Obama signs stimulus plan

February 25, 2009

Written by Martin Lamonica

Martin LaMonica is a senior writer for CNET’s Green Tech blog.

President Obama signed into law a government stimulus package Tuesday and said the energy provisions will pave the path for doubling the amount of renewable energy in the next three years.

Energy is a major piece of the massive $787 billion package, totaling about $38 billion in government spending and about $20 billion in tax incentives over the next 10 years, according to estimates.

 

President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Denver.

(Credit: Screen capture by Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks)

 

Obama signed the bill, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, into law at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where he later took a tour of the museum’s solar-panel installation.

The energy portions of the law are intended to promote rapid development of renewable energy sources and increase energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, and other sectors of the economy.

The president said he hoped that the clean-energy-related portions of the bill will inspire Americans the same way that President Kennedy’s goal to put a man on the moon did in the 1960s.

“I hope this investment will ignite our imagination once more in science, medicine, energy and make our economy stronger, our nation more secure, and our planet safer for our children,” Obama said before signing the bill.

The major energy-related portions of the law were largely left intact after Congressional debate. Overall, the plan will more than triple the amount of spending on clean-energy programs, said Daniel Weiss, a fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Major energy portions include:

 

  • A three-year extension to the tax credit for wind, which would have expired at the end of this year, and an extension until the end of 2013 for geothermal and biomass renewable-energy projects. The credit has been increased to 30 percent of the investment.
  • $4.5 billion in direct spending to modernize the electricity grid with smart-grid technologies.
  • $6.3 billion in state energy-efficient and clean-energy grants and $4.5 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient.
  • $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy systems, biofuel projects, and electric-power transmission facilities.
  • $2 billion in loans to manufacture advanced batteries and components for applications such as plug-in electric cars.
  • $5 billion to weatherize homes of up to 1 million low-income people.
  • $3.4 billion appropriated to the Department of Energy for fossil energy research and development, such as storing carbon dioxide underground at coal power plants.
  • A tax credit of between $2,500 and $5,000 for purchase of plug-in electric vehicles, available for the first 200,000 placed into service.

(Click here for full summary from the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and from law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf.)

Measuring the impact
In general, companies in the green-technology field have welcomed the focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy production in the law.

The law gives renewable-energy project developers an alternative to the existing federal subsidy. Many renewable-energy projects have been stalled, or scrapped, because many investors don’t have enough income to take advantage of a 30 percent federal tax credit. The bill now allows renewable-energy project developers to effectively get the same credit by applying for a loan from the Department of Energy for 30 percent of the project, explained Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).

The loan guarantees are designed to help companies to commercialize new energy technologies, by providing money for a manufacturing facility, for example. A number of green-tech companies, including flywheel storage company Beacon Power, electric-car company Tesla Motors, and battery maker A123 Systems have applied

More generally, investors and analysts said that the significance of the law is that it’s a step toward crafting a more comprehensive energy policy, based on sustained commitment to renewable energy and efficiency.

“For years, U.S. policymakers’ support for clean energy has been uneven,” said Michael Liebreich, the CEO of research firm New Energy Finance, in a statement. “No longer…the U.S. will have a great chance to be the growth engine for our industry over the next several years.

The spending on the bill on things like smart grid technologies and energy efficiency should have a rapid impact, said Dennis Costello, a venture capitalist at Braemar Energy Ventures. But he said that even with the economic stimulus of the government spending, the conditions for energy technology firms remains very difficult.

Specifically, he said the drop in the cost of oil over the past year makes it harder for a firm that is seeking to develop a replacement, such as biofuels. Also, the overall recession continues to dampen demand for products and financing remains challenging.

“It’s kind of refreshing to see at least beginnings of a real energy policy, some sort of unified approach to our energy problems,” Costello said. “But it isn’t going to solve our energy problems. There are a lot of countervailing factors to give pause to being overexuberant on the future of energy sector and clean tech.”

Analysts noted there are other challenges to a rapid change in the slow-moving energy sector.

The stimulus act gives the Department of Energy control over billions of dollars in loans and spending on research and development projects–more than the department’s annual budget. But the Energy Department has not dispersed money in the past few years because of its slow approval process, which Secretary Steven Chu said he intends to speed up.

Also, a sharp increase in renewable energy from wind and solar power requires building new power lines to bring electricity from windy and sunny areas to more populated regions.

Bramaer’s Costello said an industry association estimated that the stimulus act spending could lead to 3,000 new miles of transmission lines. However, siting these new lines is a contentious process and likely to meet local and state opposition.

“Siting of transmission lines is this going to be the Achilles’ heel of renewables,” said Elgie Holstein, a senior energy policy adviser in the Obama administration.

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States: 
I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ”I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.”

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.” Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

 

Published: December 15, 2008
WASHINGTON — The team President-elect Barack Obama introduced on Monday to carry out his energy and environmental policies faces a host of political, economic, diplomatic and scientific challenges that could impede his plans to address global warming and America’s growing dependence on dirty and uncertain sources of energy.

Acknowledging that a succession of presidents and Congresses had failed to make much progress on the issues, Mr. Obama vowed to press ahead despite the faltering economy and suggested that he would invest his political capital in trying to break logjams.

“This time must be different,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Chicago. “This will be a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time. We cannot accept complacency, nor accept any more broken promises.”

Shortly after Mr. Obama spoke, transition officials confirmed that he would select Senator Ken Salazar, a first-term Democrat from Colorado, as interior secretary. Mr. Salazar’s appointment will complete the team of environmental and energy officials in the new administration.

The most pressing environmental issue for the incoming team will almost certainly be settling on an effective and politically tenable approach to the intertwined issues of energy security and global warming.

The point person for these issues will be Carol M. Browner, who was named on Monday to the new position of White House coordinator for energy and climate. Ms. Browner, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton, will oversee two former aides, Lisa P. Jackson, who was selected as the new agency administrator, and Nancy Sutley, who will be the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Joining the group will be Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics whom Mr. Obama designated to lead the Energy Department.

Mr. Salazar, a former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and state attorney general, is a farmer and rancher whose family has lived in Colorado for five generations. He is known as a staunch conservationist and an opponent of developing oil shale on public lands.

His appointment will leave a Democratic vacancy in the Senate. Colorado, which voted for Mr. Obama 53 percent to 45 percent, has a Democratic governor, Bill Ritter, who will name a replacement to complete the final two years of Mr. Salazar’s term. Mr. Salazar’s brother John, a congressman, is among potential appointees to fill the Senate seat.

The intense ideological and regional rivalries that have stalled climate change legislation in Congress for years have not suddenly melted away. And even though Mr. Obama promises to give energy legislation a high priority, he first must stabilize an economy that is shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands each month.

The new team faces political urgency to deliver on promises made by Mr. Obama on the campaign trail. One was his pledge to use a cap-and-trade bill for curbing heat-trapping gases as both the means of shifting investments away from energy sources that cause emissions of such gases and also as the source of the $15 billion a year he promised to invest in advanced energy technology. That figure may be dwarfed by spending on stimulus programs, including so-called green projects like building wind farms and making buildings more energy efficient.

Previous efforts to move a comprehensive climate bill through Congress stalled even without the deepening recession the nation confronts today, said Rafe Pomerance, a negotiator in the Clinton administration on international climate agreements and the president of Clean Air-Cool Planet, a Washington nonprofit group.

Mr. Pomerance said the challenge would be to devise a scientifically rigorous bill that would satisfy lawmakers who fear the costs.

Left unclear on Monday was how the new president’s advisers intend to use the levers of government to get to the “new energy economy” Mr. Obama described. Also uncertain was what relationship they would forge with his powerful economic advisers.

“In policy terms, I think there are big questions about what priority will be given to direct public infrastructure spending versus tax-based incentives versus environmental markets versus direct regulation,” said Paul Bledsoe of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan advisory group. “There is still a very profound debate on all of that.”

The diplomatic tension is driven by the steps required to work toward a new global climate treaty, which the United States and nearly all other nations have committed to completing by December 2009. The last round of talks ended last weekend in Poland with few signs of progress on the main goal, limiting emissions of heat-trapping gases without hampering economic development.

It is widely felt that if the United States does not demonstrate concrete domestic steps to curb its emissions from burning fossil fuels, fast-growing developing countries will continue to balk at taking on obligations to cut their emissions. And while Mr. Obama will enjoy a larger Democratic majority than Mr. Clinton did in his two terms, the Senate has long made such steps a prerequisite for its required consent to any climate treaty.

The scientific urgency comes from the unanticipated recent growth in emissions of carbon dioxide in China, India and other countries with fast-expanding economies. This heat-trapping gas is the biggest concern because its long life, once the gas is released, causes it to build in the atmosphere, something like unpaid credit-card debt, as long as reductions are not made.

Additional pressure comes from growing recognition that market forces alone are unlikely to drive the spread of nonpolluting energy technologies fast enough to matter where all the growth in energy use is at its peak, in the rapidly growing countries of Asia and Latin America.

Nathan Lewis, who leads a team at Caltech pursuing ways to greatly improve solar energy technologies, said the appointment of Dr. Chu as energy secretary sent a strong signal that Mr. Obama understood that any program on climate-friendly energy had to have three prongs: increasing efficiency, moving existing nonpolluting energy technologies more quickly into the market, and advancing on the frontiers of energy science in search of radical breakthroughs.

“Energy efficiency cannot be seen as Job 1 and the other stuff Job 2,” Dr. Lewis said. “You’ve got to do them all as Job 1 because they all have to work.”

Dr. Chu has spoken of using coal to generate electricity as an environmental “nightmare,” but he acknowledges that the nation lacks the technology to replace it or clean it up in the near term. Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for utilities, said that any solution to the climate problem must address these costs and provide consumers and electricity producers time to adjust.

“There will be major costs,” Mr. Kuhn said. “It’s a question of trying to mitigate the costs as much as possible.”

We Need Smart Government!

September 16, 2008

This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Thomas Friedmad spoke on the next great revolution which he called ET (Energy Technology).  What is truly needed to bring about energy independence?

Currently, the US is borrowing from China to pay for oil in the Middle East. The only time we have it, is to record the transactions thru our banking system. This amounts to a legal money laundering.

This is not good government?

What we need is smart government!

Let us bring together the best minds and provide solutions that make sense.  We will move our economy and country forward and create a better future for our children. Pay it forward!

Below is the link of the Thomas Friedman interview this morning.  We should all be listening!

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Let us know your thoughts? Leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

 As reported i Huffington Post Green

By Dan Shapley

How many is 1 million, when it comes to U.S. politics?

 

That’s about two-times as many votes as separated Al Gore and George W. Bush in the 2000 election, and about one-third as many votes as separated Bush from John Kerry in 2004.

And it’s how many votes a new campaign aims to win for the most climate-friendly candidate, at least in the eyes of those new voters.

(The 50 million so-called “Millennial Voters,” age 18-30, make up one-quarter of the electorate, and their numbers are growing more significant demographically: By 2015, 82 million voters in this age group will make up one-third of the electorate.)

The Energy Action Coalition’s Power Vote campaign officially kicks off Wednesday with a message from renowned NASA climate scientist James Hansen lending his voice to the nonpartisan effort, active on 300 college campuses. Its goal is to get those 1 million young voters to embrace a six-plank platform:

  1. Create new green jobs
  2. Invest in new clean energy technology, from public transportation to highly efficient vehicles
  3. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially
  4. Break U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, and nuclear power
  5. Engage in U.N. climate treaty negotiations
  6. Refuse campaign contributions from coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear industries

Though the campaign is nonpartisan, if voters endorse that agenda, they are more likely to vote for Barack Obama, given John McCain’s support for offshore oil drilling and building new nuclear plants as the center of his energy policy. Obama’s energy plan calls for making renewable energy investments central.

Our Perspective:

I looked at the resuls that seperated the 2 elections that George Bush was involved in and it says loud and clear that your vote does count.

Familiarize yourself with the issues and know where each candidate stands on those issues. Let your voice be heard and Vote,

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

As reported by Reuters:

 

(Reuters) – With crude oil prices surging to record highs above $130 a barrel, energy and environmental issues like global warming have moved to the forefront of the U.S. presidential campaign.

 

Here is what Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, who claimed his party’s nomination on Tuesday, are saying about energy and the environment:

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

 

Obama would cut carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and require fuel suppliers to cut carbon content by 10 percent by 2020.

 

McCain favors a cap-and-trade CO2 approach. He sponsored legislation in 2007 to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2050.

 

GASOLINE PRICES

 

Obama would probe energy industry activities and stop filling the emergency oil reserve.

 

McCain wants to suspend the federal gasoline tax during the peak summer driving season and suspend filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a stockpile designed to ensure the United States has a cushion of crude oil to cope with major supply disruptions.

 

(On May 19, President George W. Bush signed a law to temporarily halt shipments to the reserve, which now holds almost 703 million barrels at four underground storage sites, until crude prices drop below $75 a barrel.) 

 

OIL USE

 

Obama would reduce overall U.S. oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030 to offset imports from OPEC nations.

 

McCain has set no specific targets. He has said he will unveil a strategy to reduce reliance on foreign oil sources.

 

VEHICLE FUEL ECONOMY

 

Obama would double fuel economy standards in 18 years, give automakers tax credits to retool plants and invest in advanced lightweight materials and new engines

.

McCain has not specified Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets. He voted against energy amendments in 2003 that would have boosted CAFE to 40 mpg by 2015.

 

BIOFUELS

 

Obama would boost the renewable fuel standard to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030, build the ethanol distribution infrastructure, mandate that all new vehicles be “flexfuel” by the end of 2012 and seek production of 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol from non-corn sources like switchgrass by 2013.

 

McCain favors ethanol incentives after opposing them in the past. He generally opposes subsidies and tariffs that distort the marketplace.

 

Our Perspective:

 

What are your feelings about the current energy issues?

 

Do you believe there is an issue or is this being fabricated by corporate greed?

 

You can probably find some truth on both sides of that statement.

 

In NJ, we are looking at a projected 1.5% increase in electric demand per year for the next 8-10 years. If something is not done to help the providers meet this demand we faces the possibility of rolling brownouts.

 

This oil crisis has been brewing for the last 35+ years. I remember being in college and we had  odd – even days gas rationing. At that time everyone was saying, never again.

 

Guess what? We were only paying about $.30 a gallon.

 

What happened?

 

Well here we are 35 years later and we are now paying $4.00 a gallon and the efficiencies of the auto have not increased.

 

What incentive does the auto manufacturers have when we were willing to buy SUV and Hummers?

 

The US government is even paying subsidies to the oil companies to help keep the price of gasoline lower than what other countries are now paying. That really worked!

 

What do we do now?

 

If we keep going with the business as usual mentality, we will be paying $12 – $15 per gallon in the next couple of years.

 

There is talk that we will probably be paying $5.00 a gallon by the end of the summer.

 

The subsidies must be taken away from the oil companies and they should be targeted to the auto manufactures. There is no reason why a car should not be getting 40 – 50 miles per gallon. There is also many alternative fuel / energy solutions available to wean ourselves off the oil fix and create true independence.

 

We have sent a man to the moon. We have found cures for many diseases that once haunted us. We must take the necessary steps to provide a long-term solution that will provide for our children a better tomorrow.

 

Let us know your thoughts. You may email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

 

Hutchinson Business Solutions

 

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