Van Jones to be White House Green Jobs Adviser

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 11 Mar 2009 18:20:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Green for All founder and Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Van Jones is joining the White House as the adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation.

Van Jones is well known for expressing an inclusive vision for a green economy. He has challenged progressives to stop “getting rolled by the Happy Meal politics” of conservatives, who sell unhealthy policies under feel-good slogans. In response to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout last October, he called for a “green bailout” to “retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy — and create millions of new jobs, in the process.”

Clinton-Gore Technology Advisers Kalil and Kohlenberger Join Obama White House Staff

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 05 Mar 2009 14:59:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Even as the appointment of Dr. John Holdren as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is held up by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), new hires at the OSTP have been made. The Wonk Room has learned that two veterans of the Clinton White House have taken top positions at the office, which “serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment” for the President.

Tom Kalil
Thomas Kalil
Thomas Kalil, who was responsible for technology policy at the National Economic Council in the Clinton White House, is the new OSTP associate director for policy. Before joining the Obama White House, Kalil ran the Big Ideas @ Berkeley program at UC Berkeley. Kalil was also a member of California’s Blue Ribbon Nanotechnology Task Force, the scientific advisory board of Nanomix, and Q Network Inc. He has served on several committees of the National Academy of Sciences, including the Committee to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Research. As a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Kalil developed a “National Innovation Agenda” and was on the advisory board of Science Progress.
Jim Kohlenberger
Jim Kohlenberger
Jim Kohlenberger, who was Vice President Al Gore’s senior policy adviser, is the new OSTP chief of staff. As one of Gore’s chief technology policy advisers, Kohlenberger “worked to help pass the Telecommunications Act of 1996, help shape the administration’s hands-off approach to the Internet and e-commerce, and help spearhead administration efforts to bridge the digital divide and connect every classroom to the Internet.” Before joining the OSTP, Kohlenberger was the executive director of the Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition, and a senior fellow at the Benton Foundation, where he supported universal broadband service. From 2006 until March of 2008, Kohlenberger lobbied Congress on behalf of the VON Coalition.

Menendez Blocks Obama's Scientists Over Unrelated, 'Deeply Offensive' Cuba Policies

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 05 Mar 2009 14:26:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Robert MenendezObama’s climate scientists are collateral damage in an unrelated fight over Cuba policy with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Menendez is responsible for an anonymous hold on the nominations of Dr. John Holdren and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, both world-renowned experts on climate change and the physical sciences. Holdren and Lubchenco “sailed through” their confirmation hearing on February 12. But as the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports, Menendez has anonymously blocked their full Senate confirmation “as leverage to get Senate leaders’ attention for a matter related to Cuba rather than questioning the nominees’ credentials.” Menendez, a Cuban American, took to the Senate floor last night “to deliver a withering denunciation” of proposed changes to U.S.-Cuban relations included in the budget omnibus:

We should evaluate how to encourage the regime to allow a legitimate opening – not in terms of cell phones and hotel rooms that Cubans can’t afford, but in terms of the right to organize, the right to think and speak what they believe. However, what we are doing with this Omnibus bill, Mr. President, is far from evaluation, and the process by which these changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me, and so deeply undemocratic, that it puts the Omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide.

Menendez points to a memo prepared by the staff of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) as recommending a policy change that Menendez worries could “rescue the regime by improving its economic fortunes,” namely giving Cuba “financial credit to purchase agricultural products from the U.S.”

These picks have in fact languished for months, having been put forward by President Obama on December 20. Lubchenco’s nomination to be administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has been stalled in part by the turmoil over finding a Secretary of Commerce, whose department includes NOAA. NOAA career staff are gamely working to draft a spending plan for the $830 million in the recently passed recovery act, and energy adviser Carol Browner is managing climate policy from the White House with a skeleton staff. But the Office of Science and Technology Policy is a key White House office, and its director Holdren is meant to be the top science adviser to the president. The “wise counsel” of Holdren and Lubchenco is irreplaceable, especially given the scope of the challenges our nation faces.

Menendez spokesman Afshin Mohamadi declined to comment on the putatively anonymous hold. “He takes a back seat to no one on the environment,” Mohamadi discussed by telephone, saying the senator’s “record best reflects his feelings on the urgency of combatting climate change.” When asked if Sen. Menendez hopes to have climate legislation on President Obama’s desk before the end of 2009, Mohamadi explained that Sen. Menendez believes it “would be helpful to have it in place going into the December international climate change conference in Copenhagen.”

Obama's New Energy Budget Priorities

Posted by Wonk Room Sat, 28 Feb 2009 15:42:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Obama: New EnergySpeaking before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Barack Obama declared that his plan to restore America’s economic prosperity “begins with energy.” The details of his proposed budgetary outline reveal what Obama meant:

Restoration of Superfund.
In 2002, Bush crippled Superfund, the federal program for cleaning up the most toxic sites in America, by eliminating the tax on industrial polluters “that once generated about $1 billion a year.” President Obama’s budget reinstates Superfund taxes in 2011, restoring $17 billion over ten years to the depleted program.
Polluters Pay To Fight Climate Change And Make Work Pay.
The Bush administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, and instituted a voluntary program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2002, which instead rose. President Obama calls for a mandatory cap on carbon emissions starting in 2012, expected to raise $645.7 billion over ten years. Instead of sending those revenues back to the polluters, $15 billion a year will go to clean energy technologies, with the rest funding the Making Work Pay tax credit to reduce payroll taxes for every working American.
Ending Tax Breaks For Fossil Fuel Industry.
Oil, natural gas, and coal companies enjoyed record profits in recent years, even as numerous incentives and tax breaks for companies that drill and mine our shared resources were protected. President Obama’s budget eliminates $31.75 billion in oil and gas company giveaways and increases the return from natural resources on federal lands by $2.9 billion over ten years.

In a column at the Center for American Progress, director of climate strategy Dan Weiss analyzes the budget and finds: “President Obama’s proposed energy budget is a ray of sunshine after an eight-year blackout. Congress must now make this clean energy future a reality.”

Obama Emphasizes Energy Policy In Budget Address

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 25 Feb 2009 15:26:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Barack ObamaIn a sweeping address to both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Cabinet, President Barack Obama introduced his budgetary plan for the United States government, explaining it will “invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education” :

It begins with energy.
Obama described how countries like China, Germany, Japan, and South Korea have leapfrogged our nation, becoming the leaders in energy efficiency and renewable energy – using technology invented in the United States. “It is time for America to lead again,” Obama declared to sustained applause. He noted the recovery plan’s investments in renewable energy, efficiency, and a new clean electrical grid. However, he challenged the Congress to deliver legislation to limit global warming emissions “to truly transform our economy” and “save our planet”:
But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

While Congress has been willing to support new incentives and tax breaks for energy development (including “clean coal”), both Democrats and Republicans have balked at putting a price on global warming pollution.

President Barack Obama’s excerpted remarks on energy:

We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before.

. . .

The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

. . .

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

. . .

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”

President Obama Announces New Energy Efficiency Standards

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 06 Feb 2009 22:23:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

In a speech at the Department of Energy today, President Obama announced he was signing a memorandum to direct the department to issue new energy efficiency standards for common household appliances – something Secretary Steven Chu has highlighted in the past as a top priority. He also responded to critics who “ridiculed our notion that we should use part of the money to modernize the entire fleet of federal vehicles,” asking, “Are these folks serious?”

This is what they call “pork.” You know the truth. . . . So when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself, “Are these folks serious?” Is there any wonder we haven’t had a real energy policy in this country?

Watch it:

Conservatives have attacked numerous efficiency initiatives in the recovery plan:
  • $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees
  • $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations
  • $5.5 million for “energy efficiency initiatives” at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration
  • $6 billion to turn federal buildings into “green” buildings
As President Obama explained, federal fleet modernization “will not only save the federal government significant money over time, it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match.” This is as true for the green building efforts and other efficiency initiatives. Speaking to an audience of Department of Energy scientists, he concluded:
For the last few years, I talked about these issues with Americans from one end of this country to another. Washington may not be ready to get serious about energy independence, but I am and so are you and so are the American people.

Inaction is not an option that’s acceptable to me and it’s certainly not acceptable to the American people, not on energy, not on the economy, not at this critical moment.

In Obama’s words, it’s time for Congress “to rise to this moment.”

Can Carol Browner Help Obama Achieve His 'Promise of Energy Transformation'?

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 02 Feb 2009 19:49:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

National Journal: Carol BrownerThe influential Washington publication National Journal has dedicated its cover story to Carol Browner, President Obama’s incoming climate and energy adviser. The EPA administrator under President Clinton and a former board member of the Center for American Progress, Browner is a leading voice in progressive environmental policy. As former transition chief and current CAP president John Podesta explains, Browner’s selection reflects President Obama’s goal to change business in Washington:

If people want to continue in practices that were more appropriate in the 1950s than today, then I think that they’re going to have to understand that Obama campaigned on a promise of energy transformation. And he intends to fulfill it.

Obama’s ambitious campaign goals include five million green-collar jobs, “the implementation of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary,” and a “whole new electricity grid.” With less than two weeks in office, his administration has already made major commitments toward the creation of a smart grid and the green collar jobs in the economic recovery package. The focus of the first meeting of Vice President Joe Biden’s middle-class task force will be green jobs. And Obama has signed directives to the EPA to begin the process of complying with the Supreme Court mandate to regulate greenhouse gases—hopefully spurring Congressional action to develop a cap and trade system.

Just as critically, Obama has already put in place a powerful team with the likes of Browner, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Council of Environmental Quality head Nancy Sutley, and top scientists Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, NOAA Director Jane Lubchenco, and White House science adviser John Holdren. These experts on climate policy will have to work with the other members of Obama’s Cabinet to achieve that “promise of energy transformation.”

And that’s where Browner comes in. One “industry lobbyist” who is wary of Browner described her in ways that make her sound remarkably like Dick Cheney, who controlled energy policy across agency lines in the previous administration:
Browner is the epitome of how to work this city. She knows every organization. She knows who to leak information to. She knows how to kill information, and she knows that she doesn’t want a paper trail. That is frightening.
It remains to be seen how Browner will operate, but time will tell if anonymous industry lobbyists’ fears are more accurate than Obama’s promises of transparency, accountability, and change. What the lobbyists more likely fear is that environmental policy will become effective and science-based. As Podesta explained, Carol Browner will fill a crucial role in the Obama administration:
When you have problems that really cut across a swath of agencies, it’s very important to have a strong central place within the White House where people can work on the same strategy and [make sure] that actions are keyed up and accountability exists. That has proven to be an effective way of doing business in the federal government on security policy, on economic policy. And now we’ll see it on environmental policy.

Obama Administration Adds Todd Stern, Lisa Heinzerling to Key Climate Positions

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 26 Jan 2009 21:49:00 GMT

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Todd Stern will be the special envoy for climate change:
With the appointment today of a special envoy, we are sending an unequivocal message that the United States will be energetic, focused, strategic and serious about addressing global climate change and the corollary issue of clean energy.

Stern was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank run by John Podesta, the chair of the Obama transition. Stern was a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as Vice Chair of the firm’s Public Policy and Strategy practice. Stern wrote on international climate change policy for CAP, promoting the creation of the E-8, a coalition of nations “focused on global ecological and resource problems” – (United States, China, India, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, and the European Union).

Stern was Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary in the White House from 1993 to 1998. He also coordinated the Administration’s Initiative on Global Climate Change from 1997 to 1999, acting as the senior White House negotiator at the Kyoto and Buenos Aires negotiations.

Carbon Control News reports that Georgetown Law professor Lisa Heinzerling will be joining the Environmental Protection Agency “to advise incoming Administrator Lisa Jackson on how to address climate change.” As Bradford Plumer notes at The New Republic, Heinzerling “was the lead author of the plaintiff’s brief in Massachusetts v. EPA back in 2007, in which the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the EPA did, in fact, have the authority to regulate carbon-dioxide.”

Although the administration has not confirmed the appointment, Gristmill’s Kate Sheppard reports that Heinzerling’s voicemail recording at Georgetown says she is on a two-year leave from the school because she has “taken a position in the new administration.”

Obama Starts Process to Grant California Waiver; Auto Industry Cries Foul 1

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 26 Jan 2009 17:50:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Today, President Obama took a step to reverse Bush-era intransigence on the fight against global warming, directing “federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks.” In 2002, California passed greenhouse gas standards for vehicle emissions, since adopted by 13 other states. However, they have been blocked since then by litigation from the automakers in concert with the Bush administration.

The auto lobby continues to fight this long-needed change. In an interview with National Public Radio, Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers claimed the California standard would bring catastrophe:

At this difficult time, what we need is certainty and consistency, not confusion and chaos. And I think we’re all concerned that this would create chaos, not only for consumers, but also for dealers and for manufacturers.
The auto industry has long been able to handle California’s higher emissions standards for other pollutants. Jerry Brown, California’s attorney general, retorted that Detroit’s problems have come in large part because of its failure to innovate:
The irony here is the auto companies want a bailout, in many ways because they weren’t building the kind of cars that were compatible with today’s energy market – and at the same time, they want to keep going with their lawsuits, which have already cost millions and millions of dollars.

These auto industry lawsuits against the adoption of AB 1493 include:


Massachusetts et al v EPA et al
Status: Industry lost in federal appeals and Supreme Court.

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled it would not regulate transportation sector greenhouse gases. Massachusetts and 11 other states sued the EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Auto industry trade groups argued in favor of the EPA’s inaction. The Court of Appeals ruled for the EPA in 2005. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the appeal, and on April 2, 2007 ruled that the EPA had to begin the regulatory process for greenhouse gases. On July 11, 2008, the Bush administration grudgingly published draft regulations.


Central Valley Chrysler Jeep, et al v Goldstene et al (No. 08-17380)
Status: Industry lost in district court, filed federal appeal.

Filed in California district court in 2006 and stayed until the Supreme Court Mass v. EPA decision, the judge found against the plaintiffs in December 2007. The plaintiffs filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on October 30, 2008.


Green Mountain Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge v. Crombie (No. 07-4342, filed 10/5/2007, Second Circuit)
Status: Industry lost in district court, filed federal appeal.

On September 12, 2007, a federal judge in Vermont ruled that the state may impose its own greenhouse gas emission standards on automakers. Vermont Chrysler and Ford dealerships, with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Chrysler, and General Motors appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rhode Island

Lincoln Dodge, Inc et al v. Sullivan (No. 06-00070, filed 2/13/20065, District of Rhode Island)
Status: In district court.

On November 25, the district court in Rhode Island dismissed the automakers from the lawsuit, holding that they are already suing in California and Vermont. The co-plaintiff auto dealers are maintaining the suit.

New Mexico

Zangara Dodge, Inc et al. v. Ron Curry et al. (No. 07-01305, filed 12/27/2007, in District of New Mexico)
Status: In district court.

New Mexico car dealers and the National Automobile Dealers Association sued to block the New Mexico Clean Car program in April 2008.


Status: State court denied stay.

The Kennebec County Superior court denied a request by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to stay Maine’s standards, and refused to send the matter back to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) for reconsideration.

When asked by the Wonk Room how much his group is spending on these lawsuits, Territo said, “It’s not relevant how much money AAM has spent because there are so many other groups participating.”

Obama to Issue Environmental Orders Monday

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 26 Jan 2009 02:11:00 GMT

The New York Times (John Broder and Peter Baker) and Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson) report that President Obama “plans to instruct key federal agencies to reexamine two policies that could force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars that yield fewer greenhouse gas emissions” Monday morning.

Obama’s main directives relate to California’s petition for an Environmental Protection Agency waiver to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the 2007 Energy Policy Act’s raised fuel economy standards. Under Bush, the EPA denied the California waiver and the Department of Transportation failed to issue the standards called for under the energy act.

In addition, the president will direct federal agencies to take steps to increase efficiency and reduce pollution.

From the Times:
Mr. Obama’s presidential memorandum will order the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California application. While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process. . . .

Beyond acting on the California emissions law, officials said, Mr. Obama will direct the Transportation Department to quickly finalize interim nationwide regulations requiring the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency standards to comply with a 2007 law, rules that the Bush administration decided at the last minute not to issue.

To avoid losing another year, Mr. Obama will order temporary regulations to be completed by March so automakers have enough time to retool for vehicles sold in 2011. Final standards for later years will be determined by a separate process that under Mr. Obama’s order must take into consideration legal, scientific and technological factors.

He will also order federal departments and agencies to find new ways to save energy and be more environmentally friendly. And he will highlight the elements in his $825 billion economic stimulus plan intended to create jobs around renewable energy.

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