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Robert Farley
By Robert Farley February 20, 2009

Stimulus provides money for alternative energy research

This is one of the more vague promises in our database, but we included it because it established a clear policy direction for Obama's energy agenda. Obviously, this promise does not have any dollar figures attached to it, so in order to fulfill it, Obama needed only to put new money into alternative energy research.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the $789 billion economic stimulus package, has a lot for alternative energy. At the bill signing on Feb. 17, Obama boasted it "will double the amount of renewable energy produced over the next three years." Of chief interest to most alternative energy companies are measures to create a Clean Energy Finance Authority to provide loan guarantees and other financial support to relieve the credit crunch that has squeezed the industry. In addition, the plan includes renewable tax credits. Together, the White House expects the plan to lead to nearly $100 billion in clean energy projects.

While significant, those programs don't address Obama's promise to increase federal funding for research into alternative energy like solar, wind and biofuels.

But there's money in the stimulus for that as well.

In a section of the stimulus plan for the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, there is $2.5 billion for "applied research, development, demonstration and deployment activities" that alternative energy companies will be able to tap into. Of that, the bill earmarks $800 million for biomass projects, $400 million for geothermal projects and another $50 million for research to improve information and communications technology. But that leaves $1.25 billion for such things as solar and wind research.

In addition, said Monique Hanis of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the tax portion of the stimulus package includes some provisions that will allow corporations to offset the cost of research and development.

"It's a great bill for renewable energy, it really is," said Gregory Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association.

And while the research money is "helpful" and more plentiful than in the past, Wetstone said, "that's not what's really critical. It's really more about getting the technology that's already out there, and which has been demonstrated to work, deployed."

Nonetheless, Obama promised more money for alternative energy research, and the stimulus bill provides it. We rate this one Promise Kept.

Our Sources

White House Web site, "Press release: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Moving America Toward a Clean Energy Future," Feb. 17, 2009

Taxpayers for Common Sense, Final version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Taxpayers for Common Sense, Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Solar Energy Industries Association, "Executive Summary: Key Provisions Benefiting the Solar Energy Industry in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act"

Interview with Gregory Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association, Feb. 19, 2009

Interview with Monique Hanis of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Feb. 19, 2009


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