A year into his Presidency, Obama has made it clear that we have a long way to go. While critics say Obama has “overpromised and necessarily underdelivered,” others note that the President has had to undertake a “colossal collection of colossal messes.”
Aside from a highly controversial health care debate and a slow-paced recovery from the housing bust, the Obama Administration has affirmed one thing: The environment is a top priority, and the government will support its protection and growth through stimulus cashflow and tighter restrictions on polluters. Here’s a look at the President’s other environmental plans for 2010.
A Bigger Push for Clean Energy Jobs
Last year, President Obama pledged to double the production of renewable energy over the next three years, create jobs in the development of new energy technologies and increase the energy efficiency of millions of American homes.
But when Van Jones stepped down as the President’s green jobs adviser last September, Americans were pessimistic about the prospect of a flourishing industry in 2010.
But the President has pledged to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years in energy research and development, ultimately transitioning to a clean energy environment. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes more than $80 billion in clean energy investments that will jump-start higher paying green jobs that cannot be outsourced, ensuring what’s most important right now: job security.
On Jan. 8, President Obama announced the award of $2.3 billion in Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean energy manufacturing projects nationwide. The funding will be provided to 183 projects in 43 states, creating tens of thousands of clean energy jobs and the manufacturing of clean energy technologies.
While the national unemployment rate hit an unprecedented 10 percent in December, the Council of Economic Advisers released a report Jan. 14 stating that the clean energy provisions of ARRA alone have already saved or created 63,000 jobs and are expected to create more than 700,000 by 2012.
Climate Change is an Issue, But Nothing is Set in Stone
While no legally binding decisions on climate change were made in Copenhagen, Obama, along with other worldwide leaders, drafted an agreement that developed nations, including the U.S., are committed to a long-term target of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. No specific mid-term targets have been set, but the agreement should be finalized by 2015.
Both critics and supporters of climate change action were frustrated that there was not a tangible outcome from the talks in Copenhagen. According to a White House Representative, the agreement “is not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change, but it’s an important first step. No country is entirely satisfied with each element. But this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make further progress,” as reported by The New York Times.
“The way this agreement is structured, each nation will be putting concrete commitments into an appendix […] specifically what each country’s intentions are,” Obama said in response. “Those commitments will then be subject to an international consultation and analysis […] similar to what takes place when the WTO is examining progress.”
Alongside the U.S. EPA, the President has officially declared that immediate action should be taken to reduce carbon pollution.
Don’t think they’re serious? The EPA has released a map of all facilities it took enforcement actions against in 2009, including incidents of air and water pollution and illegal dumping of hazardous waste.
In all, 387 environmental crime cases were opened last year, with more than 4 million commitments to reduce or treat pollution and almost $2 billion spent by liable parties to clean up hazardous waste spills. Enforcement action was based on the ability to comply with national laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. This included controlling the emissions of materials such as nitrogen oxides and monitoring the pollutant levels in stormwater runoff.
Increased Local Efforts
Included in Obama’s 2010 budget is a significant increase in funding for the EPA. The $10.5 billion funding will be a 34 percent increase from the 2009 $7.8 billion allotment. According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, $3.9 billion will go toward improving the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure, $475 million for the Great Lakes Initiative, $17 million for creating a greenhouse has registry and $1.3 billion to clean up eligible hazardous waste sites.
In 2009, the EPA made strong cleanup progress by accelerating its Superfund program and confronting significant local environmental challenges like the coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn. In a memorandum released on Jan. 12, Jackson listed local community clean up as one of her top seven priorities for this year.
“Using all the tools at our disposal, including enforcement and compliance efforts, we will continue to focus on making safer, healthier communities. I am committed to maximizing the potential of our brownfields program, particularly to spur environmental cleanup and job creation in disadvantaged communities,” she wrote. “We are also developing enhanced strategies for risk reduction in our Superfund program, with stronger partnerships with stakeholders affected by our cleanups.”
But What Do the People Want?
We asked our Facebook fans and our Twitter followers what they expected from Obama this year. Here’s what they had to say:
@Mabel Wimmer: “Hopefully they will show how they set up their recycling area in the White house. And their compost. It really starts with us at home, we have to start making an effort and stop expecting outsiders to govern us.”
@Chris Keith: “This might be a small thing to some people, but it could make a huge difference in the long run. I would like federal recognition of ‘Earthship biotecture’ as a valid style of architecture so people around the country that wish to built them don’t have to deal with as much red tape.”
@allib528: “Obama? I hope a nat’l effort to increase recycling rates and investment in infrastructure to make it a part of life for all.”
@A.C. Fisher Aldag: “Solar and wind power for all public and government structures. Not just new buildings, but adapt existing structures, too.”