Green and Shovel Ready

Putting the Green Recovery Package to Work in Georgia
Released by: Environment Georgia

Executive Summary

Georgia’s reliance on dirty energy is fueling global warming, harming our health, threatening our security, and stalling our economy. Burning coal, oil and gas for energy and transportation is responsible for 80 percent of U.S. global warming pollution and most of our smog and soot pollution.

We can protect our environment and strengthen our economy by investing in clean energy and green infrastructure. If implemented effectively, the green economic recovery plan recently passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama would mean less global warming pollution, fewer asthma attacks induced by air pollution and cleaner lakes and rivers for drinking water, swimming and fishing. It would also provide more sustainable energy in the long term, and create more jobs in the short term than investing in the dirty energy technologies of the past.

President Obama has pledged to make clean energy and green infrastructure a cornerstone of America’s economic recovery. In his first radio address of 2009, the then president-elect said that "to put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will double renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.”

This report provides specific green, shovel-ready projects around Georgia that support the president’s vision for a green economic recovery and, where possible, estimates the environmental and economic benefits of those proposed projects.

These proposals, once fully implemented, would reduce annual global warming pollution and reduce oil and coal consumption. These proposals would begin the transition in Georgia to a clean energy economy and put thousands of people to work.

The following measures represent green, shovel ready initiatives that cities across Georgia have proposed:

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Renewable energy will be a critical piece of Georgia’s energy future. Georgia’s current energy portfolio relies heavily on coal power, which pollutes our air and water and leads to serious health problems that are expensive to treat. Two of the top three dirtiest coal power plants in the nation—Plant Sherer and Plant Bowen—are in Georgia. This over-reliance on coal has led to a 20 percent increase in CO2 in the past five years[ii], an increase matched only in Texas.

Currently, only 4.4 percent of the energy produced in Georgia[iii]. Georgia can upgrade its energy portfolio with investment in clean technology like the following: comes from renewable resources, while the national average is 9.5 percent

Renewable Energy Projects:

  • Solar panels and solar water heaters in public buildings in Athens and Atlanta;
  • Hydro and solar power in Atlanta's park system

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Georgia has great potential to be more energy efficient, which is a cost-effective and environmental way to essentially increase our energy output by making more of the energy that we already use. Right now, the average Georgia home uses 5,800 kilowatt hours of electricity every year; the national average is 4,594 kilowatt hours annually[iv]. In a 2008 energy efficiency ranking, Georgia came in 36th place[v]. Georgia can improve its average with simple, energy saving retrofits. Recovery dollars will help this initiative by funding the following projects:

Energy Efficient Projects

  • Retrofitting of public buildings in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah; and
  • Weatherization of low-income homes statewide.

CLEANER TRANSIT AND TRANSPORTATION

Georgia’s public transit infrastructure is lagging behind the rest of the country. In many cities cars are the number one producer of smog and ozone.  Over 3.2 million Georgians live in areas where ozone pollution and smog make the air unsafe to breathe.[vi]  Poor public transit infrastructure also impacts our quality of life, with more time spent stuck in traffic rather than at home with the family.  In the last eight years, the amount of time an average Atlantan spends sitting in traffic has more than doubled—to 53 hours per year, up from 25 hours in 1992.[vii]  Georgia must act quickly for better public transit infrastructure to improve our air, our health, and our way of life.

Transportation Projects:

  • Streetcar lines in Atlanta's busy downtown'
  • Increased funding and improved infrastructure for Athens Transit System (ATS);
  • Bike trail creation around Metro Atlanta;
  • Biodiesel use in Athens' transit system and fleet; and
  • Replacement of old public vehicles in Savannah with hybrid vehicles.

These and other proposed green, shovel ready projects, if executed through federal investment, would have significant environmental and economic impacts for Georgia.

By implementing a green economic recovery, our state has an unprecedented opportunity on three fronts:

  1. Putting Georgia on a path to avert the climate change crisis;
  2. Providing a massive stimulus to the economy and putting thousands of Georgians to work in quality, local jobs;
  3. Invigorating Georgia’s economy as we lead our state to a clean energy future.

This report surveys the proposals of three Georgia cities and counties and provides a set of recommendations to best accomplish a green recovery, based on research and conversations with various community officials. Environmental, employment and fiscal impacts are assessed where possible based on previously conducted studies, in addition to primary and secondary research.