Federal stimulus: Pork or real energy policy?

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Courtesy of Energy Efficiency Markets LLC

Two recent gestures by President Obama indicate that he is serious about clean energy and will pursue it differently than any of his predecessors. First, he made history in using his inaugural speech to promote renewable energy – something never done before by a US President, according to Department of Energy’s EERE News Network.

Second, on February 5 Obama drilled down to the nitty-gritty of energy efficiency policy. In a presidential memorandum, he called for the DOE to establish higher standards for common household appliances.

“We’ll save through these simple steps over the next thirty years the amount of energy produced over a two-year period by all the coal-fired power plants in America,” he said in remarks at the DOE.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says the memorandum marks the first time Obama has made efficiency standards a top priority in his domestic energy policy. Obama seeks legal deadlines to set standards, “an important break from his predecessors who fell behind on updates for some 22 standards,” according to ACEEE.

Both of these gestures were important, and indicate he will fulfill – or at least try – his energy campaign promises. But the true test of his ability to revamp US energy policy comes as he tries to sell the $50 billion for energy in the federal stimulus package. Critics are slamming some of the provisions, such as plans to upgrade federal buildings and improve the federal transportation fleet.

“They call it pork,” Obama said. “You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create jobs manufacturing those vehicles, it will set a standard for private industry to match. And so when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself – is it any wonder we haven’t had a real energy policy in this country?”

Obama – and the clean energy industry – clearly have an education effort ahead in a world where pork and fuel efficient vehicles are seen as one in the same.

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