How the Stimulus is Changing America

by Stephen Spruiell

I have a lot of respect for Michael Grunwald. His reporting on Hurricane Katrina, the ethanol scam, the BP oil spill, is all top notch. I think he sees the renewable-energy picture more clearly than most reporters do. But I think one could easily come away from his latest piece with some mistaken ideas about how the energy piece of the stimulus bill is being spent. Grunwald justifiably reserves most of his enthusiasm for ARPA-E, the goverment’s new renewables research lab modeled on the agency that incubated the Internet, among other technologies. But the stimulus set up ARPA-E with a budget of about $400 million. Compare that to the $40 billion it set aside for loan guarantees and block grants to fund the same unreliable and uncompetitive technologies we’ve been wasting money on for decades now. We could have gotten the benefits of ARPA-E (which I find pretty unobjectionable) without flushing $40 billion. I wish I could share Grunwald’s optimistic view that all this money isn’t just inflating an unsustainable bubble in green tech that is likely to burst at the first signs of serious fiscal strain, but, well, I can’t, because all the evidence I’ve seen indicates that that is what is happening.

At least Grunwald is an honest broker. The AP is out with a fact-check on Biden’s latest stimulus report. The verdict? “… a collection of rosy projections that ignore many of the challenges, pitfalls and economic realities in all those areas.”