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President Obama's Call to Seize Our Clean Energy Destiny

Peter Lehner

Posted June 15, 2010

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In his first address from the Oval Office, President Obama resolutely addressed the nation tonight about the unending disaster in the Gulf. He took a hard line against BP, promised to restore the beautiful ecosystems of the Gulf and, perhaps most importantly for the long-term health of the nation, said his Administration will do everything possible to break our addiction to oil.

Saying that he will refuse to "settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom," the President sought to rally the nation to invest in clean energy, to adopt policies that unleash American innovation and "seize control of our destiny."

In a statement tonight, I welcomed the President's speech on behalf of NRDC. I do believe that the President is sincere in his stated desire to move America beyond dirty fuels. He recognizes that our economic health depends on competing with China and other countries that are investing in clean energy technology. He recognizes that our national security depends on stopping the billion dollars we send to other countries each day for oil.

Some have already said that the environmental community will be disappointed with the President's address. And perhaps some will. Some will be disappointed with the lack of specifics for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that we fervently hope the Senate will take up this summer. Some of the wonkier among us will be disappointed that the President didn't say with more specificity how he plans to deal with long-term policies that mask the true cost of oil.

But for the moment, I will choose to trust the President and believe that tonight's address will be the first of a long series of presidential speeches that will lead the nation forward to a clean energy future. We will do everything in our power to help the administration deliver on this vision. And we will seek to hold him accountable if he fails to live up to tonight's lofty rhetoric.

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Anders SkoglundJun 16 2010 06:44 AM

In 1970 on a seminar at Uppsala University I suggested interviews
of residents as a way to calculate
different environmental cost. As an example, the estimated new price
for a house if an airport was closed.
The idea was picked up in an scientific article. About ten years later a proffessor
of economics got The prize in memory of Alfred Nobel for a development of my idea.
Maybe is it possible that my ideas below
about shorter work-journeys as whole or partly can contribute to
a better climate.

Shorter journeys to the workplace reduces impact on the climate

Car-queues are increasing and the traffic jams are huge. Long journeys to the workplace by car cause a negative impact on the climate.
How is this problem going to be solved? There is an easy way, which is economical and advantageous that can to a large extent be the solution of this problem.
Namely to ask people to take a personal responsibility for the situation and to plan their place of living and choice of workplace considering best personal as well as society benefit and reduce the length of the daily journeys. This idea is so easy that it has been overlooked. It also points on a possibility for the individual to do something to contribute to a better climate.
Every year there are hundred of millions of changes of living as well as workplaces. In the western world we move as many as ten to fifteen times in a lifetime.
If more of these changes seriously to a larger extent took into consideration possible personal as well as climate-related impacts much would be won.
Shorter journeys to the workplace will also mean more free time for everyone. This idea is therefore implying a unique win-win situation for the individual as well as for the society and the climate.
There is also a responsibility for employers to consider the length of the journeys for the employees. Already today some companies do not employ workforce living to long from the job.
New workplaces ought be located nereby were people already live or new places of living built near the places of work. It is obvious that shorter journeys to work means not only a better climate but also more possible achievements on the job and thereby increased productivity.
As an example, in Sweden amongst other places, in 1952 the suburban area Vällingby was created based on the idea of workplaces, living-places and shops in the same area.
A new way of thinking about distances between living-places and workplaces and application of earlier experiences will lead to reduced contamination and contribute to reduce the global warming. Today the western lifestyle is seen as attractive and is copied in new economies. The globe can not bear this today and even less in the future. Therefore there it is in our own interest to forego as a positive example for other parts of the world.
Changes of habits in this area can be accomplished by traditional formation of public opinion. Since the problem is urgent it might even be a good idea to use a considerable amount of funds on information about this possibility.
It is feasible to calculate that people in the most polluting parts of the world let us assume move ten times in a lifetime. If they when doing so seriously considered the impact of the climate, as well as the personal benefit of a shorter journey to the workplace and thereby reduced the lengths of the journeys by half it would result in a decrease in negative climate influence that would be most important.

Anders Skoglund

BrandonJun 17 2010 12:20 AM

Peter, I'm choosing to view his speech optimistically. I believe he really does want to do it and we have the opportunity to get something done if we can muster the courage to seize the moment here. If we don't do it now, well... let's not go there. We MUST do something this time. Lofty rhetoric won't fix it.

BTW, Anders makes some excellent points in his comment. Simple things that we can all do if we are more aware can be extremely effective. Boycotting BP doesn't count, haha. We each bear our own form of responsibility for the situation, so making conscious choices about our living and working proximity is a big step toward significantly reducing consumption and the need for so many vehicles and highways.

Peter, is NRDC seeking volunteers for work on the Gulf?

Jason PrincipeJun 20 2010 04:32 PM

I too have a wonderful idea that has the potential to create "FREE ENERGY"; a small vision given by our God that allows us to create an energy plant that works off of water pressure in a recyclable environment. The sludge out of the ocean would make a wonderful fluid source that could be contained and used. I worked as a Monitor for an environmental company out of Tennesee while in the clean up effort for Hurricaine Rita (you know; the hurricaine that also hit LA. two weeks after Katrina). I discussed this "vision from God" with several of the attending USACE guys that had been running and building dams for forty years. After getting them to try and critique the idea I was left with this advice " We can't disprove it, you need to call Berkley Phisics Department and just ask for a spot on the research team... sounds awesome for a single college grad that could get listened to.. but I'm just Jason the dirt guy who comes home from work everyday to a family. Never the less the idea is real and I need to get the chance to develop it to the world.

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