It seems like just yesterday that President Barack Obama took the oath of office on a bitterly cold January morning, but here we are exactly 100 days later. So what does the cleantech community have to show for the president it worked so ardently to get elected? Well, quite a lot, actually. Here’s our list of the top 10 things the Obama administration has done for cleantech in its historic first 100 days. Hit the comments to let us know what you’d like to see in the next 100.
The Greenest Budget Ever – Obama’s $3.55 trillion budget proposal is a one-two punch for cleantech — it boosts funding for renewables while slashing tax breaks for fossil fuels. Obama’s wish list, which Climate Progress called “the first sustainable budget in U.S. history,” includes $15 billion per year for cleantech over a decade as well as an estimated $650 billion in revenue from his promised but yet-to-be-seen cap-and-trade program on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Green(er) Stimulus – Signed in February, the stimulus package is chock-full of cleantech goodies with $43 billion for grants for clean power, extensions on tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency programs, smart grid funding, weatherization programs and a new tax credit for cleantech hardware manufacturing.
Regulating Carbon – The EPA’s historic finding last month that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to public health and welfare, which paves the way for the agency to regulate them under the Clean Air Act, is the inconvenient truth that the Bush administration ignored for two years. If Congress doesn’t get its act together and legislate carbon regulation, new emissions rules will likely come from the administration.
Pricing Carbon – Giving industry a solid, long-term price on carbon is the most important thing government can do to ensure the private sector starts making big bets in cleantech. As Obama said in a recent speech on the economy: “If businesses and entrepreneurs know today that we are closing this carbon pollution loophole, they will start investing in clean energy now.” He gets it.
Green Collar Job Creation – In January, Obama raised his goal of creating green collar jobs to 3 million as part of his plan to double renewable energy production. The newly created Middle Class Task Force made green jobs the focus of its first meeting. The administration has brought on the green collar economy’s most fervent and eloquent advocate, Van Jones, as a special adviser at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Fighting Dirty Fossil Fuels – Obama’s proposed budget snips out $31.5 billion in “oil and gas company preferences.” Meanwhile, the reinvigorated EPA is using its newly realized regulatory power to put a hold on new coal-fired power plants. Now if Obama would just lend his voice to decrying the myth of “clean coal.”
Improving Fuel Efficiency – Obama ordered the EPA to grant California’s long-awaited emission waiver affirming the Golden State’s, and 13 fellow states’, power to enforce stricter automobile-emission standards. On the federal level, Obama had the Department of Transportation raise CAFE standards for the first time in nearly three decades, requiring new cars and trucks to have a fleet average fuel efficiency of 27.3 MPG by 2011 — an increase of 2 MPG over the 2010 standard.
Funding Hard Science – The surest way to get long-term, technological innovation is to fund basic science research in the lab. Obama’s stimulus plan includes $6.5 billion specifically for research and development in advanced energy efficiency, renewable energy, and low carbon technology, the largest investment in science and technology since the Space Race. With the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Steven Chu running the DOE we hope to see more money flowing into R&D soon so that in a few years entrepreneurs can start licensing it.
Jump Starting the Smart Grid – Programs created under the stimulus package jump-start what Obama calls a “nationwide transmission superhighway” with more than $4 billion specifically for smart grid tech. The newly appointed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff is a firm believer in the smart grid but is already dealing with utilities griping about the cap on stimulus spending as well as the pesky issue of eminent domain.
Engaging China – Truly global action on climate change will require negotiations with China, and already the Obama administration has been to Beijing. On the eve of Secretary of State Clinton’s first trip overseas she said, “[C]ollaboration on clean energy and greater efficiency offers a real opportunity to deepen the overall U.S.-Chinese relationship. So we will work hard with the Chinese to create partnerships that promote cleaner energy sources, greater energy efficiency, technology transfers that can benefit both countries, and other strategies that simultaneously protect the environment and promote economic growth.”