Despite the outsized news attention and controversy solar company Solyndra garnered over the past few years, it’s not indicative of all that’s behind the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In fact, the Recovery Act had far more success over the past few years. This is a point that’s backed by firm evidence in the BlueGreen Alliance’s February, 2011 report, “Rebuilding Green,” and further supported by Joe Aldy, a Harvard University economist, who echoes this view in a recent policy paper.
Aldy’s bottom line on the Recovery Act was that the stimulus was worth it, but neither job creation nor reducing carbon emissions are as far along as they need to be. On that point, we can all agree.
According to the BlueGreen Alliance’s February 2011 report, the Recovery Act through the end of 2010 accomplished the following: committed $93 billion in public investment to green economy activities across a range of industry sectors; created or saved nearly 1 million American jobs with this $93 billion investment; provided jobs for some of the country’s most vulnerable workers; increased U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $146 billion with its green economy investment.
The challenges the country faced at the time of the Recovery Act passage were significant. Home prices were plunging, the labor market and wage growth was underperforming, family incomes were flat and as a result consumers weren’t spending money. The triple threat we faced on top of all of this was an energy, climate, and competitiveness crisis.
The strategies in the Recovery Act to combat these threats – federal investments in clean energy, transportation infrastructure construction, building construction, environmental cleanup and broadband build-out – cushioned blows dealt to the economy at the time.
One example of the important Recovery Act investments focused on the American manufacturing sector. Demand for the Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit Program (48C) far outpaced the funding supply. In January 2010, 183 projects in 43 states were awarded a tax credit for advanced manufacturing projects. Recipients included manufacturers from wind, solar, smart grid, automotive sectors and more.
The influx of cash and investments in the Recovery Act has ended, but the effect on the economy has not. It’s hard to gauge exactly where we would be today without the Recovery Act, but without a doubt, we wouldn’t have made the economic gains we’ve made over the past few years without it.
In order to continue the economic good set in motion by the Recovery Act, we must continue to make strategic investments in wind energy, solar energy, transportation infrastructure and much, much more. The Recovery Act was a starting point for a cleaner economy, but it can’t be the end of investments in good, green jobs.
Now that we can put the worst of the economic crisis behind us, with the help of the Recovery Act, it’s time to take on climate change. We can’t avoid the effects of climate change, but addressing its effects will create jobs and create forward momentum for the economy.