"We have so much time, and so little to do! Strike that, reverse it."
That’s just one of Wonka’s many famous quotes in the classic 1971 film. And, if you think about it, the aphorism applies whether discussing chocolate factory tours or White House agendas.
Indeed, Barack Obama has much to do, and even less time to do it in. New policies need to be enacted that counter our current economic problems.
But before he can get to that, Mr. Obama is striking and reversing some unsavory remnants of the Bush administration’s climate policy–or lack thereof.
Whether it’s undoing what’s been done or paving a new way forward, there seems to a green tinge on most of what’s gone on in Washington since last Tuesday.
Pay careful attention, and you can see the seeds of a new energy and climate future being sewn.
Striking and Reversing Bush Policy
The first item of business on the "reverse it" side of things came this morning, when Obama directed the EPA to reconsider California’s more-than-reasonable request to more stringently regulate its auto emissions. Under Bush’s musing, the EPA continually fought and stalled state efforts to reduce tailpipe pollution.
It seems to me, and I’ve written it before in these pages, that an agency entitled "Environmental Protection" should be in favor of protecting the environment. And that includes reducing pollution.
But Bush’s industry-focused lens led to scant regulation of emissions, forcing about a dozen other states to join California and sue the EPA for their ‘right’ to reduce pollution within their borders.
If it sounds silly, it’s because it is.
On Obama’s "strike that" radar was a Bush decision to delay implementing new 2011 fuel efficiency standards. White House sources have said he’ll order the Department of Transportation (DoT) to ensure the nation’s fleet has an average fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon by 2020–a 40% increase over today’s rules.
The DoT announced two weeks before Bush left office that they would not issue formal guidelines on increasing national fuel economy standards. Strike that, reverse it.
Tough Choices? What Tough Choices?
While bringing new focus to some suspect Bush policies, Obama is also pushing his new economic stimulus, which also has a fair bit of "green" in it.
He’s been pushing the plan for weeks as a way to augment healthcare, tax, and energy legislation while stimulating spending and creating in jobs. Obama has said we’ll double our use of renewable energy in three years, and he’s mentioned building out the smart grid, with over 3,000 miles of new transition lines.
The new stimulus also includes a Clean Energy Financing Initiative that will focus on increasing private sector cleantech funding to $100 billion in three years.
The current price tag on the bill is $825 billion, but it’ll be a miracle if it escapes Congress valued at less than $1 trillion. A nice chunk of that money, as Obama has been saying, will go to infrastructure projects: roads, bridges, electricity, and water.
Money slated for these projects is the biggest government infusion for infrastructure since the creation of the Federal highway system. It won’t be easy, and it will be extremely expensive, but as the President noted this morning: "America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet. … Now is the time to make tough choices."
I’m sure that last line was only meant for his political opposition, i.e. Congressional republicans.
The only thing tough about it is signing the checks.
Allowing emissions to be more strictly regulated is an easy decision.
Increasing national fuel economy is an easy decision.
Improving the grid and making it more efficient is an easy decision.
And doubling our use of renewable energy is the easiest decision of all.
Expect this to be the norm going forward. Obama will be diligently and hurriedly reversing Bush energy and climate policy while being exceedingly coy and polite about it. He’ll say things like "Now is the time to make tough choices."
But what he really means–and what we’re all thinking–is, "Booya!. It’s time for cap-and-trade and a national renewable portfolio standard."
Obama’s the golden ticket.
It’s all coming. Just as Charlie sang:
I never dreamed that I would climb
Over the moon in ecstasy
But nevertheless, it’s there that I’m
Shortly about to be
‘Cause I’ve got a golden ticket
I’ve got a golden chance to make my way
And with a golden ticket, it’s a golden day