The election of Barack Obama as president in November 2008 represented a clean break from the previous eight years of the Bush administration, in which politics trumped science and, as a result, the United States continued a failed energy policy that favored corporate polluters over clean energy alternatives.
From the snowy fields of Iowa and New Hampshire to the crowded tarmacs of key battleground states to the steps of the Capitol on Inauguration Day, President Obama made clear that transitioning to a clean energy economy and tackling the challenge of global warming would be among his top priorities. In his first year in office, the president has turned words into action and achieved real results that are beginning to pave the way toward a clean energy economy that creates jobs, increases our energy independence and protects the planet.
Today, the League of Conservation Voters released its Presidential Report Card, assigning President Obama a B+ for his clean energy and global warming accomplishments during his first year in office. It offers an analysis of cabinet and other high-level appointments, executive orders and other administration efforts and legislative actions in Congress. While President Obama has taken action on numerous important environmental and public health issues, this report focuses exclusively on energy and global warming measures, given the scope, magnitude and urgency of solving the climate crisis and building a clean energy economy.
Among the highlights of President Obama's first year are:
• Playing a leadership role in House of Representatives passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the first piece of legislation that established binding caps on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to ever be approved by a chamber of Congress.
• Granting California's waiver to impose stricter vehicle tailpipe emissions standards, and proposing nationwide emissions standards that will result in the equivalent of taking 32 million cars off the road.
• Filling his cabinet and administration with environmental stewards, dedicated staff, scientists and experts, such as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and White House Director of Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner - a "Green Dream Team."
• Finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency after a rigorous scientific review.
• Pushing for the single largest investment in clean energy in history - more than $80 billion for energy efficiency, renewable energy, public transit, high-speed rail and clean energy jobs in the economic recovery package.
• Achieving modest but critical progress at the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, including having the U.S. and China - for the first time - both at the table, working to address global climate change.
While these are very significant accomplishments that will finally help our country make the much-needed transition to a cleaner, more sustainable economy, there is still much work to be done. Most important, the Obama administration must continue to work with Congress to enact comprehensive clean energy and global warming legislation that includes mandatory limits on carbon pollution and complementary renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Although the House of Representatives passed the landmark American Clean Energy & Security Act in June, the full Senate has yet to act on a companion bill. In addition, while President Obama worked hard to ensure that progress was made in Copenhagen, the failure to forge a legally binding international agreement creates another significant challenge that he must confront in 2010.
While the president has made important strides forward, his greatest challenges lie firmly ahead. Fortunately, the policies needed to build a clean energy economy that puts Americans back to work are the same policies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect the planet for future generations.
President Obama has done more to create new clean energy jobs and curb global warming pollution during his first year than any other president has accomplished during an entire term. We applaud his solid B+ and look forward to working with him in 2010 to complete his most important unfinished business: passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.
View the Presidential Report Card here: www.lcv.org/reportcard/