This piece by William Tucker in The American Spectator is a bit of a two-headed beast. One gaping maw is blinders-on argument that the government precipitated the entire sub-prime mortgage bust:
What happened with the subprime debacle? The federal government became obsessed with the idea that home ownership was good for everyone. It subsidized mortgages among people who couldn't afford them, assuming some of the risk itself and forcing banks to take on the rest. Pretty soon the whole thing comes crashing down, carrying the rest of the economy along with it.
Regardless if that's your thing or not, his main point is much more substantive. The ratcheting up of alternative-energy infrastructure could create a bubble all on its own. Tucker likens it, not to the current recession, but to the dot-com bust of the late 90s. He looks to Europe, especially France, and its approach to nuclear energy as a clear counter-argument to windmills (he really doesn't like windmills).
So it isn't who spends the money or how much gets spent. It's what you spend it on. If we were building a nuclear infrastructure right now -- with our without government help -- we would create lots of jobs, improve our technology and eventually develop a system that would give us cheap electricity and a measure of energy independence. Instead, we've put up a regulatory maze, plus the threat of endless lawsuits, so that even private capital isn't enthusiastic about investing in nuclear. There are 34 reactors under construction around the world, right now, none in the United States. Nor is there a penny in President Obama's stimulus plan to get the ball rolling.
I doubt there's anything resembling a silver bullet in feasible alternative energy policy. I am cautiously supportive of nuclear power, in the sense that I envision a far-reaching and comprehensive network of alternative energies as the ultimate solution. Without concern-trolling, it is well to remember the utter let-down that was ethanol. Wind farms won't do it alone, either.