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As reported by Politico, the incoming Biden administration will find itself with an existing, untapped $40 billion “stash” for the Department of Energy to use creatively in funding plans for green energy and the like:

And Biden, who oversaw the Obama administration’s stimulus work as vice president, unknowingly left himself a down-payment for the work ahead: $40 billion in unused Energy Department loan authority awarded under the 2009 stimulus. That pot of money could offer a way to kick start his climate and infrastructure plan at a time when a narrowly divided Congress may balk at his call to spend $2 trillion over four years.

Hmm.  What can one do with that type of money?  The Politico article continues:

Now, advocates say the incoming Biden administration could simply tweak the loan program’s language to make it the backbone of a government-wide clean lending bank that enables the rapid deployment of new innovations, like the installation of batteries and other energy storage technology to support the growth of renewable power.

”There’s a lot that you can do with the money that’s sitting at DOE,” said Dan Reicher, who ran DOE’s energy efficiency and renewable energy office under President Bill Clinton, and jokingly refers to the agency as “the Department of Everything.”

OK, a few things to discuss.  Initially, yes, $40 billion is way, way  too little money to meaningfully solve the Climate Change problem.  No question, whatsoever. But let me make three points.  One, in this coming time of utter Republican obstruction, $40 billion is not chump-change, particularly if it can be multiplied through any creative lending.  Let me give an example.  Democrats rightfully have been outraged by Republicans’ success under Trump in gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — and we all want President Biden to immediately restore this vital and innovative agency.  But I looked up the CFPB’s original budget and it was $533 million.  Clearly, finding a fund worth 400% of the CFPB is good news.

Two, this particular news item comes out of nowhere, and it is hard to believe that it is an isolated example. I very strongly believe that Democrats need to show a greater talent and creativity at crawling through the federal budget and funding laws to find more examples like this. See, Republicans are extremely diligent and resourceful in identifying laws, rules, loopholes, tax cuts, etc. that support their agenda.  But Republicans obviously have no interest in identifying additional federal spending resources.  That is up to the Democrats . . . and I just don't see evidence of them doing that.

Three, I mention all of this because, frankly, this is the arena in which Biden may have a successful presidency — particularly because it is likely to be one term due to his age.  He will have opportunities in foreign affairs and then will need to lead a successful, creative and guerrilla effort to push the Executive powers on the domestic front.  He will need to find $40 billion “stashes” like this and others.  He will need to harness the regulatory and agency powers of the Executive branch.  He will need to be urgent and strong about all of this, including executive orders and other policy directives and decisions.  He has no real choice.  On critical domestic policy, he has no opposition friends, support or leeway.

Joe Biden is a deeply experienced man of government, and has access to all of the talent he can identify.  I’d really like to believe that he will prove to be the particularly right man for this moment.       

  • January 2, 2021