An Open Letter to Our Next President

by Bill Chameides | November 5th, 2008
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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President-elect Obama has a lot on his plate, but environmental issues cannot take the back burner. Here’s a short list to consider.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on a historic victory. The economy and Iraq will no doubt be high on your agenda when you enter the Oval Office, but a number of environmental issues need attention too. Here are four initiatives for your consideration.

1. Use Economic Stimulus to Stimulate Low-Carbon Energies

A major theme of your campaign has been investing in renewable and low-carbon (C) energy to attain energy independence and address climate change. You have also recommended another stimulus package to energize our economy. Why not do both for the price of one? Revive the economy by investing in new low-C energy technologies.

And what about the $700 billion bailout package? Why not use that to further investments in alternative energy? Why not require that companies and banks receiving bailout dollars target a small percentage of their future investments to renewable energy?

2. Invest in New Infrastructure by Retooling Our Energy Infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is aging, some even say crumbling. The time to rebuild has come. In fact, funding infrastructure construction is undoubtedly one of the levers you will use to strengthen the economy – think FDR here. But the need to bolster our infrastructure also presents a great opportunity to ramp up renewable energy sources. Go for it.

Our nation’s electric grid — that giant, outmoded conveyor that moves electrons from power plants to our homes and offices and factories — needs an overhaul. A so-called smart grid can integrate large amounts of intermittent energy from wind and solar while remaining stable and dependable. Mr. President-Elect, let’s build a new smart electric grid during your administration.

Major investments in transportation infrastructure are sorely needed to shore up aging roads and bridges. But while focusing on rebuilding, don’t forget mass transportation. Massive investments in mass transportation would help solve the problems of congestion, foreign energy dependence, air pollution, and climate change.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about boosting the bandwidth of our Internet highway -– another theme of your campaign. More bandwidth will make telecommuting more practical. Business folks can thus stay home and meet with others via teleconferences rather than driving to the airport, boarding a plane, and going to a hotel room for a short meeting only to quickly turn around and return home. The result: less congestion, less pollution, less imported oil.

3. Get Going on Global Warming Before It Gets US

For eight years the federal government has essentially ignored global warming. Despite all the serious problems we face, we cannot afford to overlook global warming. Please don’t allow the economy to delay action.

I applaud your announcement that you will use your authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. But more comprehensive climate legislation will be needed and I hope you will work with Congressional leaders, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), to expedite a bill to the Senate and House floors and then to your desk for signing as soon as possible.

4. Lead Internationally by Leading on Climate

Iraq, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, AIDS, world poverty -– these are just a few of the international issues on your plate that will demand your immediate and consistent attention. But so is global warming.

The United States has been missing from the international discussion on climate and the consequences have not been pretty. In addition to losing some respect, our absence has impeded progress on developing a consensus on how to curb greenhouse gas emissions globally. With the Kyoto Protocol soon to expire, world leaders are frantically scrambling to cobble together the next international agreement –- one that includes all major emitters. That means countries like China and India — and us. And America should not just enter the global negotiations on global warming, we should lead them.

Mr. Obama, you are our next president. Americans support you and stand ready to help make your administration successful.  A major measure of that success will be your ability to pivot our nation’s — indeed the world’s — trajectory on the environment and energy. Godspeed, sir. Yes, we can.

filed under: business, carbon dioxide emissions, economy, energy, faculty, global warming, politics, renewable energy, transportation
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