by Ian Muttoo
image by Ian Muttoo @ Flickr

In the last week of October the Obama administration seemed to be finally making a concentrated effort to show that climate change is high on its agenda, with several public appearances from the president and the vice president during which they sang the praise of a low-carbon future for America.

It started the previous Friday, when President Obama paid a visit to MIT and gave a speech on clean energy and climate change. Without going into policy details, Obama emphasized the innovation needed to respond to the climate challenge (which was very appropriate to the location) and reminded how such innovation is part of what helped shape the United States and how it can place the US back in a leadership position. He also attacked those who appose any attempts to move towards a low carbon economy, saying that There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy — when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs.”

As if to prove that last point about creating new jobs, Vice President Biden went to Delaware on Tuesday to announce the reopening of a former General Motors factory by Fisker Automotive. Only now the factory will produce plug-in hybrid vehicles. Like other members of the administration, the vice president noted the importance of such projects to the American economy as a whole – “we’re on our way to helping America’s auto industry reclaim its top position in the global market.”

That very same day, Obama was in Florida where he announced an investment of $3.4 billion of Recovery Act funds in projects aimed to start the transition to a smart energy grid. Out of the three this is by far the biggest development – not only is it the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, it is also a huge push towards making America more energy efficient and more reliant on alternative energy. And of course, another opportunity for new jobs. This is a very important point when garnering support for climate action within the US, alongside direct economic benefits to the public, which is why Obama once more emphasized that “Such an investment won’t just create new pathways for energy — it’s expected to create tens of thousands of new jobs all across America… It’s expected to save consumers more than $20 billion over the next decade on their utility bills.”

These are just the most public and high-level of the administration’s involvements this past week in supporting a clean energy future. There were also the testimonies of several cabinet members and the head of the EPA in front of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee (which held three days of hearings on the Kerry-Boxer climate bill – the bill’s markup is expected to start today, assuming the Republican boycott of the meeting won’t prevent it from happening) and Energy Secretary Chu published a piece about weatherisation and energy efficiency in the Huffington Post.

It seems then, that now that the climate bill is being discussed in the Senate, the administration is publicly showing its support for climate action, something that was sorely lacking during discussions in the House (though behind the scene the White House did apply pressure on Democrats to support the bill). And though the main target is domestic, this is probably also suppose to serve as a demonstration of the administration’s commitment in the international arena in the run up to Copenhagen.

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