'Green business sector' definition makes funding difficult to tally
During President Barack Obama's first campaign, he promised to invest $150 billion to encourage a "green" business sector. In 2009, we rated this In the Works, because the stimulus package included funding for the clean energy industry, energy efficiency initiatives, green transportation, and an upgrade to the nation's electricity grid.
Now with Obama's second term wrapping up, we wanted to see if he had reached the $150 billion mark.
That's where things get tricky.
Kenneth Medlock III is the senior director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University. He says it's difficult to put an exact price tag on money invested in the "green business sector" because it doesn't have a specific definition.
"That can get murky because of how one can count expenditures on the 'green energy business' sector," Medlock said. "Some of these things are direct expenditures to businesses in the 'green' energy space, while others are indirect but still support the effort."
So, while it's impossible to tell what was invested in the so-called "green business sector," billions of dollars were invested into advancing alternative energy and battling climate change.
For example, the Energy Department announced in 2015 more than $59 million in funding to support solar energy. The Obama administration also announced $4 billion in commitments by foundations, institutional investors and other long-term investors to improve clean energy and climate-change solutions.
The Energy Department Loan Programs Office "generated more than $50 billion in total project investment, supported job creation, cut pollution and enhanced American competitiveness in the global economy." It still has $40 billion left for "clean energy projects and advanced technology vehicles manufacturing."
Rachel Cleetus, a lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that research and development for clean energy was a focus under the current administration.
"The Obama administration made a lot of strides in that sense, really starting to kickstart clean energy," Cleetus said.
Obama also promised to "create 5 million 'green' jobs." We rated that Compromise in a separate fact check because, like the "green business sector," the definition of "green" jobs isn't clear cut.
Obama promised to "invest $150 billion in the 'green' business sector." Because it is not clear exactly what qualifies as part of the "green business sector," it is difficult to determine how much money was invested. However, the Obama administration started many clean energy initiatives and programs. We rate this Compromise.
Interview, Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Nov. 28, 2016
Email interview, Kenneth Medlock III, senior director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University, Nov. 28, 2016
Fortune, Trump Says He's Keeping an 'Open Mind' on Pulling Out of Paris Climate Accord, Nov. 23, 2016
White House, New Commitments to Accelerate Investment in the Clean-Energy Transformation, June 2, 2016
PolitiFact, No clear information on number of "green" jobs created, Nov. 14, 2016
U.S. Energy Department, Energy Department Announces More Than $59 Million Investment in Solar, Jan. 29, 2015
U.S. Energy Department, Federal Financing Programs for Clean Energy, 2016
United Nations, The Paris Agreement, accessed Nov. 29, 2016
Mission Innovation, Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution, accessed Nov. 29, 2016
Obama makes progress on green jobs promise
President Barack Obama promised to kill two birds with one stone on the campaign trail: He'd create jobs and improve the environment by investing in green industries.
So far, Obama has made headway on that promise on several fronts.
For starters, he included major investment in the clean energy industry, energy efficiency initiatives and green transportation in the stimulus package passed by Congress in early 2009. Environment America, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups, said the total investment in green projects topped out at $78.61 billion.
Also part of the stimulus package is $4.5 billion to upgrade the nation's electricity grid. These upgrades are intended to improve energy efficiency. But more importantly, the plan includes a mandate to install millions of "smart meters," devices that allow consumers to track energy use in real time and can lower utility bills and reduce power outages. In a separate announcement, Obama said that some of the money would be used to install 850 sensors meant to incorporate renewable energy, like wind and solar power, into the grid, thus helping to solve the long-standing problem of distributing alternative energies throughout the country.
Do all these investments total to $150 billion or 5 million jobs? Not yet, but it is progress toward his promise of creating a green economy. We'll move this promise to In the Works as a result.
Reuters, Obama plans big smart grid announcement , Oct. 26, 2009
BusinessWeek, Hidden Tech Winners in Obama's Green Stimulus Bill , by Celeste LeCompte, Jan. 23, 2009
Environment America, Clean Energy to Power Economic Recovery , accessed Nov. 25, 2009