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A Year Laying the Foundation for the Clean Energy Economy

Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, kicks off a week's worth of blog posts and online video chat looking at where the Obama Administration has been, where we are, and where we're headed on major issues facing America.

Ed. Note: This is the first in a week's worth a blog posts recapping progress on major issues, each of which will be followed in the afternoon by an online video chat with a major policy official.  Join us at 3:30 EST today for a chat with Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate, via or Facebook.

In his first year in office, President Obama launched America on a 21st century clean energy renaissance that is creating jobs in the short term and laying the foundation for a low carbon economy in the long term. These actions will improve energy efficiency, incentivize production of renewable energy like wind and solar, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and curb the emissions that contribute to climate change. A memo from the Vice President in December laid out how the foundation for this sort of transformation has been laid over the past year.

Ultimately, to ensure the U.S. leads the world in the production of clean energy, we must also pass comprehensive energy reform. The House of Representatives has already passed such legislation and the Senate is working on a bipartisan basis to do the same. The President will continue to make passage of legislation a top priority given its benefits for our economy, our security and the environment.

The overarching goal is to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy and to invest in a diverse national energy portfolio that includes: clean coal, nuclear power, domestic oil and gas, renewable energy and advanced biofuels; a bigger, better, smarter transmission grid; and more efficient cars, trucks, homes and buildings. These initiatives will continue to be the focus of our efforts in 2010.

Progress So Far

Recovery Act: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments.  Through these investments, American companies and American workers are involved in unprecedented growth in the generation of renewable energy sources, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid…all while creating new, sustainable jobs.  $23 billion will likely create 253,000 jobs and leverage over $43 billion in additional investment that could support up to 469,000 more jobs,  while putting us on track to meet the goal of doubling our renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and geothermal, in just 3 years.

  • Recovery Act investments in renewable generation and advanced energy manufacturing of $23 billion will likely create 253,000 jobs and leverage over $43 billion in additional investment that could support up to 469,000 more jobs,  while putting us on track to meet the goal of doubling our renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and geothermal, in just 3 years.
  • The Federal Government, partnering with industry, has committed to invest up to $16 billion in projects that will transform the transportation sector, including plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to power them, as well as new clean fuels.  Over the next six years, three new electric vehicle plants—the first ever in the U.S.—and 30 new battery and other electric vehicle manufacturing plants will be fully operational. 
  • The $4 billion in Recovery Act smart grid investments will likely result in 43,000 new jobs, and be matched more than one-to-one by private sector funding that could support up to 61,000 additional jobs on smart grid projects that will reduce cost, increase reliability and give consumers more choice and control over their energy use and reduce electricity usage by more than 4% by 2030, an annual utility bill savings of $20.4 billion for U.S. businesses and consumers.

Efficiency Standard for Automobiles: President Obama announced the first ever joint fuel economy/greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks in May.  The new standards are projected to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program with a fuel economy gain averaging more than 5 percent per year and a reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions.

Appliance Efficiency Standards: The Administration has forged more stringent energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential appliances, including microwaves, kitchen ranges, dishwashers, light bulbs and other common appliances.  This common sense approach makes improved efficiency a manufacturing requirement for the everyday appliances used in practically every home and business, resulting in a significant reduction in energy use.  Altogether, about two dozen new energy efficiency standards will be completed in the next few years.

Offshore Energy Development: Within the Administration’s first 100 days, a new regulatory framework was established to facilitate the development of alternative energy projects in an economic and environmentally sound manner that allows us to tap into the vast energy potential of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  The National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that development of wind energy alone on the OCS may provide an additional 1,900 gigawatts of clean energy to the U.S.

Emissions Inventory Rule : For the first time, the U.S. will catalogue greenhouse gas emissions from large emission sources – an important initial step toward measurable and transparent reductions.

Federal Government Sustainability: President Obama signed an Executive Order on Federal Sustainability, committing the Federal government to lead by example and help build a clean energy economy through Federal government operations.  The Executive Order, among other initiatives, requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target; increase energy efficiency; and reduce fleet petroleum consumption.

International Leadership: After years of standing on the sidelines and ignoring the real threat of climate change, the United States has changed course this year and chosen to lead.  Under President Obama’s leadership, the international community has taken significant measures toward a global solution to this global threat, including reinvigorating the Major Economies Forum (MEF); eliminating fossil fuel subsidies; fostering bilateral energy and climate partnerships with China, India, Mexico, Canada and others; phasing down HFCs (Hydrofluorcarbons); and reaching an historic accord at the Copenhagen climate summit that maintains progress toward a legally binding international agreement that will ensure a prosperous and secure future for our children and grandchildren.

UPDATE: Get some additional perspectives on the President's record from the Center for American Progress and the NRDC.

Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change