Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Can Obama make The Stars and Stripes green?

Today marks an important day in American history as Barack Obama is inaugurated into the White House, not only is he the first African-American to grace the White House but he is also the President who will design and implement the United States’ Climate Change policy.

Photo by Prince Roy

In a clear departure from previous US policies, President Obama sees clean energy and ‘green’ jobs as critical in stimulating the US economy. During the Presidential campaign he vowed to invest $150 billion in clean energy projects over 10 years and create 5 million new ‘green collar’ jobs. Remarkably it appears that President Obama plans to launch his Presidency with a daring idea: to link the American economy with energy sources not derived from fossil fuels.

The inward President is proposing that the relationship between the economy and the environment be reversed – no longer will environmental concerns be bullied and marginalised by the wider economy but they will take centre stage in driving recovery and growth in the US economy. This is a very exciting time to be involved in this industry!

What are people expecting to be delivered and implemented in his first term?

Below are a few of my thoughts on what I think may happen, but I would love some comments on what other people are expecting.

  • Alternative energy to be doubled in three years, which means increasing wind energy by 20GW and geothermal and solar power by 4GW. This will effectively maintain the current market growth rate rather than target sharper increases. My opinion is this demonstrates both the harsh economic climate we are in and how strongly Obama is committed to using clean technology to enable economic recovery.
  • The National Venture Capitalist Association states that roughly $30 billion will be spent by VCs (across all industries) before the year’s end, representing a drop of 10% from last year. The only industry that is predicted to receive investment growth is clean technology. The reason cited for this is Worldwide Governmental support, especially from the Obama administration. This means more technology ideas and solutions will be developed and makes me wonder what technology will be improving our lives in 4 or 5 years time.
  • Obama has assembled a “green dream team” that includes: Nobel physics laureate Stephen Chu to head the Energy Department; former environmental lawyer Ken Salazar, as Interior secretary; former New Jersey environmental chief, Lisa Jackson who will head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Nancy Sutley, the deputy mayor of Los Angeles to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality. And finally, John Holden, a Harvard university Climate Change expert as the Science Advisor to the White House. This calibre of team in any presidential administration would be exciting but following the Bush (wasted) years the level of policy change that is afoot is unprecedented.
  • And finally Senator John Kelly predicted that the U.S. Senate will let President Obama sign up to a U.N pact to fight global warming in late 2009 even if U.S. climate laws are not yet in place. This could mean that one of the Worlds largest GHG may have the basis of cap a trade system in place before the end of trade decade.

Exciting stuff! I wish to add my own, small welcome to the 44th President of the Untied States. Congratulations and best of luck President Obama.

His says he can – lets hope so!

By Steven Rogers
Sector Lead for Carbon & Engineering

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