The 11 Green Milestones in Barack Obama's First Year as President
7. The Cash for Clunkers Phenomenon
This program, while not necessarily a fantastic environmental program, was a major political success built on the premise of emissions reduction. It was popular, and engaged millions of Americans in considering the problem of having too many polluting vehicles on the road. Obama seems to have recognized the potential that such policy holds, and we're likely to see more like this in the future . . .
Photo via Public Radio
8. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize
The announcement that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize memorably caused quite a stir--and many viewed it as an impetus for the young president to make good on his rhetoric and pursue world peace. Whether it be increasing efforts to make peace in Afghanistan or leading the fight to confront climate change, the event served as a reminder that the world's hopes for Obama are still soaring.
Photo via Greenliving
9. Incoming: Cash for Caulkers?
Evidence that Obama did get the memo on the merits of green policy the first time around. Late last year, he proposed Cash for Caulkers, a program that would be absolutely great--it would provide incentives for people to weatherize their homes, and to make them more energy efficient. It would create clean jobs in the process, and help revive the beleaguered construction industry. As much as $23 billion would be set aside for the program--our fingers are crossed.
10. Obama Goes to Copenhagen
Copenhagen is often said to be a disaster, and many alternatively blame China and Obama for not doing enough. But reports confirm that Obama was one of the chief reasons the little substantive progress that was made in Copenhagen got made at all. Without a bill in the Senate to back him up, Obama had precious little bargaining power--but he made due with what he had, offering the emission reductions outlined in the House of Reps as the US's commitment, and working to appease China's demands. In other words, Obama did all he could in the face of a recalcitrant China, a lethargic Senate back home, and sky-high expectations from the European community.
11. One Year Later, Still Pushing for Green Jobs
Finally, as evidence that his commitment to making progress on the clean energy front is still strong, Obama outlined a new push for green jobs this month. A key part of his campaign, an emphasis on green jobs never really materialized the way he may have hoped over the first year--perhaps this push will make more of a splash.
Final Thoughts on Obama's First YearFor someone who covers the environmental politics beat--and is therefore by necessity a close Obama-watcher--it's been a pretty wild year. I've been alternatively impressed and frustrated with the president, as I think many of us have. And while I think that there is plenty of room for improvement--his administration absolutely must play a more active roll in messaging, in making the case for his green agenda--the progress so far has been encouraging.
Looking Closer at Obama's Record
And for those angered by the fact that he doesn't seem to have done enough, take a look at this article written by the Sierra Club's Carl Pope. It details the long, long list of pro-environmental things that he has indeed done from the Executive branch--the accomplishments that get little coverage from a media that's more interested in the legislative goings-on.
Far From Perfect
Of course, there have been distinct shortcomings--a lack of protections for endangered species and slightly softening rules on mountaintop removal mining among them. And yes, he needs to toughen up, and stop letting idealistic but vain attempts to achieve bipartisanship--the GOP has taken every opportunity to trip up his agenda, and will continue to do so--prevent him from making real progress.
But considering the major--and unprecedented--work Obama has initiated with his EPA, the incoming national auto standard, the funding allotted to green R&D; in the stimulus, and his dedication to tackling climate issues on the world stage, this president is as green as we've ever had.
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