Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Heart That Beats, Heats, Chills and Whips

By ROBERTA SMITH
The New York Times Published: September 19, 2010

“Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen”: A serving piece by Kenneth Brozen at the Museum of Modern Art.

Sometimes a kitchen is just a kitchen, but not often. If a house is a machine for living, as Le Corbusier said, then the kitchen is its engine. If that machine is seen as a living organism — a house that is a home — then the kitchen is its heart and brain.

The centerpiece of “Counter Space” at MoMA is a Frankfurt Kitchen, 1926-27, designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. More Photos »

The many-splendored thing that is the modern kitchen — as a coherent workspace, object of study and model of efficiency — began to take shape sometime around 1900. It has been a leading indicator of the state of design ever since. It has also been a battlefield of conflicting belief systems, not least regarding the role of women in society. As the use of servants declined, housewives became at once early adopters of new products meant to free them from drudgery and targets of corporate advertising that relentlessly defined them as household fixtures themselves.

Which is to say, kitchens were heavily symbolic sites long before any of us became involved with the ones that bless or blight our individual lives. This is elaborately demonstrated by “Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen” at the Museum of Modern Art.

Using a tantalizing sprawl of design objects, artifacts and artworks, this exhibition places the modern kitchen in a broad historical context. It is bound to invite personal memories: I rediscovered the Ekco vegetable peeler, Chemex coffeemaker and copper-bottomed Revere Ware saucepan of my mother’s kitchen; the Terraillon plastic food scale and timer from my first New York apartment; and the old domed Magnalite tea kettle that an ex-boyfriend cherished.

But in the main, “Counter Space” sprints with dazzling speed and pinpoint precision across an amazing amount of social and aesthetic history, and shows how these histories are connected. The kitchen’s design evolution meshed with the new availability of gas and electricity; with the rise of cities, the middle class and health consciousness; with early stabs at prefab housing; with the growing independence of women; and of course with the emergence of modern design itself, as a self-consciously forward-looking, socially minded discipline whose brief was to improve everyday life for all.

Two world wars fed innovation by making efficiency and conservation pressing matters, creating food and housing shortages and luring women into the work force. As cities grew, the kitchen’s need for regular infusions of fresh foodstuffs, heating and cooling energy, and waste disposal connected it to urban networks that were themselves still taking shape. The kitchen was something like Rome, with nearly all a city’s infrastructure leading to it or away from it.

“Counter Space” confirms that few museums can muster a show of this kind as effectively as the Modern. It been assembled by Juliet Kinchin, curator in the department of architecture and design, and Aidan O’Connor, a curatorial assistant, who have drawn entirely from the museum’s collections. In addition to some 300 design objects clustered according to era, material or designer, it includes posters, paintings, films and film stills, prints and photographs — something from every department.

The museum’s vision of and faith in modernism are a major subtext. MoMA’s historic determination to encompass all that is emblematic of modern life is so breathtaking as to be almost self-congratulatory. “See?” the museum seems to say. “We have this, that and the other, and they’re all relevant and they all fit together in this story.”

But the Modern has the goods. Peter Behren’s 1909 electric tea kettle is here, nickel-plated to resemble parlor-worthy silver, along with a poster he designed two years earlier encouraging the use of electricity. An American poster from 1917 encourages Americans to eat less meat and fat, more grains and vegetables, not for their health, but to save food for Allied troops.

The objects range chronologically from the brown paper bag that Charles Stillwell designed for the Union Paper Bag Machine Company of Philadelphia in 1883 through a Levittown kitchen’s worth of pastel-colored Tupperware from the mid-1950s to Philippe Starck’s overly sculptural Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer of 1988 (a countertop Louise Bourgeois spider) and Smart Design’s far more user-friendly Good Grips peeler of 1989.

The show’s centerpiece is a stupendous recent acquisition: one of the last surviving examples of a relatively complete Frankfurt Kitchen designed in 1926-27 by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000), Austria’s first female architect. It was mass produced for housing blocks built in Frankfurt to meet housing shortages caused by the devastation of World War I, and remains a model of cockpitlike clarity and purpose. Including a grid of small metal bins (for storing rice and the like) that resembles a hardware store, it was one of several determinedly modern kitchens designed mostly in Germany in the late 1920s. But it is probably alone in being the subject of a recent music video tribute by the Austrian musician Robert Rotifer, which is also in the show.

“Counter Space” proceeds in three sections. “The New Kitchen” centers on design up through World War II, when the kitchen was conceived of as a kind of no-nonsense laboratory. Form follows function here, as do metal and glass and a tensile sense of geometry. The mid-1930s brought such classics as Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Kubus stacking storage containers, made of textured glass; Sherman Kelly’s cast aluminum ice-cream scoop, upon which Brancusi could not have improved; and a handy-looking one-shot cake cutter by an unknown designer that could be a Duchamp readymade. Also here are posters from wartime Britain: those by Frederick H. K. Henrion expound on the economies of raising rabbits for food; several more by Herbert Tomlinson single out the destructiveness of mice.

“Visions of Plenty,” the second section, covers the explosion of new materials, especially colorful plastics, and expanding markets and growing residential footprints that followed the war, when one German designer presciently noted that “America has fat kitchens, Europe has thin ones.” In 1968, when the Italian designer Virgilio Forchiassin designed a mobile kitchen unit that folded up into something like a Minimalist cube, American kitchens were in the process of absorbing dining rooms, living rooms and the den.

Clever forms and pretty colors often superseded function. I, for one, can’t imagine putting anything but decorative pieces of fruit in the bright transparent plastic serving dishes that Kenneth Brozen designed in 1963. But this was also the heyday of Braun’s svelte appliances that made plastic seem as refined as porcelain, and signaled a Germany design resurgence; Kaj Franck’s handsomely basic Kilta tableware for Arabia; and works of genius like the wasp-waisted Kikkoman soy sauce dispenser designed by the renowned Kenji Ekuan in 1961.

The final section, “Kitchen Sink Dramas,” centers on the kitchen as grist for the artistic mill starting with Pop Art — Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes, paintings by James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann — and continuing nearly to the present. In a way it is too bad not to devote all the gallery space to design itself, especially since some objects are displayed on high shelves and are difficult to see. But the tradeoff is a sharpened sense of the organic relationship between art and its social context.

An especially vivid example of this relationship is provided by the veritable mother lode of short promotional films and television commercials from the Modern’s holdings in which the presumption of female docility and devotion could not be clearer. Titles like “The Home Electric,” a 1915 silent, and “A Word to the Wives,” from 1955, barely require description. Along with other clips, they supply visual evidence of the stereotypes that artists like Martha Rosler, Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons began to dismantle in the 1970s as the women’s movement got underway. Their works are seen in the show’s final section.

The connection is of course boilerplate art history, but to see it made with real-life art and artifacts against the rich backdrop of this exhibition is something else. Art may not be the best revenge, but it certainly helps.

“Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen” continues through March 14 at the Museum of Modern Art; (212) 708-9400, moma.org.

A version of this review appeared in print on September 20, 2010, on page C1 of the New York edition.
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Drywall Flaws: Owners Gain Limited Relief

By ANDREW MARTIN
The New York Times Published: September 17, 2010

Linda and Randall Hunter own their dream house in Plant City, Fla., with an oversize master bedroom, granite

Linda and Randall Hunter had the drywall removed from their home in Florida. They are living in a trailer on their property.

countertops in the kitchen and a screened-in pool.

Jeff Mayfield, of Louisiana, holding silver he said was tarnished from contaminated drywall.

The problem is they cannot bear to live there. For the last several months, the Hunters have been camped out in the side yard in a trailer — uncomfortable mattresses and all — because faulty drywall left the house smelling awful.

“Living in the trailer is no easy thing,” Ms. Hunter said. “But I count my blessings that I have someplace to go.”

The Hunters are among thousands of homeowners in 38 states who have been searching for alternate housing because of worries about drywall in their homes that emits sulfur fumes and, many believe, makes them sick.

Many of the homeowners have bought or rented a second home, an expense that has pushed some to the brink. Others have had no choice but to sell at a big loss. Still others have continued living in their homes with air-conditioners running full blast to hold down the rotten-egg odor.

“My property right now has no value — it’s toxic,” said Aiasha Johnson, 30, a school teacher who lives with her husband and two children in Deerfield Beach, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale. Besides running the air-conditioning, Ms. Johnson said she painted the walls frequently to mitigate the smell.

“I can’t sell it. I can’t do anything,” she said.

Complaints about the drywall, or wallboard, which was mostly made in China, first surfaced a few years ago, and hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court to recover money to replace it. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has received 3,500 complaints about the drywall and says it believes thousands more have not reported the problem.

But so far the relief has been negligible. Most insurance companies have yet to pay a dime. Only a handful of home builders have stepped forward to replace the tainted drywall. Help offered by the government — like encouraging lenders to suspend mortgage payments and reducing property taxes on damaged homes — has not addressed the core problem of replacing the drywall. And Chinese manufacturers have argued that United States courts do not have jurisdiction over them.

“They are hiding behind the ocean,” said Arnold Levin, lead lawyer in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of Chinese drywall in federal court in New Orleans.

The contaminated drywall contains higher levels of sulfur than regular drywall, and it emits hydrogen sulfide gas that corrodes metal and wreaks havoc on air-conditioners and other electronic equipment as well as wiring, according to federal officials and homeowners. Most of it was installed in homes after 2004, when supplies of American-made products were limited by a housing boom and post-hurricane reconstruction.

Homeowners complain of health problems like difficulty breathing, runny noses and recurrent headaches. The federal government has found no definitive link between the drywall and illnesses, but has nonetheless recommended that homeowners gut their homes and replace the drywall and wiring, a process that can easily cost $100,000. The Hunters had lived in their newly built house for only three and a half years, but during that time they experienced one problem after the next, from an inexplicable chemical odor to appliances that constantly malfunctioned.

The Hunters decided to buy the trailer — it cost $18,000 — after their insurance company told them it would not cover their home for vandalism or theft if they moved. They are now gutting their house with their own money and hope to eventually recoup their expenses in court.

“The trailer is a life raft,” said Ms. Hunter, 57.

A few dozen of the cases have been linked to American-made drywall, but the vast majority of the problems are tied to Chinese drywall, federal officials said. One of the major Chinese manufacturers, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, is in negotiations to settle with homeowners.

“There’s no question that the goal of the company is to assist homeowners to get their homes fixed,” said Steven Glickstein, a lawyer for Knauf. “We just want to make sure the repair costs are reasonable and that all parties that are involved make their fair contribution.”

But as the court case in New Orleans demonstrates — roughly 5,600 homeowners are suing 1,600 or so defendants, including manufacturers, builders, installers and insurers — the wait is expected to be long, leaving most homeowners to fend for themselves. One of them, John Willis, is trying to get used to living with little or no access to credit, the result of stopping payments on his contaminated house. A lawyer, Mr. Willis, 44, said he and his wife, Lori, built their dream home in Parkland, Fla., also near Fort Lauderdale, at the end of 2006 and paid $906,000.

Besides chronic electrical problems, he said his family had experienced a variety of health woes; the older of his two sons, Brannon, had so many sinus infections that he was hospitalized. Once he discovered the defective drywall, Mr. Willis said he made arrangements to move into a rental.

Since then, Mr. Willis said his family’s health had improved and his house was sold by the bank in a short sale for $315,000. But he said his credit was now shot, and he worried that debt collectors might come after him for the roughly $500,000 that remained on his mortgage.

“We’ve never really lived without credit before,” he said. “It’s going to be an adventure.”

In Louisiana, Jeffrey Mayfield, 32, said his wife was pregnant with their second child when they discovered Chinese drywall in their home in Madisonville, a New Orleans suburb. Her doctor urged them to move, so they bought a second house. But Mr. Mayfield said paying two mortgages had become so onerous that he had considered bankruptcy, foreclosure and most recently, a short sale.

“It’s getting to the point where I’m going into credit card debt because I can’t afford to pay two mortgages and all my bills,” he said.

Nearby, the Chiappetta family has been forced out of their home for the second time in five years. Hurricane Katrina destroyed their previous home in St. Bernard Parish, and defective drywall has taken their replacement house in Madisonville.

The Chiappettas stayed in the house for nearly six months after discovering Chinese drywall, but Kevin Chiappetta said concerns about his wife’s and daughter’s health gnawed at him.

“Every day we stayed here I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ ” he said. They moved into a rental house last spring, and Mr. Chiappetta says he has become “a professional grass cutter and bill payer” maintaining two homes.

As hard as it was to regroup after the hurricane, Mr. Chiappetta, 45, said the drywall problems were worse. He got a check from the insurance company a month after Katrina and started making plans. This time, he said, there is little he can do but wait. “We just want to one day start with the rest of our lives,” he said.

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6 global warming skeptics who changed their minds

TheWeek.com posted on September 1, 2010, at 2:15 PM

Bjorn Lomborg, a renowned climate change skeptic, recently announced he's changed his mind on the topic.

With 2010 shaping up as the warmest year on record and unprecedented heat waves gripping the planet, global warming skeptics have suffered another blow with the defection of the “most high-profile” member of their camp, author Bjorn Lomborg. But Lomborg isn’t the first doubter to accept the scientific consensus that human carbon emissions are warming the planet and need to be curtailed. Here, a review of several prominent cases:

1. Bjorn Lomborg, Danish academic
Lomborg made waves with his 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which argued that global warming was no big deal, and fighting it would be a waste of money. This month, he’s publishing Smart Solutions to Climate Change, which argues that a global carbon tax should be imposed to raise $150 billion a year to address global warming.
Before quote: “In 20 years’ time, we’ll look back and wonder why we worried so much.” (2002)
After quote: “We actually have only one option: we all need to start seriously focusing, right now, on the most effective ways to fix global warming.” (2010)

2. Dmitri Medvedev, Russian president
Russian leaders are famously skeptical of global warming, with then–President Vladimir Putin quipping in 2003 that a warmer Russia “wouldn’t be so bad” because “we could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up.” Then Russia caught fire this summer, choking Moscow with deadly smoke, devastating agricultural production, and convincing Medvedev and other leaders that perhaps global warming is a threat, after all.
Before quote: Climate change is “some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.” (2009)
After quote: “Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past.” (2010)

3. Michael Hanlon, British science journalist
Hanlon, science editor for The Daily Mail, was a self-professed skeptic on climate change until a recent trip to Greenland, where he witnessed the accelerated disintegration of the country’s massive ice sheet. A few days on the melting ice floes, he says, “is certainly enough to blow a few skeptical cobwebs away.”
Before quote: “Global warming, indeed much of environmentalism, has become a new religion. Like the old religions, environmentalism preaches much good sense, is well meaning, but has a worrying lack of logic at its core.” (2000)
After quote: “I have long been something of a climate-change sceptic, but my views in recent years have shifted. For me, the most convincing evidence that something worrying is going on lies right here in the Arctic.” (2010)

4. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine
In 2001, Shermer hosted a Skeptics Society debate on global warming, prompted by Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist. He sided, predictably, with the skeptics. Then he looked at the science, and in 2006 reached a “flipping point,” acknowledging the “overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming.”
Before quote: “Scientists like Bjorn Lomborg in The Skeptical Environmentalist have, in my opinion, properly nailed environmental extremists for these exaggerated scenarios.” (2008, referring to 2001)
After quote: “Because of the complexity of the problem, environmental skepticism was once tenable. No longer. It is time to flip from skepticism to activism.” (2006)

5. Gregg Easterbrook, American journalist and author
Easterbrook was an early skeptic of global warming, writing an influential book, A Moment on the Earth, in 1995 that was dismissive of mankind’s role in climate change. By 2006, he’d been swayed by the decade of climate research, and wrote an essay entitled “Case Closed: The Debate About Global Warming is Over.”
Before quote:
“Instant-doomsday hyperbole caused the world’s attention to focus on the hypothetical threat of global warming to the exclusion of environmental menaces that are real, palpable, and awful right now.” (1995, PDF)
After quote: “The science has changed from ambiguous to near-unanimous… Based on the data I’m now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert.” (2006)

6. Stu Ostro, Weather Channel senior meteorologist
A recent survey found that many meteorologists and TV weathercasters are skeptical (or even “cynical”) about anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and Ostro used to fit in that camp. Now he regularly explains the connection between man-made climate change and the extreme weather roiling the world.
Before quote: Large swings in temperature “happened long before humans had a chance to influence the environment, [and] typically occurred within a 10-year period, indicating that drastic climate change can occur through natural means, and quickly.” (1999)
After quote: “When it comes to skepticism about AGW, you could say I have street cred,” but “it could be said that I ‘converted’ and became a ‘believer.'” (2010)

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Climate change opposition’s last croak

Cam Cardow, copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons

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A Greener Champagne Bottle

Newly forged bottles, still red hot, being checked at random for defects at the Saint Gobain glass bottle factory.

By LIZ ALDERMAN  THE NEW YORK TIMES  Published: August 31, 2010

REIMS, France — Deep below a lush landscape of ripening Champagne grapes, Thierry Gasco, the master vintner for Pommery, ran his finger over the shoulders of a dark green bottle that looked just like the thousands of others reposing in his chilly subterranean cellars.

But to the practiced hand and eye, there is a subtle, if potentially significant, difference.

“This is how we’re remaking the future of Champagne,” he said, pointing to the area just below the neck. “We’re slimming the shoulders to make the bottle lighter, so our carbon footprint will be reduced to help keep Champagne here for future generations.”

The Champagne industry has embarked on a drive to cut the 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide it emits every year transporting billions of tiny bubbles around the world. Producing and shipping accounts for nearly a third of Champagne’s carbon emissions, with the hefty bottle the biggest offender.

Yet while many other industries might plaster their marketing with eco-friendly claims, changes to Champagne, as with so much else in France, are being made discreetly. Producers in this secretive business are tight-lipped about the costs and occasionally enigmatic about how much their carbon emissions will really be cut.

“Champagne is sometimes more humble than it should be,” said Philippe Wibrotte of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, the region’s trade organization. “Much is done for the promotion of the environment, but it’s kept quiet because we want to make sure each step is perfect.”

The industry speaks in hushed tones, too, in deference to the luxurious image and ritualistic traditions of Champagne, as symbolized for centuries by the bottle. It was Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, who first thickened the glass in the mid-1600s to contain what was often referred to as “the devil’s wine” because its vessels exploded so often. Over time, the bottle was gradually recalibrated until 900 grams, or about two pounds, became the standard weight in the early 1970s.

The current retooling, which uses 65 fewer grams (2.3 ounces) of glass, is in response to a 2003 study of Champagne’s carbon footprint, which the industry wants to cut 25 percent by 2020, and 75 percent by 2050.

The move comes as efforts to reduce carbon output and improve vineyard ecology are accelerating worldwide, as wine houses reduce packaging, pesticides, water use and transportation. In California, for example, winegrowers are promoting what their trade group, the Wine Institute, says are nearly 230 “green practices,” including methods to cut carbon emissions.

Champagne accounts for only 10 percent of the three billion bottles of sparkling wine produced globally each year. But the bottle stands out for its heft. Italian prosecco, for instance, uses a 750-gram bottle. But it and its various fizzy cousins have only about half the pressure of Champagne — which generates three times the air pressure of a typical car tire.

Although some of Pommery’s restyled bottles are already on the market, the C.I.V.C. expects all Champagne houses to start using the new 835-gram vessel next April for bottling this month’s grape harvest; the new wave of bottles will hit stores after three years of fermentation. The effort, the group says, will trim carbon emissions by 8,000 metric tons annually — the equivalent of taking 4,000 small cars off the road.

“For Champagne producers to reduce the weight of their packaging is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Tyler Colman, an author of environmental studies on the wine industry, “because there’s less mass to transport around the world.”

Vranken-Pommery Monopole, which in addition to Pommery owns Heidsieck & Company Monopole and other labels, got a head start by adopting the lighter bottle in 2003. Consumers around the world may have already uncorked some specimens without noticing the new bottle. Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot and a few others quietly switched this year, with those bottles still under fermentation.

The rest of the Champagne producers are deciding whether to embrace the C.I.V.C.’s mandate, which is voluntary but carries special force in this clannish community.

Designing a new bottle was no small feat. The container still had to withstand Champagne’s extreme pressure. It would also need to survive the four-year obstacle course from the factory floor to the cellars to the dining table, and fit in existing machinery at all Champagne houses. And it had to be molded so that consumers would barely detect the difference in the bottle’s classic shape.

“The bottle is part of Champagne’s image, and we don’t want to affect it,” said Daniel Lorson, a spokesman for the trade group.

Mr. Gasco said Vranken Pommery, one of the largest houses, has spent 500,000 to one million euros ($635,000 to about $1.3 million) each year since 1994 on environmental initiatives, including research and testing of the lighter bottle.

But the bottle, he said, is not about money, which has become tighter since the financial crisis. Industrywide sales for Champagne last year were 3.7 billion euros ($4.7 billion), down from nearly 5 billion euros in 2007.

“Reducing their carbon footprint and energy use is also a great way to make their operations more financially viable, especially with the economy the way it is,” said Euan Murray, an official at the Carbon Trust, a nonprofit group that advises businesses and government on global warming issues.

Sipping a glass of Pommery during an interview, Mr. Gasco eventually disclosed that the new bottles cost around 32 euro cents (41 United States cents) each, not much cheaper than the classic. But Mr. Gasco, who sits on the C.I.V.C.’s bottling panel, said “if everyone starts to use it, the price will come down.” Any savings, however, would be too slight to pass on to consumers, he said.

Most of the new Champagne bottles are made at the St. Gobain plant near here, where molten red glass is dropped from a 20-foot-high chute into molds at a rate of 160 a minute. The glass is cooled from more than 1,000 degrees Celsius for over an hour, scanned for imperfections and stacked on pallets for shipping.

A worker on Pommery’s assembly line, who declined to be named, said he noticed that a few more of the new bottles were exploding, and that they made a higher-pitched sound when they clinked together. Mr. Gasco denied there were more explosions, and said any damage more likely came from using heat to inject the cork.

Bruno Delhorbe, the director at the St. Gobain factory, said that using less glass lowered the carbon emissions necessary to make each bottle by 7 percent, and allowed about 2,400 more to be placed inside delivery trucks, reducing the number of trucks on the road.

Slimming the shoulders while thinning the glass, he noted, also allowed his clients to avoid giving their customers more Champagne for the same price.

Of course, there are even lighter alternatives: Many of the world’s producers of still wines are employing plastic bottles and box containers to reduce their carbon footprint.

But it may be a long time before Champagne goes that route. Most houses take pains to cultivate an image of luxury through packaging and pricing — and intimations that other sparkling wines are inferior because they simply are not Champagne.

Still, many producers insist that while tradition has its place, the environmentally motivated changes are about the future. Patrick LeBrun, an independent producer, said he started going green “for personal reasons.” He has not used herbicides for five years, and this year, he is putting all of his product into the lighter bottle.

“There’s about a 2-cent price difference but that’s not what decided me,” he said. Trying to improve the environment “is my contribution to the next generation.”

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U.S. on track to double renewable energy capacity: Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. government stimulus spending has put the country on track to double renewable energy production capacity by 2012 and halve solar power costs by 2015, Vice President Joseph Biden said on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama’s stimulus spending poured $814 billion into the U.S. economy, including more than $100

Reuters – Solar panels sit on the roof of SunPower Corporation in Richmond, California March 18, 2010.

billion for science, technology and innovation projects.

With Energy Secretary Steven Chu by his side, Biden unveiled a new White House report estimating the impact of the Recovery Act funding on American innovation in transportation, renewable energy, broadband, smart electrical grids and medical research.

Biden said the stimulus funding would lead to breakthroughs in many of those areas.

“The government plants the seeds. The private sector nourishes and makes it grow,” Biden said. “And in the process, if we’re as innovative as we’ve been in the past, we launch entire new industries.”

The report outlined a goal of doubling renewable energy capacity from the 28.8 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal sources installed as of the end of 2008 to 57.6 GW by the end of 2011, which would be enough to power 16.7 million homes, or 55 million electric cars, for a year.

The manufacturing goal is to double the 2008 level of output of 6 GW of renewable equipment like wind turbines and solar panels to 12 GW at the end of 2011.

Solar power now accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation, while wind power produces almost 2 percent.

The cost of solar power is expected to be on par with common grid electricity by 2015, while the cost of electric car batteries is expected to fall by 70 percent between 2009 and 2015 and be competitive with common car batteries.

In May, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the U.S. stimulus money put up to 2.8 million people to work and raised U.S. gross domestic product by up to 4.2 percent, but predicted the impact would taper off in 2011 and 2012, after peaking later this year.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Walter Bagley)

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