we should use more plug-in cars. 6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other.

Energy Efficient Federal Buildings: A $5.5 billion program to fund to make federal buildings more energy efficient, including installing solar energy systems. Good. Fabulous. I don't think 5.5 billion is nearly enough, but it's more than was previously available.

Alternative Fueling Stations: A 50 percent tax credit, instead of the previous 30 percent tax credit, for gas stations or other businesses that install alternative fueling pumps that dispense E85 fuel, electricity and natural gas. There is a cap of $50,000 per installation project. Hydrogen fueling stations would get the usual 30 percent tax credit, but the cap has been increased to $200,000 instead of $30,000. All these tax credit increases will be available only for installations that take place in 2009 and 2010. Well if you've been following along, you know my take on tax incentives for green energy in this economy (they're fine circa 4 years ago, don't get me wrong) and electricity for plug-ins. If the electricity came from renewable resources, I'd be 100% for this. But the vast majority of it is going to come from dirty coal.

Energy-Efficient Homes: Consumers can get a 30 percent tax credit for buying certain heating and cooling equipment for existing homes. The purchases will have to be made in 2009 and 2010. Consumers aren't buying much of anything these days, but hopefully a tax credit will nudge them to buy energy efficient heating and cooling equipment. Too bad we bought our new AC last year!!

Batteries: $2 billion in grants for manufacturing advanced batteries for cars and other devices in the United States. Ab Fab. Batteries for hybrids ain't cheap!

(above list from greentechmedia.com)

All in all, it's a good start. A lot better than the previous administration would have done. I'm not overly thrilled, but I am happy that this much is being done.

More Wind and Solar Power!!!


Matt said...

So, I have to ask, on a scale of annoyed to furious, where do you put your response to George Will's recent op-ed on global warming? Here's the link...


The best part of the article are the blatant falsehoods and misstatements (run down effectively here...


Meghan said...

So I was scratching my head when he was saying that global sea ice levels are equal to 1979 levels. I mean, a 1st grader can tell you that's wrong. A You Tube search can get you icebergs calfing at an crazy rate. Satellite photos from 1979 and 2009 can prove that wrong. So I was a little concerned with that statement.

Then I read this part in the talking points memo: In one case, Will wrote that the respected Arctic Climate Research Center had found that global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979. But within hours, the ACRC had put up a statement saying those levels have in fact significantly decreased, and adding: "We do not know where George Will is getting his information."

aka - you're an idiot and please stop talking.