Four more years for green building, green energy, green jobs
President Obama’s convincing re-election is good news for the policy agenda of green building, renewable energy and energy efficiency. While the country’s fiscal and economic woes will cut overt subsidies and curb new spending proposals, the Administration’s strong policy preference for green energy, green buildings and green job creation will certainly remain; throughout, I would expect federal officials to be challenged by the President’s team to see how much they can do to promote this agenda without spending new money.
We are likely to continue to see Executive Orders, administrative mandates, grants and loans, along with other policy instruments used to continue greening of the Defense Department and GSA buildings, bringing sustainability concerns into affordable housing and strengthening the nation’s green energy infrastructure. We are likely to see the Republican House capitulate on some of these policy issues, e.g., withdrawing the “no LEED” requirement for Defense Department and GSA projects, simply because reduced numbers, fiscal policy, budgets and other issues are likely to preoccupy them.
What we are NOT likely to see is a return to the first two years of “anything goes”: DOE solar technology loan programs, a “green jobs” czar and other policy and program initiatives that fell upon hard times. We are also more likely to see greater use of “federalism,” with waivers, grants and other methods employed to let states experiment with accelerating green jobs, green energy, green building and energy efficiency when using federal money for projects and programs.
In addition, I would not be at all surprised to see European Union climate initiatives such as mandatory disclosure of building energy performance; stronger renewable energy goals; and “retrofit upon resale” for commercial buildings creep into the US climate-change adaptation dialog. Certainly, there will be strong support for state and local initiatives along these lines.
Perhaps the most interesting short-term battles will be over the Keystone pipeline, ethanol subsidies and EPA ethanol fuel mandates, the extension of wind power production tax credits and a possible renewal of residential energy tax credits, with the aim of stimulating the rise of the green economy. I would expect President Obama to have a more pragmatic second term, learning from the excesses and errors of first-term policy ideas. Look also for a new team to take over in all key sectors affecting green things. Most cabinet and subcabinet officials get worn out in less than two years, but at slightly lower levels, many green advocates are firmly embedded in the policy apparatus and are poised to exert greater influence.
One other prediction seems certain: Bill Clinton is going to have a lot of influence, since he essentially rescued the President, both at the party convention and during the fall campaign, by relentlessly attacking Romney’s proposals. Since the Clinton Climate Initiative is Mr. Clinton’s signature initiative, look for the Obama Administration to adopt a far more proactive climate change mitigation stance, a much more aggressive energy efficiency retrofit program, and possibly to push for a renegotiation of the Kyoto treaty, to bring it into accord with the fact of China’s new role as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Jerry Yudelson, PE, LEED Fellow, is CEO and founder of Yudelson Associates, a green building and sustainability consultancy based in Tucson, Arizona, www.greenbuildconsult.com. He regularly speaks on green building, high-performance design and sustainable urban planning to conferences and meetings worldwide.
image: Justin Sloan via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)