Sunday, February 1, 2009

Key Obama Appointments - Environmental Team in Place

American President Barrack Obama's new environmental team has taken shape and the team - which includes Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, Carol M. Browner (left, above), E.P.A. administrator under President Bill Clinton, as the top White House official on climate and energy policy, and Lisa Jackson as Director of the EPA - holds significant promise as a powerful ally to the green movement. According to a New York Times article following the December '08 announcements:
Collectively, they will have the task of carrying out Mr. Obama’s stated intent to curb global warming emissions drastically while fashioning a more efficient national energy system. And they will be able to work with strong allies in Congress who are interested in developing climate-change legislation, despite fierce economic headwinds that will amplify objections from manufacturers and energy producers.
Said Ms. Jackson of her appointment: " As Administrator, I will ensure EPA’s efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency. By keeping faith with these values and unleashing innovative, forward-thinking approaches – we can further protect neighborhoods and communities throughout the country."

Unlike his predecessor, it appears President Obama is committed to facing the daunting challenges and threats posed by global climate change as well as to approaching the reduction of green house gas and CO2 emissions with a reality and science-based strategy informed by the potential for catastrophe of in- or in-adequate action.

This appears to be a welcome and promising moment for those around the globe who are committed to sustainable living - be it in one of the many Eco Towns and villages currently taking shape, in local communities and neighborhoods or in individual single-family residences.

They, and we, will be watching carefully in the weeks and months ahead as the new American President lays out his plans, delineates his environmental priorities and marshals his troops to the battle that looms, fierce and dark, on the near horizon.


  1. It will be interesting to see how the Obama team drives investment in green power.

    A large feed-in tariff for installations less than 1MW would be a great driver and would create a number of jobs for PV installation firms.

  2. What impact do you think Obama's plan will have on the economy in the Southwest?

  3. For an excellent discussion on feed-in tariffs see Celsias. The author's primer on feed-in tariffs (FITs) follows:

    a brief explanation of FIT laws for the uninitiated: they place a legal obligation on utilities to purchase electricity from renewable energy installations. The tariff rate is guaranteed, and in the best examples, for a long period -- say 20 years. The tariff rate is scientifically determined for each technology, to ensure profitable operation of the installation. There are different design options for the law, including tariff degression; this reduces the rates each year -- meaning for example that PV gets a lower rate if you install next year than if you install this year. One, it encourages swift take-up; two, it encourages manufacturers indirectly to increase design efficiency. If you are going to receive a lower rate, you want to generate more electricity. This drives innovation, making renewable energy a more rapidly evolving field -- which is precisely what we all need.

  4. See also this discussion at Clean Technica on proposed FIT legislation. Though generally supportive, the Obama team has yet to weigh in specifically on the administration's official FIT policy.

  5. Re economic impact, it's hard to predict, XOG; the "Southwest" (Southwestern United States) is a big place. But coincidental to your question, take a look at what Austin (Texas)-based State Senator Kirk Watson posted this morning on his Watson Wire political blog.
    Apparently, Watson's all about job creation and entrepreneurship in the nascent Texas green-energy production sector.

  6. The Austin Amerian-Statesman has printed some hopeful articles lately about the environment. People have mentioned the need for research in solar and production of solar panels.
    I wonder what kind of research is needed and whether the research centers at The University of Texas might be equipped to do this kind of research. My question is directed to Seamus McDuff. I wonder if he might perhaps have some clues about this.

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