Democrats in $7bn plan to turn US green
By Leonard Doyle in Washington
Published: 22 August 2007
America's politicians are waking up to the moneymaking and job
creation possibilities of combating global warming and challenging
the Bush administration to invest in a new generation of "green-
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives wants to spend
almost $7bn (£3.5bn) in the coming year to reduce the nation's
enormous carbon footprint. This has put it on a collision course with
the White House, which remains in denial about the dangers of global
A major clash is expected between the White House and Congress in the
autumn, with President George Bush sceptical of the Democrats'
newfound enthusiasm for the environment. The best way to reduce
America's dependence on foreign oil is to drill for more, he
The oil industry is keen to open up vast new areas off Alaska's coast
for drilling. The rising temperatures, brought on by global warming,
have made this a possibility, which the industry wants to exploit.
But, pressed by an increasingly environmentally aware public,
Democratic politicians are pushing green initiatives. The leading
Democratic presidential candidates are also pushing for change and
holding out the prospect of new environment-centred jobs to replace
the hundreds of thousands already outsourced to Asia.
Energy bills before the US House and Senate call for billions of
dollars in new spending on a programme to train workers for the green-
collar economy. They envision jobs for tens of thousands of solar-
panel installers and wind-turbine erectors among initiatives that
will reduce America's oil dependence.
Enthusiasts foresee a ballooning of construction work on a green
buildings, organic farming and solar-panel manufacturing. The green-
collar economy is already booming. Including renewable energy and
clean technology it is already, by some accounts, the fifth-largest
market sector in the United States
The Democrats want to spend $1.9bn for energy efficiency and
renewable energy programs, double what the White House is willing to
spend. They want a nine-fold increase in geothermal spending,
something Mr Bush wants to abolish.
Sensing winds of change, American businesses are also lobbying for
subsidies for everything from corn to ethanol plants and coal-to-oil,
despite dubious environmental benefits.
Frank O'Donnell, of Clean Air Watch, said: "The danger is that the
three sacred cows of the US economy, coal, cars and corn, will hijack
the new mood of environmental awareness. Reduction in pollution is
central, he added, especially tougher restrictions on greenhouse gas
The presidential candidates who are busy seeking votes in Iowa are
all enthusiasts for the corn-to-ethanol economy despite evidence that
it hikes up food prices and increases pollution.
Attempts to increase the miles-per-gallon standards and emission
efficiency of US cars have so far been stopped in their tracks by
lobbying from car manufacturers and unions, but a range of other
initiatives are being promised significant investment. The Democrats
also want to develop a $1bn foreign aid programme to help developing
countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the help of US
"Green is becoming very fashionable," said Congressman David Hobson
of Ohio after winning $500,000 for a geothermal demonstration project
in his constituency. "I think members are going to be challenged in
their districts." He was referring to how they are responding to
concerns about climate change and U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
* Caltech scientists in Pasadena will get £250,000 for the
Superprotonic fuel cell programme, which aims to replace fossil-
* In California, there's £500,000 to pay for demonstrations of the
latest plug-in hybrid vehicles
* In Washington DC, £2m will be lavished on "greening the Capitol" to
make the House carbon-neutral by the end of 2008.