I thought it would be a good idea to give my brief impression of President Obama’s first 100 days in office in respect to energy and environmental issues, and what still needs work.
I actually think the best part of Obams’s first 100 says has been the staff he has selected to deal with these issues. Carol Browner is special advisor on climate and energy, and she was the former head of Clinton’s environmental protection agency, and is known as a very tough regulator. I actually heard from Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA at Powershift and she was very impressive in insisting the EPA return back to considering science in it’s methods for protection. I’ve also thought and still maintain that Nobel Prize Winner and Energy Secretary Steven Chu is Obama’s finest appointment. I’ve heard very smart and intelligent rhetoric coming out of Chu so far, and I have high confidence he will run the Department of Energy very successfully. On the great jobs front Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has voiced a strong commitment to green jobs, and recently green jobs adviser Van Jones, a terrific and vocal leader in the environmental and African American community. I think we will see very good things from this green team during this term.
The next positive development I would point to is the green part of the economic stimulus. This stimulus had 62.2 billion dollars in specific spending on green initiatives, and there was an additional 20 billion in green tax initiatives. This will lead to notable improvements in renewable energy, energy efficiency, improved energy transmission, the smart grid, low income housing retrofits, green jobs training, and rail transit. On top of all this, 15 billion is going to be committed to these initiatives in the upcoming budget.
One other tentatively positive development has been the EPA officially declaring carbon dioxide pollution a major health hazard. Other noteworthy trends in the right direction were calling on the EPA to revisit requests by 13 states to regulate their car emissions, directing the EPA to raise fuel economy standards, cutting off funding nuclear waste disposal for Yucca Mountain, announcing plans to finally regulate coal ash, and create a Clean Energy Service Corps as an expansion of the current Americorp Program.
There have been some letdowns, and some things I want to see more of. For one, while the EPA is moving to regulate coal ash, there has not been a move to stop permits for the destructive mountaintop removal, too much talk of clean coal technology, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is talking too positively of offshore drilling, and last I have not seen Obama push the climate bill through Congress as hard as he should to this point. I wrote about this recently, and I think he needs to be more aggressive.
All in all though, the last 100 days have been a LOT better than the last 8 years for green issues. I’m optimistic we’re moving in the right direction, I just think we need to move faster.