The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Emily Robinson, 202-331-5427

Senate Passes Stimulus Package; Science Group Urges Confereees to Accept House Version

Clean Energy, Efficiency Tax Incentives Would Create Jobs; Loan Guarantees for Nuclear and Coal Would Create Problems


By a 61-to-37 vote, the Senate today passed its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes such green initiatives as tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, funding to modernize the nation's electricity grid, and support for research and development of advanced vehicle and battery technology. The bill also includes a special $50 billion addition to the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program, much of which is likely to go to such technologies as nuclear power, liquid coal and coal-gasification power plants. The House passed a recovery plan last week that did not contain that provision and provided more funding to invest in job-creating clean energy projects.

"Although the Senate recovery package isn't perfect, it includes numerous much-needed green, job-creating provisions that will help the nation dig itself out of its current economic hole," said Marchant Wentworth, a legislative analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Energy Program. "Investing in a smarter, cleaner and more efficient and reliable energy system is a proven job creator. Now Congress needs to finish its work and pass a green stimulus bill into law so Americans can get to work transforming the energy sector, rebuilding the economy, and protecting the environment."

Although the Senate bill includes programs that would boost the economy and transform the nation's energy system, senators also expanded a loan guarantee program that includes nuclear power and conventional coal projects.

"The Senate had previously set aside more than $20 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants and fuel enrichment facilities, none of which has been allocated or spent," said Wentworth. The nuclear industry, meanwhile has submitted applications for $122 billion in loan guarantees for 21 proposed new nuclear reactors. Those guarantees would cover 80 percent of the $9 billion that utilities currently estimate each of the nuclear plants would cost.

"These proposed nuclear plants are far from being 'shovel-ready.' It would take years to get these nuclear plants off the drawing board, and the Government Accountability Office has estimated that more than half of them would likely default on their loans," said Wentworth. "Coal liquid and gasification projects would add to global warming pollution and the cost of reducing those emissions down the road. It makes no economic sense for the Senate to add loan guarantees for nuclear and carbon-emitting coal technologies in this bill."

A House-Senate conference committee will convene later this week to hammer out differences between the two versions of the bill. Wentworth urged conferees to adopt the stronger renewable energy and energy efficiency levels in the House bill.

Wentworth also pointed out that the recovery package is just the beginning when it comes to transforming the nation's energy system into an economically and environmentally sound one. He called on Congress to pass a national renewable electricity standard requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. In addition to fostering clean energy development, a renewable electricity standard would help stabilize energy bills, generate good local jobs, and help fight global warming, according to UCS analyses, other independent studies, and government reports.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted renewable electricity standards, helping to make the United States the world's largest wind power producer. According to the American Wind Energy Association, more wind energy capacity was installed in the United States in 2007 and 2008 than in the entire previous 20 years.

Finally, Wentworth said the nation needs a comprehensive cap-and-trade policy to keep global warming emission level low enough to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.