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Obama Orders Federal Government to Use More Clean Energy

Nathanael Greene

Posted December 5, 2013 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Pushing ahead under his Climate Action Plan, President Obama today ordered the federal government to ensure that within seven years, 20 percent of its electricity comes from renewable sources.

That goal is now more than double the government’s current level of electricity consumption from renewable sources. The increase will cut pollution in communities, promote U.S. energy independence, and support homegrown energy that American workers produce.

These standards are important. The federal steps, and similar measures that the states are taking, will drive about half of the growth in this sector by 2020. But Congress must also act, and one big step would be to extend current federal tax credits to maintain the job growth already created in the wind, solar and energy-efficiency industries.

In October 2009, Obama signed Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental Energy, and Economic Performance,” which set targets for the government to cut energy use, carbon pollution, and waste in operations, which would save taxpayer dollars.

Since then, the government has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent, the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road for good, and cut energy use per square foot in federal buildings by more than 9 percent.

Plus, by fiscal year 2013, the government had shifted more than 7 percent of its electricity consumption to renewable sources such as solar and wind.

The Climate Action Plan pushes the nation to accelerate investments in a clean-energy future, which boosts local economies and gets the United States in position to win the global clean-technology race.

The growth in this sector also shows that focusing on clean energy does not pit the economy against the environment. At least 3.4 million Americans are employed nationwide weatherizing homes, producing high-efficiency air conditioning systems, installing solar panels and wind turbines and developing advanced car batteries. The economic shift is already happening, it’s picking up speed, and there’s no turning back.

Last year, the Defense Department committed to deploying three gigawatts of renewable energy on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations by 2025 – enough to power 750,000 homes. Since 2009, the Interior Department has approved dozens of wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands – enough energy to power more than 4.6 million homes and support more than 19,000 construction and operations jobs.

The order that Obama issued Thursday by signing a memorandum implements the 2020 goal on consumption of electricity from renewable sources that the president outlined in his Climate Action Plan, released in June.

The memorandum also directed federal agencies to use Green Button, a tool that the energy industry developed in response to a White House call to action. The device provides utility customers with easy, secure access to information about their energy use in a consumer-friendly format.

Thursday’s memorandum caps a week of announcements from the administration on clean energy and energy efficiency, including:

  • Tuesday, the Energy Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department announced an expansion of energy-efficiency effort to multifamily housing such as apartments and condominiums. They also launched the Better Buildings Accelerators to support state and local governments in cutting energy waste. The administration also announced that federal agencies will expand their use of performance-based contracts through 2016 to upgrade the energy efficiency of federal buildings at no cost to taxpayers.
  • Also Tuesday, the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency released a 2014 Fuel Economy Guide with user-friendly information that can help consumers choose the right fuel-efficient vehicle for their family and business and save money at the gas pump. The guide provides “Top Ten” lists allowing consumers to see the most efficient advanced technology vehicles as well as the most efficient gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles, with information on efficient and low-emission vehicles in a variety of classes and sizes.
  • Wednesday, the Agriculture Department said it will provide rural electric cooperatives up to $250 million to lend to business and residential customers for energy-efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems.  The program will help rural families and businesses cut energy bills by making financing more available for measures that reduce home energy use by up to 40 percent.
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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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