Following up on my “On Romney” post from earlier today, here is my take on President Obama, especially in regards to cleantech issues we focus on here on CleanTechnica.
“I have no idea what standard people are using to declare Obama’s first term a failure. To save us from a Great Depression, rescue the auto industry, re-regulate Wall Street, decimate al Qaeda, kill bin Laden and Qaddafi and provide universal healthcare? That’s failure?” – Andrew Sullivan
And that doesn’t even get into the issue we’re most focused on — cleantech policies geared towards preventing the biggest decimation of the human population in history (due to global warming and its ramifications). So, let’s just get right into that….
Clean Energy & Climate Change Policy
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), broad and varied support was provided to energy efficiency, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal, biogas, hydroelectricity, electric vehicles, a smarter grid, and green jobs.
Obama has also established an Energy Partnership for the Americas, a coalition that would “increase research and development in clean coal technology, the next generation of sustainable biofuels and in wind, solar and nuclear energy,” according to a campaign position memo. “The partnership will also look for ways for nations to coordinate to transport green energy across national borders. It will help Latin American and Caribbean nations become more energy independent and promote sustainable growth for the region. The partnership also will create additional markets for American biofuels and American-made green energy technology.”
Obama also initiated work towards creating a new climate service to help businesses transition to a green economy. “The bottom line is this — the better climate information that alternative energy companies have, the more profitable they can be, the more jobs they can create and the more they can actually meet the energy demands of our country and indeed the world,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. On a similar front, Obama kept a promise to help create a global climate change research and monitoring system.
Obama, some contend, failed on climate and clean energy in one big way by not prioritizing a climate and energy bill in his first two years in office. Though, it’s quite debatable if that would have gone anywhere, with so many members of Congress (in particular, Republicans in Congress) taking tons of money from Big Oil, Big Coal, and Big Gas and vehemently protecting those industries’ profits in any way possible. Nonetheless, clean energy and climate action had (and still have) broad public support, and such a bill wasn’t prioritized in the Obama administration’s first two years despite having a Democratic majority in the House and Senate (notably, once the Tea Party got a strong hold on Congress 2 years ago, such a bill was hopeless… as was almost everything).
As part of a big jobs plan proposal, Obama also looked to give solar and wind companies tax credits that would spur their growth and job creation.
In January 2010, Obama ordered the largest energy consumer in the nation, the US government, to cut greenhouse gas emissions 28% by 2020, spurring energy efficiency and clean energy investments of all sorts.
Obama also proposed eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, in 2010, something that is common sense and which has strong public support, but which most politicians won’t utter and has been strongly blocked by super rich fossil fuel industries and their well-funded friends in politics.
The Obama administration also fast-tracked the cleantech patent application process. As I noted at the time, “normally, an applicant would wait about 2 years for a patent to be approved. Under this program, green technology innovators only have to wait about 49 days.”
And in yet another arena where Obama has enough influence to make a difference without congressional support, clean energy on public land has more than quadrupled under Obama. And an additional renewable energy projects totaling 10,000 megawatts were recently approved by the Department of Interior.
One minus in the Obama column is the person who he appointed to head the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). From delaying an important greenhouse gas pollution rule, to delaying just about every other rule to walk through OIRA’s door (and often modifying the for the worse), Cass Sunstein has been as bad as it gets in this role. OIRA “has changed more than 80% of the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency,” a 2012 report found. ”None of these were changes for the good.”
Again in the “plus” column, Obama has established a Biofuels Working Group so that biofuels experts work in coordination to come up with a comprehensive approach to alternative fuels.
Obama has streamlined the offshore wind energy approval process in logical ways. With zero offshore wind farms up in the US, and several other countries having several such wind farms, this was a very important help to the wind industry.
His administration has also created solar energy development zones on public lands in order to greatly boost solar power while also doing so in an environmentally sensitive way.
And, the Obama administration has found specific ways to advance energy efficiency and clean energy use amongst US farmers, benefiting both the farmers and the rest of society.
Obama implemented a Better Buildings Initiative that will create about 100,000 jobs, make a smashing number of buildings at least 20% more efficient, cut emissions greatly, and cut businesses’ energy bills by about $1.4 billion.
A new auto fuel mileage rule established under the Obama administration which requires “all newly manufactured automobiles that fall under the car or light truck category to achieve a minimum gas mileage of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025″ will reportedly save US consumers about $1.7 trillion, as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions tremendously. By 2025, it will have an equivalent consumer cost effect to lowering the price of gas by $1/gallon.
Obama has also established new initiatives to increase energy efficiency in the US military.
And Obama has established energy efficiency block grants for states and localities. “The program specifically names building codes and inspections to promote energy efficiency as projects that could be approved. Other such projects include development of an energy efficiency strategy, residential and commercial building energy audits and energy efficient retrofits of existing buildings.”
High-Speed Rail & Streetcars
Obama put a ton of work into creating high-speed rail in the US (which is far behind numerous other countries in this arena), something that a huge percentage of the population supports. While Tea Party governors in some states have blocked the federal support for projects in their states for no logical reason, other states are happily moving forward with the support. Notably, mass transit/rail is a top (if not the top) job creator per $1 invested:
Due to a slight transformation in federal transportation policy (long overdue), streetcar projects across the US have been able to get support that other transportation projects had long benefited from.
Additionally, hundreds of transportation projects across the US have benefited from ARRA funds and support; creating jobs (see above), much needed clean transportation options, and more.
Notably, on other clean transportation fronts, Obama established a tax credit for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, purchased 5,600 hybrids for the federal vehicle fleet, and greatly increased support for bicycling and walking.
In addition to all the above, here’s a quick list of a few more of Obama’s green jobs policies:
- Created job training programs in clean technologies for displaced workers.
- Created Green Vet Initiative to promote environmental jobs for veterans.
- Established program to convert manufacturing centers into clean technology leaders.
CleanTechnica Endorsement: Obama
With all of the above successes, more strong clean energy and green promises from Obama if he has another 4 years in his current role, and the completely anti-green campaign of Romney, I think it’s clear who CleanTechnica should endorse for president.
Of course, some might contend that we should endorse Jill Stein. However, with such a clear difference between the two main contenders, and with all of the cleantech support noted above, CleanTechnica is endorsing Obama without hesitation. Hopefully we can look forward to another 4 years of strong cleantech support and growth under Obama.
For more on Obama’s cleantech policies, click the links above and see:
- Difference Between Obama & Romney on Energy, Climate Change, Clean Air, Energy Efficiency, & Public Lands
- Obama Stimulus, Especially for Clean Energy, Helped Country
- Renewable Electricity Nearly Doubles with Obama in Office
- $1 BILLION — Stimulus Funding Awarded for Renewable Energy
- Obama Announces New Recovery Act Smart Grid Funding — $3.4 Billion
- President Obama’s Jobs Speech (Full Text & Video from White House + Commentary)
- Obama’s Energy-Efficient Buildings Initiative Will Create 114,000 Jobs, New Report Finds
- Sunshine State Politician Says US Can’t Compete with China on Solar; Obama: “I’m Not Going to Surrender to Other Countries”
- Obama’s Better Buildings Bonanza! (Video, Facts, & More)
- Independent Report: DOE Loan Program Working, Could Be Improved
- Obama vs Romney on Energy (Chart)
For more or to connect on various social media sites, check out ZacharyShahan.com
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on your favorite social network, go to: zacharyshahan.com