Economic Stimulus Package Will Boost Science and Green Tech

By Eliza Strickland | February 5, 2009 2:28 pm

moneyFollowing up on President Barack Obama‘s inaugural pledge to “restore science to its rightful place,” the economic stimulus package working its way through Congress includes huge chunks of money for scientific research and the development of green technology.

The bill’s final composition is far from certain, as Republican senators are trying to cut some provisions to trim costs, and the Senate version will eventually need to be reconciled with the version already passed by the House of Representatives. But the proposed numbers are impressive: The current Senate bill includes $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $40 billion for the Department of Energy, and more than $1 billion each for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Many scientists were surprised and pleased to find that the money isn’t just intended for one-time costs like renovations and new equipment, but will also fund basic research. But that funding comes with conditions. With the exception of the NIH, research agencies under the House bill will have to spend the funds within 120 days. That means that the National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, would have to allocate $3 billion — a 50% increase in its budget — in four months. As of last week, the NSF was still figuring out how it could do that [Nature News]. 

Also in his inaugural address, Obama promised: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” The $40 billion pledged to the Department of Energy is a downpayment on that goal, but it’s only one part of the $100 billion in initiatives that are currently part of the nearly $900 billion stimulus package. As it stands, the bill would use tax cuts and government spending for a wide range of projects – everything from building wind farms to helping you replace your energy-hogging refrigerator [CNN]. Money would also go to other environmental projects like industrial site cleanups, improvements in national parks, and upgrades to public transit.

Obama has said repeatedly that building a new energy economy is at the center of his plans to boost the economy and get people back to work. By 2025, the Obama administration hopes one-fourth of the nation’s energy will come from renewable sources. Over the long term, the president hopes to create millions of new jobs by investing $150 billion in taxpayer money to help private companies develop new sources of clean energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal power [CNN]. The stimulus money may shore up young renewal energy companies that are suffering in this economic climate. Many solar power companies have been forced to lay off workers as orders have fallen, and several ambitious wind power projects have stalled when financing deals fell threw.

Related Content:
Cosmic Variance: Help Make the Sausage
Cosmic Variance: Even More on the Stimulus
Cosmic Variance: More on the Stimulus
Cosmic Variance: Stimulating!
80beats: Despite Economic Hard Times, Obama Promises Action on Global Warming
80beats: What Does the Economic Crisis Mean for the Green Tech Sector?

Image: flickr / greefus groinks

  • http://valentinesagefieldvineyard valensage

    Hey, you scientist need to cool your minds. Although your work is in demand for the sake of humanity and nature, this “bail out” money is coming from SOMEWHERE. So, as all of you dance happily around the campsites, remember, your paychecks will inevitably shrink as the bailout grows.
    So, hold your cost to a minimum.

  • PTownGrad

    On the contrary valensage, the funding for science in this bill is key solution to economic crisis, and thank goodness that the President understands that. The way to solve our economic crisis is to get American companies spending money here in America and not overseas. If we took the money that goes overseas to buy our oil and energy, and pumped it into our own economy, we would actually begin such a great expansion, that in twenty years we can pay off our debt at impressively quick rates. Obama has it right, time to prime the pump, let science solve this problem and then worry about the deficit later. However, this puts the ownership on our up-and-coming scientists, figure it out!

  • Tony

    You guys have to understand that there’s a ten year gap between what the government need’s to do and what it will need to do things that will affect us tommorow are happening today , regardless of what obama does or bush did its circling the drain, love you kids and spend your cash the depression is near bitches

  • Annoyed Canadian

    Maybe I’m wrong, but my impression of Discover Magazine is that it is international in scope.

    It would be nice if articles took into account that people all over the world read your articles.

    So when you write about Barack Obama and congress it would be nice to say “American President Barack Obama” rather than “President” as if he is the president of all your readers. And acknowledge the country your are refering to….(the USA) rather than assuming everyone is living there.

    It is a subtle thing that would acknowledge that fact that not everyone reading your magazine and web articles is American.

  • Rafe


    I do no have a problem with The Stimulus, so much as Channel.

    Please, stop using the word “theory” incorrectly. It is NOT “just a theory”, it is a theory, like gravity!

    If it is unproven; would it not be a “hypothesis”, or “hypothetical/ly”, or “possible/probable/ly”?

    Same with “The Science Channel”; same unqualified colligual use of “theory” as an American Jr. High.

  • Reggie Greene / The Logistician

    I am a “systems” and “process” guy. Quite honestly, I do not know, as a citizen, whether conservative policies and principles bring about prosperity or doom, and I do not know whether progressive policies and principles bring about prosperity or doom.

    This is primarily because it is difficult to establish an unquestioned cause and effect relationship, to any degree of certainty, between implementation of policies and their effect.

    What can be said with some degree of assurance is that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, or in other words, things are serendipitous in nature. Whichever party is in power when things are going well will take credit therefore, and probably stay in power. The opposite result flows from when times are bad.

    One reason that Republicans occasionally behave like Democrats and vice-versa is because no one really knows, with any degree of certainty, what works, just that X occurred while Y was in control. It also explains why politicians are constantly talking out of both sides of their mouths, and have revisionist memories when it comes to explaining things. There primary goal is to stay in office and not have to really work for a living. (Just kidding.)

    We should also consider the fact that no party has things go their way during the entirety of its reign. If the causal relationship were so strong, we’d see more consistency.

    Now that being said, I’ve often said, let’s change our Constitution and laws so that we vote for a party and its policies and principles. Which ever party wins, their chosen leaders get to stay in for a longer period of time, let’s say 20 years, and they also win Congress, in its entirety. Allow them to implement their policies and principles, and let us really see whether there is a true cause and effect relationship.

    (Part of the reason we do not have much accountability these days is because it is all smoke and mirrors. No really seems to be able to tell us, with any clarity, what is going on. This name calling and finger pointing across the aisle is ridiculous. It tells me that no one really knows what’s going on.)

    At the end of the 20 year period, if the party in control has not been successful according to some enumerated goals, established before taking control, the other party automatically takes over.

    Under the current system, we will simply argue ad infinitum about what works, with no clear consensus. Although there is some value to consistency and low turn over, there is also some value to fresh new blood, new ideas, and the check presented by a challenging entity.

    It’s worth some discussion.

  • Reggie Greene / The Logistician

    We were just thinking this morning – the mere fact that there has developed an “expectation” that government should address any of our concerns in society is a notion which we should examine carefully. Consider the different reasons for the development of this expectation:

    (a) Government does it best;

    (b) Government is the only way it can be done;

    (c) We abdicated our personal responsibility to handle our own affairs;

    (d) By having government do it, we achieve efficiencies which can not be matched individually; and

    (e) We pay so much in taxes that we want something of value for our money, and as the amount of taxes paid increases, we expect more for our money.

    Some would argue that what we are witnessing in Congress at this point in time is exactly why government should not be allowed to do anything in our society other than those absolutely essential services which can not be provided by the private or non-profit sectors. It is difficult to run any organization, or accomplish any large task, by committee, unless all of the members share the same goals and values. That is obviously not the case with government. We, as a society, have grown to expect the government to perform certain functions; but shouldn’t we be trying to gradually reduce the number of services provided by government, particularly because politicians are intimately connected therewith?


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