By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

The stimulus package pending in Congress promises to create jobs, but how green these plans will be is cause for concern and debate.

While environmental advocates are glad to gleeful over the promise of the new administration, they still have questions: Will the focus on energy security overshadow other green moves? Will the sagging economy, which has claimed jobs at solar and wind energy companies just as it has in traditional industries, preempt plans to curb global warming?

While few quibble with emergency assistance to “Main Street,” those with visions of a bright green future worry that money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 could be spent before a more orchestrated plan to marry jobs and green initiatives can be developed or win favor.

Transportation advocates, for instance, noticed that a draft of the stimulus proposal devotes a lot of dollars ($30 billion) to highways, which they see as a missed opportunity to develop mass transit (tagged to get $10 billion). They say that building up intra-city transit and railway connections between American cities could create jobs and energy-efficiencies, with more staying power.

A group of architects, promoting green building as a way out of the economic mire, also sees a window of opportunity in the present bleak space. They propose that buildings, which account for some 40 to 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, could be constructed to be carbon neutral by 2030. That’s right, zero emissions. But only if we stop now to reconsider how we need to change construction practices. Led by Ed Mazria of New Mexico, Architecture 2030 has proposed the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan that envisions a new path for the building trades that would create jobs, vastly reduce energy consumption and lower expenses for homeowners, who’d get better mortgage rates in exchange for making energy retrofits.

Read more about this captivating proposal in our story Saving America with energy efficient homes and better mortgages by Diane Porter.

Conservationists, meanwhile, are hoping that stimulus money can help repair national parks and refuges. It’s hard to find flaws in their proposal to put Americans to work fixing up parks and wilderness areas. The jobs created would be skilled and local by nature (no pun intended); the projects would strengthen our infrastructure and help preserve the biodiversity we’re losing to development. Not only that, it worked (or didn’t work, depending on the historian at the podium) once before during the Roosevelt years, when the Works Project Administration tossed up public buildings like pizza pastry, including some in national parks.

Get up to speed in It’s a natural: Rebuild America’s refuges and parks with green jobs by Shermakaye Bass.

Yes, it’s a new day in Washington, but is it a Green Day?

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