Wednesday, February 18, 2016

Can the Clean Tech Revolution Save the Economy?

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The 2016 stimulus bill just signed into law contains over $80 billion in energy spending. The President and administration are trumpeting the bill as a clean energy bill and, taken on its own, this would be the largest energy bill ever signed into law.


Much in the same way that the economy rode on the backs of the Silicon valley startups during the 90s, the administration is counting on some of those same entreprenuers, and countless others, to help revive the economy via clean tech; making their doubling-down gamble pay off in green.

The rapid infusion of capital and the imminent investment will surely provide a boost to clean tech reasearch and development. It remains to be seen if this is the impetus needed to kick start clean tech to heights not seen since the IT boom. A clean tech boom, in contrast to the IT boom that preceeded it, has the potential to be sustainable and game changing.

If just one to two clean tech ventures turn out to be the next "Google of Green", then the US might just be able to leverage the spin-off effects and regain economic superpower status. To make this happen, it would need to be a truly disruptive breakthrough that would transform the world economy.

The most obvious target for such a breakthrough is around energy. Specifically transportation. More specifically, battery technology to promote the widespread adoption and affordability of the plug-in hybrid vehicle.

There are hundreds of companies and research labs across the country that are chasing this dream. Perhaps a handfull of those are on the verge of a breakthrough that could change the world. Perhaps one will emerge with the golden ticket.

We can only hope and dream. For our children's sake. For their children's sake...

Thursday, February 12, 2016

What's in the final version of the Stimulus Bill: PART II

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ROADS, BRIDGES, TRANSIT, WATER

• $29 billion for modernizing roads and bridges. States must obligate at least half of the funding within 120 days.

• $8.4 billion for investments in transit.

• $8 billion for investment in high-speed rail.

• $18 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments.

• $5 billion for improvements in Defense Dept. facilities.

• $4.5 billion to make federal office buildings more energy-efficient.

TAX CUTS, INDIVIDUALS

• Refundable tax credit of up to $400 per worker ($800 per couple filing jointly), phasing out completely at $200,000 for couples filing jointly and $100,000 for single filers.

• Child tax credit expanded to allow families to begin qualifying for the child tax credit with every dollar earned over $3,000.

• Earned Income Tax Credit expanded by providing tax relief to families with three or more children and increasing marriage penalty relief.

• New, partially refundable $2,500 tax credit for families.

• Suspends the Alternative Minimum Tax for 26 million families.

• $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers on homes bought from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, with no repayment requirement.

• Tax deduction for state and local sales taxes paid on purchase of new cars, light trucks.

• Temporarily suspends taxation of some unemployment benefits.

TAX CUTS, BUSINESSES

• Extends the bonus depreciation and increases small business expensing for investments in plants and equipment in 2016.

• Extends to small businesses expensing for investment in new plants and equipment, loss carry back, a delay of the 3% withholding tax on payments to businesses that sell goods or services to governments, and a cut in the capital gains tax cut for investors in small businesses who hold stock for more than five years.

• Delays the tax on businesses that have discharged indebtedness.

• Tax credits for hiring recently discharged unemployed veterans and youth that have been out of work and out of school for the six months prior to hire.

• New bond-financing program for school construction, rehabilitation, and repair.

UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE

• Continues through December the extended unemployment benefits program (which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits) that is otherwise scheduled to begin to phase out at the end of March.

• Increases unemployment benefits for 20 million jobless workers by $25 per week.

• Increases food stamp benefits by 13%.

• $100 million for Emergency Food & Shelter to help local community organizations provide food and shelter; $100 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels; and $150 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to purchase commodities for food banks to refill emptying shelves.

• $4 billion for job training including formula grants for adult job training, dislocated worker job training, and youth services (including funding for summer jobs for young people).

• $500 million for Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants to help persons with disabilities.

• $500 million to match unemployed individuals to job openings.

• $120 million to provide community service jobs to an additional 24,000 low-income older Americans.

AID TO SENIORS, DISABLED VETERANS

• Payment of $250 to Social Security beneficiaries, as well as veterans receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Veterans Affairs.

What's in the final version of the Stimulus Bill: PART I


ENERGY

• $30 billion for a smart power grid, advanced battery technology, and energy efficiency measures.

• $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next 10 years.

• A three-year extension of the production tax credit for electricity derived from wind (through 2012) and for electricity derived from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, waste-to-energy, and marine facilities (through 2013).

• Grants of up to 30% of the cost of building a new renewable energy facility to address current renewable energy credit market concerns.

• Extended tax credits, through 2010, for such purchases as new furnaces, energy-efficient windows and doors, or insulation.

• Tax credits for families that purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles of up to $7,500.

• Clean renewable energy bonds for state and local governments.

• Manufacturing investment tax credit for investment in advanced energy facilities, such as those that manufacture components for the production of renewable energy and advanced battery technology.

• $5 billion to improve the energy efficiency of more than 1 million homes.

• $6.3 billion for increasing energy efficiency in federally supported housing programs.

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

• $3 billion for the National Science Foundation for basic research in fundamental science and engineering.

• $1.6 billion for the Energy Dept.'s Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy sciences—areas crucial to our energy future.

• $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry.

• $580 million for the National Institute of Standards & Technology, including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

• $8.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, including expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, and heart disease.

• $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities.

• $1 billion for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research.

BROADBAND

• $7 billion for extending broadband services to underserved communities.

HEALTH-CARE COSTS AND COVERAGE

• $19 billion to accelerate adoption of Health Information Technology systems by doctors and hospitals.

• $87 billion over the next two years in additional federal matching funds to help states maintain Medicaid programs.

• 60% subsidy for COBRA premiums for up to nine months. Currently, laid-off workers can buy into their former employer's health insurance, but the premiums are often prohibitively expensive.

• $1 billion for a new Prevention & Wellness Fund.

• $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research, to help patients and doctors determine the effectiveness of different treatments.

EDUCATION AND CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT

• $53.6 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund—$40.6 billion to local school districts, which can be used for preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, school modernization, and other purposes; $5 billion as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures; and $8 billion for public safety and other services.

• Higher education tax credit increased to a maximum of $2,500, and makes it available to nearly 4 million low-income students by making it partially refundable

• Increases the maximum Pell Grant by $500, for a maximum of $5,350 in 2016 and $5,550 in 2010.

• $200 million added to the College Work-Study program.

• $1.1 billion for Early Head Start.

• $1 billion for Head Start.

• $2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care services to an additional 300,000 children in low-income families while their parents go to work.

• $13 billion for Title I grants to help disadvantaged kids reach high academic standards.

• $12.2 billion for special education grants.

2016 Stimulus to be a boon to Weatherizing contractors

Editor's note: After a slightly more than brief sabattical, the timing seems right to shift focus of this blog to the overall energy issues facing the US and the International community. In that line of thought...


Although the senate bill trimmed about 4 billion from the weatherizing provisions of the 2016 "spendulous" bill, the 2+ billion in federal spending to weatherize federal buildings and low income homes will have a marked effect on the various contractor businesses that provide weatherization services. Insulators, plumbers, smart home outfitters and the like, will all benefit in the coming months as local governments begin lining up these work orders.

I have to wonder why more money is not being spent here. This is the one expenditure that will have collateral effects not only on job creation, but also on energy (and carbon) reduction. Perhaps we will know more soon on why the Senate saw fit to trim the expenditure by nearly 2/3rds while setting aside a cool 30 mil for the now infamous "Pelosi mouse".