There'll be a change in climate change politics in the U.S. effective January 21, 2009. Environmental advocates are pointing to a line-up of strong scientifically-trained appointees, in contrast to the current administration where politics consistently trumped science. Some of the promises made during the campaign by the Obama team: 5 million greentech jobs and investing $150 billion in the next decade to build an energy economy that relies on renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy. That would be sold politically as American energy independence. I've seen no estimates that indicate alternative energy would replacing oil at more than a few percentage points per year. The Saudis don't need to worry about their oil exports any time soon.
I've blogged about the Obama nominations to cabinet and agency chief jobs. It clearly indicates a willingness to take action on climate change, instead of simply talking as the US government has the past eight years. There has been discussion of actual emission mandates. Anathema during the Bush-Cheney reign. The U.S. never signed the current climate change agreement, the Kyoto Protocol. A new agreement is due in the next two years.
How radical will the change be? Compare the current Energy Secretary, a former Texas industrial exec, with the Obama choice, a Nobel Prize physicist. Could it be that science might get equal footing with corporate profit in Washington's political calculus? Can the fossil fuel lobbyists derail any attempts at climate change legislation at the national level? Will California and New York State finally get to enforce their higher fuel efficiency laws?
The nominated Energy Department boss, Dr. Chu, was quoted last year, "If I were emperor, I would put the pedal to the floor on energy efficiency and conservation." Well, he's not emperor but he sure has more clout than he did running a university lab, or even winning a Nobel Prize. Just pushing the federal government to make its own buildings and practices more efficient could be a huge plus for the planet and greentech companies.
At the end of Fiscal Year 2006, Department of Energy real property holdings totalled over 830 thousand acres of owned land and over 122 million square feet of owned buildings. That'slone of the smaller gederal departments. Imagine all the buildings controlled by the Pentagon, or Post Office, or Social Security. Imagine them energy efficient.