Obama Continues to Push Unilateral Action to Fight Climate Change

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 01: Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity at an Exelon solar power facility on September 1, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The 10-megawatt facility located on the city's south side is the largest urban solar installation in the United States. The 32,292 panels can generate more than 14,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to meet the annual energy requirements of up to 1,500 homes. 
National Journal
Jason Plautz
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Jason Plautz
May 9, 2014, 2 a.m.

Just days after us­ing the re­lease of the Na­tion­al Cli­mate As­sess­ment to push his mes­sage on cli­mate change, Pres­id­ent Obama will con­tin­ue his use of ex­ec­ut­ive power Fri­day to push solu­tions to curb its ef­fects.

Obama will an­nounce a series of en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency moves Fri­day in a speech at Wal­mart in Moun­tain View, Cal­if., in­clud­ing an ad­di­tion­al $2 bil­lion goal in en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency up­grades for fed­er­al build­ings over the next three years. Obama will an­nounce a series of com­mit­ments to ex­pand the use and avail­ab­il­ity of sol­ar power, in­clud­ing rules on re­new­able-en­ergy in­stall­a­tions for real prop­erty and sol­ar-in­dustry work­force train­ing.

It’s part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “year of ac­tion” on cli­mate change, said Dan Utech, White House spe­cial as­sist­ant on en­ergy and cli­mate change. It’s also a con­tinu­ation of Obama’s strategy of us­ing ex­ec­ut­ive au­thor­ity to move his cli­mate and en­ergy agenda in the face of ob­struc­tion from Con­gress.

The an­nounce­ment comes as the Sen­ate is fa­cing the fail­ure of its own bi­par­tis­an bill to in­crease the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of com­mer­cial and res­id­en­tial build­ings and fed­er­al fa­cil­it­ies. The Shaheen-Port­man ef­fi­ciency bill had broad sup­port, but it has all but col­lapsed as Re­pub­lic­ans push for amend­ments that would tar­get En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency ac­tion on power plants, air pol­lu­tion, and oth­er is­sues.

“We’re work­ing every day to do what we can to at­tack this prob­lem,” Utech said. “At the same time, we’re al­ways eager to get ad­di­tion­al sup­port, ad­di­tion­al tools, and we’d love to see Con­gress move for­ward with the Shaheen-Port­man bill — and it’s un­for­tu­nate that Re­pub­lic­ans are stand­ing in the way.

“We’re go­ing to be do­ing everything we can with the tools that we have to move for­ward on ef­fi­ciency,” he ad­ded.

The an­nounce­ment — be­ing made at Wal­mart be­cause of the com­pany’s ad­op­tion of re­new­able en­ergy — marks a pivot from this week’s em­phas­is on cli­mate sci­ence to one that will fo­cus on clean en­ergy and jobs. Obama will an­nounce plans to ex­pand the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Sol­ar In­struct­or Train­ing Net­work to sup­port train­ing pro­grams at com­munity col­leges to help 50,000 work­ers break in­to the sol­ar in­dustry by 2020.

Obama will also de­tail com­mit­ments from more than 300 or­gan­iz­a­tions to de­ploy more sol­ar power.

When taken with oth­er ef­fi­ciency-re­lated ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions, the White House said the new ini­ti­at­ives would cut more than 380 mil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon emis­sions and save busi­nesses $26 bil­lion on en­ergy bills.

The fed­er­al build­ing tar­get — which builds on a 2011 an­nounce­ment of a $2 bil­lion sav­ings goal — will also come at no net cost to tax­pay­ers be­cas­ue it uses fu­ture en­ergy sav­ings to pay for the up-front costs, the White House says.

The an­nounce­ment will also in­clude new En­ergy De­part­ment ef­fi­ciency stand­ards for walk-in cool­ers and freez­ers and elec­tric mo­tors; in­cent­ives for re­new­able power on pub­lic hous­ing; and af­firm­a­tion of com­mer­cial-build­ing en­ergy codes that will provide an ad­di­tion­al 8.5 per­cent en­ergy sav­ings over pre­vi­ous stand­ards.

Utech said that the ini­ti­at­ives con­tin­ue to build on the mo­mentum that was built with this week’s cli­mate-as­sess­ment re­lease, which he said “un­der­scores the ur­gency of the prob­lem.”

“We’re see­ing the im­pacts of cli­mate today. That’s why the ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­mit­ted to mov­ing for­ward,” Utech said. “And I think if you ask Amer­ic­ans wheth­er they think we ought to take steps to cut car­bon pol­lu­tion, the an­swer is yes.”

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