President-elect Barack Obama used his radio (and YouTube) address to the nation on Saturday to promise an economic stimulus package aimed at creating 2.5 million jobs in two years, with a strong emphasis on green energy.

“We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead,” Obama said.

That was it, as far as details in the speech itself about green jobs. The New York Times fleshed things out a bit with comments attributed to Obama staffers:

“Nearly every spending program and tax cut that Mr. Obama proposed during the campaign could well end up in the stimulus package, advisers indicated. For example, Mr. Obama’s proposals to invest in energy alternatives and advanced ‘green’ technologies will most likely be part of the package, rather than proposed later in his administration.”

Anyone looking for more insight into Obama’s thinking on how a stimulus plan and green energy initiatives can fit together should check out a pre-election interview he granted to Time columnist Joe Klein and pay a visit to the Web site of a group called the Apollo Alliance.

Klein touched on energy only briefly in the article he based on the interview, conducted 17 days before the election, but the entire Q-A transcript that he posted on Time’s political blog had much more detail on the stimulus-energy nexus that Obama perceives.

Excerpts from the president-elect’s responses:

  • To replace the “easy credit” that drove economic growth for the past 20 years, “there is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.”
  • “I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the meantime, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.”
  • “For us to say we are just going to completely revamp how we use energy in a way that deals with climate change, deals with national security and drives our economy, that’s going to be my number one priority when I get into office, assuming, obviously, that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation.”
  • “The only way to do it (a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gases) effectively is if you are building effective consumer rebates into the plan. The bulk, the lion’s share of any revenue generated from cap-and-trade has to go right back to the consumer.”
  • “We’ve got to figure out a simple way to do it but the point is, is that we’ve got to cushion consumers from those price hikes (resulting from a cap-and-trade program) and then allow technology to catch up in such a way that whatever retrofitting has to be done pays for itself.”

At the beginning of their exchange on energy, Klein called Obama’s proposals on green energy “an Apollo project” – an allusion not just to President John F. Kennedy’s initiative in the 1960s to put men on the moon, but also to a four-year-old organization called the Apollo Alliance, whose name was inspired by the Apollo space program.

The alliance describes itself as “a coalition of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working to catalyze a clean energy revolution in America to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, cut the carbon emissions that are destabilizing our climate, and expand opportunities for American businesses and workers.”

A post on the Apollo Alliance’s blog the day after Obama was elected is further evidence that he has been influenced by its proposals.

Headlined “Hope Wins!”, the Apollo staff blogger declared:

“The clean energy, good jobs community is excited about an Obama win as he named energy and the environment among his first priorities in his speech last night.  Obama’s energy plan is called ‘New Energy For America,’ which borrows heavily from an Apollo Alliance report from 2004.  The Apollo Alliance will play a strong role in shaping policy that will lead America in a new direction – one in which we share broad economic prosperity, are energy-independent and live in a world that doesn’t worry about heating up.”

That 2004 report argued “that a massive investment in Apollo’s ten-point plan would lead to over three million new green-collar jobs, stimulate $1.4 trillion in new GDP, add billions in personal income and retail sales, and produce $284 billion in net energy savings – all while generating sufficient returns to the U.S. Treasury to pay for itself over ten years.”

A summary of Obama’s “New Energy for America” plan is posted on his Web site.

– Bill Dawson