Obama Makes Federal Green Building Policy A Centerpiece Of Economic Plan

Change.gov, Obama's transition site, had a message from the President-Elect today about his plan for economic recovery. Top of his list was greening federal building stock:

First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won't just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

Interesting that green building infrastructure for the federal government is the first component in Obama's plan.

The Morning After--What Obama Will Mean For Green Building And The Environment

I wrote a column yesterday on Greenerbuildings.com about the need for our next leader to take us from a red America and blue America to a green America.

Now we know that Obama will be the leader to take on that challenge. I was pleased that he spoke of our planet in peril in last night's acceptance speech, and of the opportunity for green jobs to help heal our damaged economy.

Environment and Energy Daily is reporting here that Obama will begin almost immediately working on these issues by going on a listening tour to explore "energy and environmental issues before Inauguration Day in an attempt to build momentum for its policies and legislative plans," allowing California to enhance its automobile standards, setting the stage for cap and trade and investing $15 billion per year to promote the deployment of renewable technologies.

My fellow greenerbuildings.com blogger Leanne Tobias details the Obama plan here

The future looks distinctly brighter, and greener, this morning.

Green Building Law--The Credit Crunch Edition

What will the credit crunch mean for green building (and other green laws)? I don't know for sure, but I am willing to prognosticate a bit...

1. Some are saying that the carbon markets will suffer because they are too complicated and too nascent to survive an environment of increased investor skepticism. http://earth2tech.com/2008/10/10/will-the-stock-market-hurt-the-emissions-market/ My verdict--maybe. But if cap-and-trade is mandated, then the carbon markets will flourish.

2. Some are saying that the credit slowdown which is hurting the building market in general will have an even greater impact on green buildings.
Others, like McGraw Hill in their newly released report on Green Home Building (see article with conclusions here http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/ticker/article.aspx?Feed=PR&Date=20081007&ID=9241721&Symbol=MHP and purchase report here http://construction.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0249-295182_ITM_analytics) conclude that green construction will be more resilient in a down market because of green buildings perception of greater quality and people's willingness to pay more for green construction. My verdict--building in general will slow down, but this may be a good time for municipalities to get their legislative houses in order in terms of drafting and passing sound green building legislation.

3. If the recent "green" bailout is any indication, green will still be a legislative priority. Congress tacked on renewing the tax incentives for solar and renewables onto the bailout bill last week. http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/10/bailout-bill-ri.html But, some communities may have trouble passing green building legislation that is perceived as costing more to build.

4. In the end, it will all come down to the election. If Obama wins, the environment will be a major priority. If McCain wins, look for incentives for "clean" coal and nuclear, but not much action on cap and trade (even though he claims to be in favor of it) because of the cost it will bring to corporations.

Obama v. McCain--No Real Contest On The Environment

The past couple of posts have focused on the presidential campaigns, and their proposed energy/climate change policies. See Obama--http://www.barackobama.com/issues/energy/, and McCain http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/da151a1c-733a-4dc1-9cd3-f9ca5caba1de.htm.

Both candidates propose a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases. Obama proposes a cap-and-trade program to reducre greenhouse gases to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. McCain's cap-and-trade program would reduce greenhouse gases to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Both candidates also make commitments to research, but very differently structured. Obama has committed to investing $150 billion in clean energy and related efforts, McCain has committed to devoting two billion dollars each year, until 2024, to clean-coal research, development, and deployment, and a prize of 300 million dollars to the creator of a battery package of a size, capacity, cost, and power far surpassing existing technology.

In terms of new sources of fuel, McCain supports drilling f0r oil off America's shores, and building 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030. Obama does not support offshore drilling, and said he wouldn't rule out expanding nuclear power, but he would first require an acceptable way of dealing with the radioactive waste that results.

Obama has made a large place for green building initiatives in his plan. Obama has said he will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. He has also commited to establishing a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade and creating a competitive grant program to award those states and localities that take the first steps to implement new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency.

McCain says that his administration will "the penalties will assure compliance" with fuel standards, whereas Obama will double fuel economy standards within 18 years.

In terms of their proposed solutions, there is no real contest. McCain's plan is essentially support for so-called clean coal and nuclear power dressed up as an innovative energy plan. There is nothing in his plan to support green building. He makes no commitments to further increase fuel economy standards. In essence, McCain is not taking the bull of climate change and oil dependence on at all.

Obama's policy does a better job of working most of the angles of the problem, and makes proposals for addressing them. However, Obama will have to engage a lot of political will to make his reforms happen. Obama does not say how he will overcome the resistance to most of his plans.

Lead or Leave?

I know I'm supposed to be on maternity leave, but Tom Freidman's Sunday opinion column on Bush's lack of leadership on the oil front--essentially he says that Bush's new energy bill is just another hit at the oil crack pipe--http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/opinion/22friedman.html--and the end of the Democratic primary got me to thinking (again) about the lack of leadership on the environmental front.

Freidman excoriates Bush for his energy plan, entitling the column Mr. Bush, Lead or Leave. And Mr. Bush will not lead (that we have 7 years of history to show), but he will inevitably leave in January. Then what? I posit that the environmental stewardship exhibited by the candidates for president have been an inch deep and a mile wide, particularly when it comes to presenting a comprehensive plan which incorporates green building incentives with energy policy and infrastructure development.

McCain and Clinton both fell for the summer vacation from the gas tax gambit. The miniscule savings for the individual consumer is far outweighed by the collective damage of removing a funding source for, among other things, public transportation.

In addition, despite his attempts to distance himself from Bush on the environment and position himself as an environmental steward, McCain has supported Bush's plan to drill for oil offshore in sensitive waters, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/16/AR2008061602731.html
and scored zero out of 100 on the latest League of Conservation Voters Scorecard which rates elected officials on their votes in the most recent Congress. http://www.lcv.org/scorecard/.

Obama has made the right noises about the environment, but still lacks a comprehensive plan to address the environmental trifecta of energy, building and infrastructure.

So, the choice is not lead or leave--but simply lead. The electorate must lead by calling for a comprehensive environmental plan from the next resident of the oval office.

A word about infrastructure

I have posted before about the need for the 2008 presidential candidates to develop an infrastructure plan. http://greenlaw.blogspot.com/2007/07/i-want-hillary-clintons-50-billion.html

This country simply cannot go on allowing our infrastructure to age and fail, as has happened twice in the past two weeks--the explosion in New York and the bridge collapse in Minnesota. Years and years of cutting taxes and underfunding capital infrastructure like sewage, rail, etc., is going to create more failures--and potentially more tragedies--until the issue is addressed.