Gov't Casts Doubt on Its Own Stimulus Projections

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration claimed this week that $100 billion invested in innovative technologies under the economic stimulus law is "transforming the American economy" by putting the nation on track for technological breakthroughs in health care, energy and transportation.

But an examination of details in the 50-page report unveiled Tuesday by Vice President Joe Biden reveals something a bit different: a collection of rosy projections that ignore many of the challenges, pitfalls and economic realities in all those areas.

A look at how the administration's claims compare to the facts:
EDITOR'S NOTE — An occasional look at government assertions and how well they adhere to the facts.
Increasing renewable energy

The claim: Thanks to the stimulus, the United States is on track to "doubling U.S. renewable energy generation capacity and U.S. renewable manufacturing capacity by 2012."

The facts: While the Recovery Act has helped increase renewable energy, the fact that it is a one-time jolt makes it difficult to project that the growth will continue for the next couple of years. George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a Washington think tank that promotes renewable energy, said the Recovery Act's cash grant program for renewable energy projects "jump-started a lot of stuff. But there's nothing beyond that."

Sterzinger added that it would be a mistake to link the growth in renewable energy generation to the growth in American-made renewable energy equipment. While the U.S. could probably meet the first goal, he said, it isn't likely to meet the second because much of the equipment is made overseas.

Robert L. Nelson, a partner at the Akin Gump law firm who co-chairs its renewable energy group, said that the manufacturing claim reminded him of a story told in the old Soviet Union. A commissar, or government official, asks a farmer how good next year's crop will be. The farmer says it will be 10 times as good as last year's. The commissar thinks to himself, "Ten times zero is zero."

Nelson said, "When you're looking at where the U.S. is starting from, doubling isn't all that meaningful a statistic."

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