Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

Obama Puts the “Change” in “Climate Change”

Screen grab from whitehouse.gov. Some rights reserved.

Screen grab from whitehouse.gov. Some rights reserved.

Under swollen, D.C. summer skies, President Obama delivered his much-anticipated speech on climate change yesterday, unveiling an aggressive plan to combat rising temperatures by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in key industries, shoring up U.S. coastlines, promoting “homegrown energy,” and working with allies the world over to create a definitive international climate strategy.

This speech marks, according to major news outlets, the first time that a President has set a legislative course of action to deal with climate change (this fact is at once alarming and completely unsurprising to me). The changes promised within have been long anticipated and were even promised as a key component of Obama’s second term by the man himself. The methodology behind the changes is scattered – his plan for lowering emissions involves overseeing an EPA effort to regulate GHG output from power plants, and also proposing new energy efficiency standards for all U.S. buildings and appliances. Predictably, the plan also includes large investments and loans for solar and wind energy projects as well as carbon capture projects and hi-tech green energy technology.

As is to be expected, however, there has already been a large backlash from conservatives, claiming Obama’s plan is “authoritarian,” and that it circumvents Congress entirely in a way that is “undemocratic.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee apparently sent out statements in advance of Obama’s speech claiming the plan would “destroy jobs, raise energy costs, and hurt working families.” But that’s been the go-to Republican line on the climate change agenda in the past, so their continued stubbornness comes as no surprise. And yet there does still seem to be a legitimate last leg for these deniers to stand on politically, so its hard to imagine (even with more and more right-wingers caving on the issue of global warming) this being a huge issue in next year’s Senate race.

Watch the speech here and read along here.

Angry Mob Will Wait to Hear Obama Out on New Climate Change Legislation

 

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker. Some rights reserved.

Way back in April of this year, we heard rumblings from a coalition made up of three leading environmental groups as well as New York and nine other green-friendly states, which intended to sue the EPA for the agency’s failure to meet an April 13th deadline to issue final regulations which would enforce stricter greenhouse gas emission limits for power plants (the biggest source of harmful GHGs in the country). The Proposed Rule was first released in March 2012, and would limit CO2 emissions from new power plants to 1,000 lbs per megawatt-hour. The April 13th deadline was set as the final version was supposed to be released within a year of receiving public comments a month after the draft rule was published. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

In response to initial threats in April, the EPA said they were still hard at work on the rule and that, as EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson put it, “no timetable has been set. We continue to review the more than 2.7 million comments we have received.” Well, at least it’s good to know they take those public comments seriously!

However, after two months of bated breath, the group that rallied in April around suing the EPA announced this week that they would wait to take any official legal action until after Obama supposedly unveils new climate change regulations next month as a part of a “larger climate strategy.” Well that seems only fair! We’ve talked a bit already this week about the challenges Obama faces when trying to enact such legislation, but hey – at least the gears are still turning.

Feast Your Eyes on the New Obama Energy Infographic

Graph by The White House. Some rights reserved.

Yesterday, the White House released a new infographic (fittingly titled “The Facts on Gas Prices”) that handily and eye-catchingly explains the current economic and environmental situation surrounding oil production and gas prices, from within the Obama administration. White House design team be praised; the thing is clear and concise in its language, the images are easy on the eyes and never cluttered, and most importantly, the information flows in a way that makes sense. All in all, a notable improvement on the administration’s last attempt at one of these things. To someone with even a moderate interest in oil, however, it all may sound a little familiar.

The graphic is quick to point out that domestic oil production is currently at the highest its been in eight years, and that dependence on foreign oil is in decline from the Bush administration. This comes in response to criticisms from the right that Obama favors raising gas prices and lowering U.S. oil production (this admittedly less aesthetically pleasing infographic from conservative news site RedState, on the other hand, criticizes Obama for a decrease of production in the Gulf of Mexico and on federal lands). The Obama graphic goes on to criticize oil companies for profiting on rising prices, and gives a quick 101 on crude oil and the unpredictability of oil prices and production on a global level before arriving at its final point: “WE NEED AN ALL OF THE ABOVE APPROACH” – a tagline that supports developments of sustainable energy and green technology while pushing foreign oil production “where appropriate and where it is done safely.”

Two Updates in Building Betterment

Photo by Benson Kua. Some rights reserved.

Earlier in the summer, The Green Mien covered the President’s Better Buildings Initiative (BBI), highlighting a recently published independent study that lauded the Initiative as a major American jobs creator.

Driving the Initiative is a vision of a “clean energy economy” supported in large part by an energy efficient infrastructure. The President intends to hit the Initiative’s target – improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020 – with a series of incentives ranging from updated tax credits to increased financing opportunities. The administrative actions called for by the Initiative affect a range of agencies: the Treasury, the DOE, and the Department of Commerce all are specifically called out, while every agency is directed to undertake energy retrofits on Federal buildings.

All was relatively quiet on the BBI front over the fall, but early December brought a slew of developments. One intuits a renewed sense of urgency (and frustration?) from the White House when reading the December 2 Presidential Memorandum and Fact Sheet on the BBI, which announce that the administration is focusing “on steps we can take without waiting for Congress to make the critical energy efficiency investments we need.”

Following on the heels of these announcements came a GAO-issued report that identifies “current initiatives by federal agencies to foster green building in the nonfederal sector” as well as the known results of those initiatives. While not explicitly related to the BBI, the report covers a lot of the same territory – namely an inventory of incentives for “green” building. The scope of “green” building is fairly broad compared to the energy-efficient focus of BBI, but the GAO found that “energy conservation or efficiency” tops the list of “green” elements that existing initiatives are focused on.

While the GAO tallied up 94 federal initiatives – implemented by 11 agencies – that foster green building in the nonfederal sector, the report noted that “the overall results of most initiatives and their related investments are unknown” and that these agencies may be “missing opportunities” to work collaboratively with each other.

Let’s hope that the agencies can collaborate – and get results – when it comes time to implement the directives the BBI.

Republicans Chip Away at “Green the Capitol” Initiative

Photo courtesy of BLM.gov. Some rights reserved.

In 2007, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi directed the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House to develop a “Green the Capitol Initiative” that would “demonstrate leadership to the nation by providing an environmentally responsible and healthy working environment for employees.”

The Final Report submitted by the CAO shortly after the directive detailed the major goals of the program and proposed strategies to meet each of the goals. The goals were charmingly optimistic, but the Green the Capitol team has worked aggressively to implement them:

  • Operate the House in a carbon-neutral manner by the end of the 110th Congress
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of the House by cutting energy consumption by 50% in 10 years
  • Make House operations a model of sustainability

The program’s most recent Activities Status Report lists some specific achievements of the team. Under a section entitled “Sustainable Dining,” it’s noted that 650 tons of compost to date have been diverted to a composting site and subsequently converted to usable topsoil. Some of the topsoil was then used in a “comprehensive landscape renovation” at the Ford House Office Building.

However, according to the Washington Post, Styrofoam cups were re-introduced into the House cafeteria last week, replacing the compostable ones previously made available through the Initiative. What gives? Late last month, Republican Rep. Daniel Lungren announced that the composting program would be suspended indefinitely, citing high costs and “nominal reductions” in carbon emissions.

Though there are currently no public plans to do so, many see this suspension as a first step in further dismantling the Initiative.

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